Making hard fuel savings with software

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Nathan Wilson, UK Account & Market Development Manager at Allison Transmission discusses the virtues of upgrading the powertrains of waste collection vehicles mid-lifecycle, to save on fuel costs and reduce emissions.

Fleets operating waste – recycling and municipal service vehicles operating in urban areas – are coming under increasing pressure to reduce emissions, noise and improve air quality.

These efforts are in response to a desire, at national and local government level, to restrict restrictions on diesel-powered vehicles in city centres and in the face of legislation such as the EU-wide CO2 emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles. The latter’s target is an ambitious reduction in CO2

emissions of 15% by 2025, based on average fleet emissions levels as of 1 January 2020. The following, more aggressive target requires fleets to reach a total CO2 emissions reduction of 30% by 2030.

For most UK fleets, even before the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic, switching entirely from diesel to alternative fuels and/or propulsion systems by 2025, is not a possibility, for financial reasons. Which means all eyes are open for ways to improve efficiency and lower air pollution from the existing, already highly efficient Euro 6 diesel engine.

Because of these environmental regulations, Allison is building on its deep vocational knowledge and has developed a stream of reliable market-leading technologies.

These are available to customers as they transition from diesel engines with conventional fully automatic transmissions to driving cleaner with diesel and choosing combustion systems using alternative fuels – including Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) – to hybrid and full electric powertrains.

Because of these environmental regulations, Allison is building on its deep vocational knowledge and has developed a stream of reliable market-leading technologies

For those fleets who want to make improvements to their diesel-fuelled trucks with many years of active life remaining, and save money over that time, Allison has developed FuelSense 2.0® fuel-saving software with DynActive™ shifting.

The aftermarket retrofit upgrade procedure takes just one hour per software update per vehicle, for a minimal cost. The result is diesel vehicles that can drive cleaner straight away, generating significantly reduced emissions and lower fuel bills.

FuelSense 2.0® software provides precise balancing of fuel economy and performance, enabling savings of between five and 20%, depending on the duty cycle. This is equivalent to over £1,000 per truck per year for many commercial vehicle operators, positively impacting total cost of ownership. In fact, customer feedback tells us that the cost of retrofitting can pay back through fuel savings in just six to 12 months.

We estimate that approximately 7,000 Euro 6 Dennis Eagle, Leyland DAF and Mercedes-Benz vehicles registered between 2014 and 2018 in the UK could benefit from FuelSense 2.0®. Together, this represents 27,000 tonnes per year per vehicle in carbon emission savings.

At the heart of DynActive Shifting is an intelligent algorithm that monitors, learns from, and responds to vehicle behaviour. This capability is a breakthrough because before now gear-shift points had to be pre-programmed at fixed engine speeds.

With FuelSense 2.0, these points were chosen from a table of options to give a desirable trade-off between fuel economy and performance according to vehicle-type and duty-cycle.

Now, however, proprietary software enhancements allow an infinitely variable combination of shift points. This means each individual vehicle’s gear-shifting strategy is automatically customised and continually refined as the vehicle moves along the road. DynActive Shifting assesses and responds to factors such as vehicle weight, road gradient, throttle use, and the frequency of stop-starts.

To the driver the alterations are imperceptible, but to the accounts department, the reduced expenditure on fuel costs would be evident on the balance sheet.

FuelSense 2.0 with DynActive Shifting was tested internationally over more than three million miles on a wide variety of roads and in a broad range of vehicles and duty-cycles. Tests included refuse, construction and distribution trucks, as well as city and school buses.

DynActive Shifting is integrated in all three variations of FuelSense 2.0, plus two new options which provide further incremental fuel savings. One of these options is the Plus Package, which adds Neutral-at-Stop technology.

This reduces the load on the engine during low-speed coasting and when the vehicle is stopped, which in turn reduces engine heat, emissions, and fuel consumption by an additional one per cent. The other option, the Max Package, features customisable Acceleration Rate Management.

This mitigates aggressive driving by automatically controlling engine torque, but if the vehicle is unable to reach the pre-calibrated acceleration rate – for example, when carrying a heavy load or ascending a gradient – full engine torque is instantly made accessible. This additional method of automatically balancing performance and economy provides approximately one per cent more in fuel savings.

Real life results

A number of UK fleets, both local authority and privately-owned, are upgrading their transmissions.

BIFFA is in the process of undergoing a trial and Fife Council has retrofitted and purchased new vehicles since it studied the impact on FuelSence 2.0 on its Mercedes Econics trucks.

A comparison of two initial vehicles showed a return an average of 8.85% fuel savings after the upgrade with FuelSense 2.0. The cost of the upgrade was recovered in fuel savings in less than 15 weeks.

The upgrade of 24 Fife Council Econics is expected to cut the council’s expenditure on diesel by about £42,000 per year, and its CO2 emissions by almost 124 tonnes.

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