Eaton talks electrification, future products

Eaton’s current transmission product portfolio.

Eaton has introduced a number of technologies in the past few years that continue to gain acceptance in the marketplace, and company officials utilized their press conference time at the 2018 Technology and Maintenance Council show in Atlanta on Sunday to highlight a few new technologies on the horizon, and talk about the electrified future.

Larry Bennett, director of technology and innovation, provided both 5-year and 10-year timelines of technologies that could see fleet adoption, including a 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system. This system, designed for linehaul operations, would continue to provide full power for vehicle systems even when engines are turned off by taking generators off the transmission entirely or electrifying them.

“This allows you to keep major electrical components powered when the engine shuts down such as going down a hill,” Bennett said. The system provides 5% fuel efficiency improvement overall, he noted.

Fleets could add both 48 or 12-volt systems and it can also generate some electrical power from regenerative braking technology.

Bennett also detailed a future EGR pump and cylinder deactivation system. The EGR pump will help meet the expected 90% NOx reduction by 2024 by providing “precise EGR mass flow independent of engine speed.”

Separate from that, but also involved in NOx reduction, is the cylinder deactivation system, which helps treat NOx sooner. NOx must be treated when the engine is warm, which can be problematic for vehicles that have been shut off for long periods of time. The cylinder deactivation system provides for faster aftertreatment warm-up.

Eaton also worked with the Department of Energy on a 4-speed bus transmission that resulted in 15% improved range and that technology will now be adopted for heavy haul in drayage operations. Bennett said that the applications – short haul and high idle time – are similar so development of the transmission for those segments makes sense.

Bennett also provided a list of technologies that we could see in the next five years. Those are: the transfer of passenger car valvetrain technology to commercial vehicles; electro-mechanical valvetrain actuation; AMT and DCT transmissions; torque-filling; smart charging; intelligent vehicle enablers; over-the-air programming; and advanced prognostics.

“You’re probably going to be looking at more of an electrical powertrain,” Bennett said, when discussing the technology roadmap. Predictive tools will play a big role, he added.

“[It’s] the ability to see what is happening one mile, two miles, three miles up ahead  … and being able to change driver behavior [to adapt],” Bennett noted.

Some of that prognostics hit the road in 2017 when Eaton launched its Intelliconnect product. Now in about 4,000 units, Intelliconnect identifies fault codes, sends them to a telematics center and eventually to Eaton to make determinations on whether the code needs immediate attention, can be handled at the next service interval, or some other intervention is necessary.

In the 10-year timeframe, Bennett mentioned electric valvetrain actuation; EGR improvements; flexible system architectures, electric powertrains; efficient power management; predictive controls and autonomy enablers.

Bennett said that Eaton is well positioned to adapt for the truck of tomorrow, which he said will require multi-voltage systems, because of its electrical divisions. “There becomes a need for a smart management, smart power distribution system,” he said.

On Friday, Eaton took steps to address this future electrical need with the formation of its eMobility unit. That division will focus on electric solutions and tap into Eaton’s vast electrical expertise in all its division.

Prior to Bennett speaking, Scott Davis, general manager of the Eaton-Cummins Automated Transmission Technologies joint venture, provide some product updates since the launch of the that venture last year.

The company’s Endurant purpose-built 12-speed automated transmissions, which entered production in October for linehaul applications, will be expanded in the near future to additional applications, Davis said. The company has sold 3,500 of them to date which have accumulated 20 million plus miles on the road.

The JV is also working on developing advanced shifting technologies “to make shifts faster, smoother and more consistent,” Davis said, as well as neutral coasting capabilities.

The company’s Procision transmission will also see new applications moving forward, including RV and additional medium-duty segments. Davis also teased several new products in the works, but provided no details on those just yet.

“Look for expansion of that [transmission] portfolio with new applications that we have not been in before,” he said. 

Stay up-to-date with the latest commentary and insights on FreightTech and the impact to the markets by subscribing.

Show More

Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.