March 28, 2012
Fuso comes out swinging
Truck maker rebounds from Japan earthquake
The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan was the country’s greatest disaster since the end of World War II. But on a cold rainy day in the mountains north of Tokyo, one could be forgiven for doubting an earthquake ever struck the island nation.
Mitsubishi Fuso’s Kitsuregawa Proving Grounds – about 60 miles from the stricken nuclear reactors at Fukushima – were damaged heavily in the quake. But so relentless and complete have been Fuso’s and Japan’s efforts to rebuild and repair that evidence of the disaster is scant. At the company’s main vehicle manufacturing plant in Kawasaki, production has been ramped up to meet increased demand – especially for the company’s new Canter vocational truck with a new double-clutch Duonic automatic transmission that company officials hail as “revolutionary.”
I recently was on hand in Japan to see firsthand how robust Fuso’s recovery has been and to learn more about the company’s increasingly important role in Daimler Trucks’ global research and development efforts. Over the past several years, Daimler has acquired a 48 percent share of Mitsubishi Fuso stock. And while the initial impetus for Daimler was to gain greater access to the lucrative Asian truck market, the relationship between Daimler Trucks and Mitsubishi Fuso steadily has flourished and matured.
Dr. Andreas Renschler, Daimler chief executive officer and board member, drove this point home at a roundtable discussion in Tokyo when he noted that moving forward, Mitsubishi Fuso will serve as Daimler’s worldwide research and development center for alternative fuel and advanced powertrain technologies. In other words, anyone wondering where Daimler stands on natural gas engines, hybrid-drive transmissions or all-electric delivery vehicles should keep a close eye on the vehicles Mitsubishi Fuso is researching and producing today.
Mitsubishi Fuso serves as Daimler Trucks’ catalyst for alt-fuel and advanced powertrains.
“Fuso is already the fuel efficiency leader in the Japanese commercial vehicle industry,” says Dr. Albert Kirchmann, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus. “We plan to further enhance our leading fuel efficiency position in conventionally powered diesel vehicles while pushing forward with advanced technologies like hybrid-electric and all-electric vehicles.”
Kirchmann said the technologies on display by Fuso at the Tokyo Motor Show were in line with “Fuso 2015.” One of the company’s five pillars is to be a leader in green innovation, meaning it will focus on advances in green products, green factory and infrastructure and green supply chain to achieve an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 7.5 percent by 2015.
Under the theme “Power to the Future,” Fuso presented four vehicles, including the new Canter Eco Hybrid light-duty truck, the Canter E-Cell electric truck, the first public exhibition of the Super Great Eco Hybrid heavy-duty truck and a display of the Aero Queen bus with advanced diesel technology. In addition, the company showcased its new light-duty truck hybrid system and advanced selective catalytic reduction exhaust gas aftertreatment system.
All of which brings us to the new Canter with its dual-clutch Duonic transmission. Unlike the four models unveiled in Tokyo, this medium-duty truck is available in North America today. I was lucky enough to score an extended test drive on the eve of my visit to Japan and see for myself how Fuso’s new technology is shaping the company’s products and will shape Daimler’s products in the future.
The new Canter’s dual-clutch transmission provides the feeling of driving a much more powerful vehicle thanks to its timely intuitive shifting – even though a fuel-sipping four-cylinder diesel engine is under the seat. The new Canter is strong evidence that Mitsubishi Fuso is set to launch a wide range of innovative new products that will have a dramatic impact on Daimler vehicles worldwide.
*Robust recovery. So complete have been Mitsubishi Fuso’s efforts to rebuild after the earthquake that evidence of the disaster is scant.
*Sneak peek. Anyone wondering about Daimler Trucks’ future regarding alt-fuels and powertrains should keep an eye on Mitsubishi Fuso.
*Power to the future. If the company’s trucks for the Japanese market handle as well as the Canter, it has many successful years ahead.
Dana, Eaton to part ways
Dana and Eaton jointly announced last month that the marketing relationship between the two companies will end by the middle of 2012. Over the next six months, each company will be preparing to sell to, market to and service customers independently. Eaton will continue to provide field services and support for all Eaton and Dana products through the middle of 2012 under the Roadranger brand, after which Dana will have the support systems in place to service and support its customers on its own.
“Going to market independently will afford Dana greater opportunity to communicate with customers directly and to better understand their needs,” said Mark Wallace, president of Dana’s On-Highway Driveline Technologies business. “This closer direct relationship with customers will, in turn, provide the foundation for innovation and technology in Dana’s core axle, driveshaft, wheel end and tire management systems.”
Dana is developing new products for introduction in early 2012, said Judith Monte, global marketing manager. “It’s very, very important to make sure we’re in with our customers every single day to get their feedback,” Monte said.
Eaton has been selling and servicing transmissions under its Roadranger brand for about 60 years. “Eaton intends to continue operating the Roadranger marketing organization as we have in the past – focused exclusively on serving our customers,” said Tim Sinden, president of Eaton’s truck operations in North America.
Throughout the transition, customers can access www.roadranger.com/alliance or www.dana.com for updates. – Max Heine
Cummins developing new urea dosing system
Cummins Emission Solutions is in the advanced development stages of a new urea dosing system designed to meet upcoming emissions regulations in China, India and Russia. The new EcoFit Urea Dosing System also will debut as the EcoFit brand, which will represent Cummins Emission Solutions aftertreatment products and solutions worldwide.
The EcoFit system is being developed for use in light-duty, midrange and heavy-duty commercial vehicles for easy integration into existing engine and aftertreatment systems. The system will be manufactured at the Cummins Emission Solutions facility in Beijing.
