Trucks, buses, and tractor trailers are some of the biggest gas guzzlers around. You might think, then, that improving the fuel economy of these hulking vehicles would be difficult. But according to a recently released report from the National Research Council, improving fuel economy could be fairly simple.
Next100 points us to the report, Technologies and Approaches to Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles, whch explains that advanced diesel engines and hybrid powertrains–both high-tech solutions–could play a role in cutting fuel consumption. The NRC reports:
Using advanced diesel engines in tractor-trailers could lower their fuel consumption by up to 20 percent by 2020, and improved aerodynamics could yield an 11 percent reduction. Hybrid powertrains could lower the fuel consumption of vehicles that stop frequently, such as garbage trucks and transit buses, by as much 35 percent in the same time frame.
So advanced engines and powertrains shouldn’t be ignored altogether. But the NRC also advocates driver training and higher fuel taxes–two simple ways to cut consumption. A fuel tax would spur companies to invest in fuel-saving technologies by providing monetary incentive, while a training program that teaches drivers to utilize fuel-saving practices (i.e. keeping tires inflated, minimizing idling, etc.) could lead to fuel savings of 2 to 17%. The driver training program in particular could be relatively cheap to maintain. Imagine: If every truck driver in the U.S. underwent fuel efficiency training, how much oil could we save right off the bat? Such a program could at least be an effective interim measure while companies research more high-tech solutions.