Locomation, pursuing an autonomous two-truck convoy approach while others are working on equipping one truck for self-driving, claims an environmental impact study shows double-digit improvements in fuel consumption and total operating costs for moving freight by truck.
The electronically tethered trucks will start out with human drivers in both trucks, but only the lead truck will have a driver in control. The following truck will operate as a robot, allowing the driver to work on other tasks or sleep before swapping roles with the lead truck and remaining compliant with federal hours-of-service regulations.
The approach would allow Locomation-equipped trucks to operate two trucks for 20-22 hours a day delivering twice the cargo twice the distance. Locomation is alone in pursuing a convoy, or platooning, approach to autonomous trucking. Competitors are focused on equipping a single truck to operate without a human driver.
Boundless Impact Research & Analytics Inc., which charges fees to assess corporate environmental claims, found that, compared to traditional Class 8 trucks, Locomation’s technology would:
- Reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of freight transportation by 22%.
- Cut operating costs by 19%.
- Decrease fuel consumption by 21%.
- Lower photochemical ozone formation by 22%.
- Reduce the cost of offsetting a ton of greenhouse gas emissions below alternative technologies.
The conclusions were based on Locomation’s Autonomous Relay Convoy’s (ARC) ability to reduce truck idling by up to 90% and increase fuel efficiency an average of 8%.
“This report confirms that Locomation’s ARC system can help carriers and shippers dramatically reduce their scope 1 and scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions,” Çetin Meriçli, Locomation’s CEO and co-founder, said in a press release.
Scope 1 covers direct emissions from a vehicle. Scope 2 considers indirect emissions from fuel and other purchased energy. Scope 3 emissions are indirect, occurring away from the truck but are part of a company’s value chain.
Boundless Impact researched and modeled the material, energy and performance characteristics for Locomation’s ARC system based on company-provided information that described the material components and energy consumption, as well as labor and cost implications.
The idling elimination and empty miles reduction were based on internal Locomation studies and customer planning of real freight data. There is very little real-world data from which to work since Locomation expects to launch the first phase of its ARC in late 2022.
The fuel efficiency claims were based on public information from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology and earlier convoy testing results documented by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency.
‘Can’t model all variables’
“When you’re talking about simulations, a lot of the results depend on the assumptions you make in your simulation model because you can’t model all of the variables that are involved,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Guidehouse Insights, which conducts similar studies.
“Unless you have a really super-sophisticated simulation model, chances are there’s going to be some significant error in your numbers,” he said.
The methodology used a lifecycle analysis for transporting 1 ton of goods for 1 kilometer on a highway. Based on the five environmental key performance indicators, Locomation was awarded a 10-out-of-10 score for positive environmental impact.
“Our environmental impact assessment of Locomation’s technology provided a science-based and independent critique and comparison of the environmental benefits of several trucking technologies,” said Bret Strogen, Boundless Impact director of research.
The Locomation approach is better for the environment than adaptive cruise control and idle reduction technologies, Strogen said.
Locomation expects to launch the ARC system at scale in late 2022 with Wilson Logistics followed by PGT Trucking in 2023. Both adhere to EPA SmartWay standards to accurately report and post real-world results, which can be captured in scope 1 and scope 3 emissions reductions for both carriers and shippers.