The EcoFit system is a reductant delivery system that injects a solution of 32.5 percent urea and 67.5 percent diesel exhaust fluid into the exhaust stream to deliver improved nitrogen oxide conversion efficiency, which gives customers the opportunity to tune engines for improved fuel economy or to reduce the size of a typical SCR system.
Hino Trucks and Allison Transmission signed a multiyear agreement to make Allison transmissions the preferred and exclusive transmission for all current and future Hino conventional trucks in the United States.
BorgWarner is selling its tire pressure monitoring business to Huf Electronics GmbH.
Goodyear was selected by Con-way Truckload as its principal supplier of wide-base truck tires.
FleetPride, an independent aftermarket distributor of heavy-duty truck and trailer parts, acquired Greeley Truck Parts, a Colorado-based independent heavy-duty parts store that serves oil and gas, agricultural and trucking companies.
Detroit Diesel marked production of the 100,000th engine coming off its DD Platform assembly line in Redford, Mich.
Wabco Holdings will supply its adaptive cruise control to Chinese bus manufacturer Yutong.
Gale Wickersham of Wick’s Truck & Trailers in Omaha, Neb., and Mike Drovdahl of Southwest Trailer Service in Portland, Ore., were the grand prize winners of Meritor’s “Run with the Bull” aftermarket incentive contest.
CCJ Test Drive:
International ProStar+ powered by MaxxForce 15
By Jack Roberts
International’s ProStar+ tractor pays definite homage to the company’s great conventionals from years gone by. But the sharp edges and flat surfaces that defined many of those older designs have been replaced by a modern slippery design featuring smooth, curved lines across the tractor’s front and sides, giving the ProStar+ a distinct aerodynamic boost when it’s rolling down the highway. But how does this slick aerodynamic truck behave with International’s 15-liter MaxxForce diesel engine under the hood?
In some ways, this pairing of brute force and modern aerodynamics is contradictory. But International engineers understand that there are trucking applications that absolutely must have the power of a big bore diesel engine. And no matter how much power is being churned out under the hood, a sleek design cutting through the air serves to make the vehicle more cost-effective.
During the pretrip, a quick unlatching of the fender and a gentle tug on the handgrip integrated into the top chrome grill was all that was needed to open the hood and check out the giant MaxxForce that naysayers said International couldn’t pull off. The 15-liter beast forged in the company’s engine plant in Huntsville, Ala., combines the lower components – such as the block and camshaft – of Caterpillar’s C-Series family of diesel engines with International’s high-pressure fuel injection system and sophisticated electronic engine control systems.
This is an exhaust gas recirculation engine with no diesel exhaust fluid tank or exhaust aftertreatment system. International uses “heavy EGR” to burn off nitrogen oxide particulate matter during the combustion process by recirculating exhaust gases back into the combustion chamber. The overall design is clean, and access to all major engine systems – antifreeze, power steering fluid, engine oil and so on – is a snap.
Visually, there wasn’t much to confirm there was a MaxxForce 15 under the hood. True, there was a chrome badge – albeit understated – on both sides of the engine cowl. But a look in front of the “A pillar” revealed a 3-inch-long body insert with a faux air vent inserted between the engine compartment and cab. This filler is necessary because the 15-liter engine is 3 inches longer than the MaxxForce 13 engine.
The MaxxForce 15-powered ProStar+ test model featured International’s deluxe trim package with the rich smell of plush leather seats, while a quick scan of the instrument cluster highlighted the warm wood paneling and trim that accented the well-lit switches and instruments. The instrument panel was highlighted by the middle console, which featured International’s high-end stereo and GPS navigation system. Everything is within easy reach for the driver, and the stereo/GPS system was intuitive and mastered quickly.
International’s engineers have done a great job making drivers feel like they’re integrated into the vehicle’s overall design. Drivers really feel more like they put this truck on, as opposed to climbing into it, and everything – from the instrumentation, switch placement and views over the hood and to the sides, to the tight responsive way the truck handles rolling down the road – seems to reinforce this notion.
Another strong positive was the cab’s sound insulation. More noise was expected from the big 15-liter up front, but it’s clear that International’s designers worked hard to create an integrated complementary sound-dampening system that isolates vibration and wind, engine and highway noise. It doesn’t hurt that the MaxxForce 15 already is an inherently quiet engine thanks to its compacted graphite iron design, but it’s still remarkable how quiet this engine was at highway speeds and even when lugging at low rpms to get a heavy load under way.
This particular MaxxForce 15 was mated to an Eaton 13-speed manual gearbox – and that big engine got the rig going fast. But once at cruise speeds, the MaxxForce 15 settled in at about 1,200 rpm and stayed there. Even the occasional long climb up a lengthy shallow Texas grade didn’t rile it up.
The combined engine-tractor package is a truly integrated design.
In this environment, downshifting was optional: It was OK to grab a lower gear, but there really was no need. The MaxxForce 15 might have lost 4 or 5 mph starting up the rise, but halfway up the slope it was back on target speed, and by the time it reached the top, it might have gained a few more mph. That wouldn’t happen in more extreme terrain, but it was solid evidence that this engine has the on-demand power to make a driver’s life a lot easier if the countryside allows it.
The main takeaway was that the overall MaxxForce 15/ProStar+ package is a truly integrated design. International would be the first to admit that a 15-liter diesel isn’t for everyone, but if the application demands one, they’ve certainly got an engine that fits the bill. It has plenty of power on demand but cruises as quiet as a kitten when brute force isn’t required. It’s a solid engine mounted under the hood of a solid tractor.