Configurable trucks save up to 25 percent fuel

Configurable trucks save up to 25 percent fuel
Technology News |
In the EU research project TRANFORMERS (Configurable and Adaptable Trucks and Trailers for Optimal Transport), an international consortium has taken on the task of improving the fuel efficiency of trucks. The Fraunhofer LBF has developed a sensor system for measuring the loading volume and a battery housing for supplying an electric auxiliary drive in the trailer. The system is intended to reduce fuel consumption by up to 25 percent and thus emit less CO2. At the same time, it is intended to reduce the risk of congestion.
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

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Trucks are primarily designed for a maximum load weight and optimized for only a few missions. The TRANSFORMERS project, on the other hand, relies on a modular approach with the load optimization trailer and the hybrid-on-demand trailer, which adapts the trucks to the current mission. Modular, hybrid drive concepts including aerodynamically and load-optimally adapted vehicle architecture can bring decisive advantages for more energy and transport efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and reduce fuel costs.

The Van Eck Load Optimization Trailer features electric roof height adjustment, a load volume sensor and a double-floor system. Once the trailer has reached its maximum permissible mass without fully utilising its volume, the roof can be lowered to reduce drag. The sensor system developed by the Fraunhofer LBF for measuring the load height determines the current utilization of the load volume. If, on the other hand, the permissible total mass has not yet been reached, pallets can be loaded on top of each other with the help of the double-floor system in order to make full use of the maximum load height and thus increase transport efficiency.


The sensor system consists of three slightly modified ultrasonic modules per row of pallets, an Arduino board for raw data processing and a laptop, which further processes this data in the prototyonic case and enables a graphical display. The sensors are similar to a Park Distance Control System (parking aid). To measure the charge height, the modules emit an ultrasonic pulse and the time until a reflected signal is received is measured. The distance to the next reflecting object results from the transit time measurement and the height of the roof above the loading floor as well as the measured distance is then used to determine the height of the load below the sensor. An algorithm developed by the Fraunhofer LBF for the special conditions in the trailer determines from the measured load heights in a row how the pallets are positioned there and what volume they occupy. In the future, it would also be conceivable to use the measured data to automate roof height adjustment. Additional information about the tractor, trailer and axle loads could also help to determine the load density.

In addition to manual roof height adjustment, the hybrid-on-demand trailer from Schmitz Cargobull was equipped with a hybrid-on-demand drive with energy recuperation. This means that the electric drive train installed in the semi-trailer provides additional power at short notice, e.g. for overcoming gradients or when starting off. In the same way, braking energy lost on downhill stretches can be recovered.


The battery management system and the battery cells must meet high standards to ensure a reliable power supply for the electric auxiliary drive in the trailer. They are therefore encapsulated. The outside air can flow through the radiator and fan and the battery housing does not change the stiffness of the trailer chassis either upwards or downwards. In addition, the housing is as easy as possible to replace or remove. It is mainly made of sheet steel, so further weight savings are possible.

The TRANSFORMERS consortium consists of the following partners: Volvo, Bosch, DAF, Fehrl, Fraunhofer IVI, Fraunhofer LBF, IFSTTAR, Uniresearch B. V., IRU Projects, P&G, Schmitz Cargobull, TNO, Van Eck and Virtual Vehicle Competence Center.

Further information: thorsten.koch@lbf.fraunhofer.de

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