Making the Electrification Transition

Navistar powertrain
A sample view of the S13 Integrated powertrain from Navistar. (Michael Freeze/Transport Topics)

[Find the latest in equipment & maintenance: Explore this quarter's issue of Calibrate]

For some time, there has been quite a change in how the trucking industry views the internal combustion engine juxtaposed with the emergence of electrification.

I witnessed that during the reveal of Navistar’s S13 Integrated powertrain in Las Vegas this summer.



With parent company Traton Group, Navistar boasted that it was its biggest project in a half century; however, it was another claim that gave me pause: The S13 engine will be their last internal combustion engine design.

It gave me pause not because of the boldness of the statement, but it actually places a marker in the timeline of the transition from gas fuels to electric.

Yes, there are many things to love about the S13, from the design philosophy of “starting from scratch” to the company’s mission to greatly reduce emissions (read more about it in this issue’s Equipment Perspective). Although it was announced that the engine will be the last of its kind, it did not feel like a “goodbye” to a former era. In fact, the event served as a metaphor for an impending transition.

As a quarterly magazine, Calibrate looks to discuss trends and technologies concerning equipment and maintenance. So, it’s especially important to have the opportunity to step back and look at the larger picture; one where we can discuss electrification and its future ahead, but realize that there’s plenty left in the tank for the world of diesel. Thus, the event in Vegas could have been that moment.

It’s well-documented that fleets, in general, have been somewhat hesitant to dive into electric vehicles. There are many reasons for this, such as costs and the other unknowns that come with new tech.

One of those unknowns comes in the form of the preventative maintenance involved, specifically what that will look like. I discussed some of those unknowns with Homer Hogg, an industry veteran from TravelCenters of America, during the Transport Topics Magazine Event Series: Formulate earlier this year. One of the themes he touched upon was that the introduction of EV and the future maintenance/repair will not mean the end of the internal combustion engine. The more data we have on EVs will only strengthen the technology we already have with the ICE.

As highlighted in our latest edition of Five Questions, Ginnapher Velez noted the work in her fleet at Clean Harbors concerning alternative fuels and the need for sustainability. So, the work on ICE and its technology is still moving while we wait for EV to gain critical mass in the industry. Looking back at that August event, intended or not, Navistar told the industry, electric will be a great source, but the gas engine still has something to say.

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