Gliders, E-Axles: E&MU Looks at 'Old' and 'New'

The January/February issue of Equipment & Maintenance Update is the first of six to be published in 2018, and it should be another exciting year for the trucking industry.

This issue’s two cover stories examine electric axles, one of the industry’s latest technology advancements, and glider kits, which some truck operators view as a more reliable, cost-effective option compared with trucks with new engines.



When it comes to electric axles, Tesla late last year unveiled an all-electric Class 8 truck that it aims to produce by 2019. That event helped highlight the potential of electric vehicles in commercial trucking. However, some companies, including Hyliion, are focusing only on e-axles.

Hyliion’s 6X4HE system for longhaul trucks uses hybrid electrification to offer fuel savings and lower emissions, the company announced in October. This e-axle, already in production, is a retrofit that adds 100 horsepower to the tractor’s rear axle — either by adding power to a 6×2 configuration or by swapping the diesel for an electric in a 6×4. The company said the axle would automatically engage as a vehicle travels uphill and then, on downhill slopes, capture regenerative energy that will be stored in the battery pack.

The axle is one of three components in the system the company said could reduce fuel consumption by 30%. However, the story notes that the system adds 800 pounds to the weight of a truck.

Meanwhile, Bosch is working with startup Nikola Motor Co. to develop an e-axle for Nikola’s Class 8 electric truck powered by a fuel cell. And Dana Inc. announced it’s developing electric axles for pure electric vehicles, but not yet for Class 8 trucks.

Summing up some of the important questions surrounding the future of e-axles in the story is Ryan Laskey, Dana’s vice president of engineering. “It’s all going to come down to batteries’ storage capacity, size, weight, charging time.”

Read the story to learn about the potential cost-benefit of e-axles, as well as potential maintenance problems that fleet maintenance managers should be aware of with this trucking innovation.

The other cover story takes a fresh look at the somewhat controversial equipment known as glider kits after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed repeal in November of the Obama administration’s Phase 2 greenhouse gas emissions and fuel-efficiency standards for this niche segment of the industry.

Glider kits mix refurbished older components, including transmissions and pre-emissions engines, with a new frame, cab, steer axle, wheels and other standard equipment. Gliders, however, make up less than 5% of the Class 8 heavy-duty highway truck market, and the story notes that most customers who buy glider kits are owner-operators and small or midsize fleets.

The trucking companies interviewed report lower costs on maintenance, better fuel mileage and simplicity. “The biggest thing is that people want to get away from the emissions [technology],” said Patrick Jeffrey, owner of Jeffrey Trucking, who bought a glider in 2015.

Finally, the increasing risks of technology, particularly cyberattacks, is discussed in this issue’s TMC Corner on equipment cybersecurity. Last year, Transport Topics reported that a large fleet fell victim to the “Petya” attack in Europe that involved the spread of an information technology virus.

Learn about efforts underway at the Technology & Maintenance Council and American Trucking Associations to address these emerging threats to our industry.