Clean Tech Innovation Could Mean Big Savings for Fleet Owners

Clean Tech Innovation Could Mean Big Savings for Fleet Owners

From left, Maglev Chief Financial Officer Martin Epstein and UCF College of Engineering & Computer Science Professors Louis Chow and Thomas Wu with research equipment in Wu’s lab.

A Florida-based company, in partnership with UCF researchers, has developed an innovative technology that will reduce fossil fuel usage in commercial trucks, potentially saving owners of large fleets money while reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Professor Thomas Wu and his research team from the College of Engineering & Computer Science and researchers from MagLev Energy Inc. (MEI) invented the motor/generator technology and accompanying electronics that power an all-electric Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).

The unique design enables the device, appropriately called Silent Night™, to operate without generating harmful emissions like fossil-fuel powered APUs.

Jon Harms, Maglev president and CEO, noted the participation of truck manufacturer Peterbilt Motors and Walmart in testing the prototype. Peterbilt conducted the testing at its Advanced Concepts Technical Center on a truck loaned by Walmart. Peterbilt found the device performed far better than existing APUs and described it in a letter of support as being “on path to potentially produce the most efficient battery-based (APU) systems in the industry.”

No-idle regulations in many jurisdictions throughout the country require commercial drivers to shut off their engines for meals, deliveries and mandatory rest stops. MEI’s electric APU powers air conditioning, lights, television, computers, and other “hotel” amenities overnight and other times when the truck engine is off.

Current models are estimated to save a trucker between $45 and $48 per day, and up to $15,000 annually, Harms said. The savings become even more significant for owners of large fleets and when combined with a high-efficiency alternator that the company is also developing.

“This unique technology runs cool, is quiet and yields extraordinary horsepower per pound,” said UCF’s Wu.

The device is still in the prototype stage and MEI officials expect to sell the product in limited quantities by the end of the year and to begin full production by mid-2015. Pricing is expected to be competitive with conventional APUs.

The work was funded by MEI and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council Matching Grants Research Program. Silent Night™ uses highly efficient lithium ion batteries together with a proprietary high-efficiency motor design to cycle through an industry-leading 10 hours of air conditioning (at 10,000 BTU’s) or heat, said Jon Harms. In addition, the APU can also power up to 2,500 watts of power simultaneously – enough for lights and a small television or computer and other amenities. “We wanted to give the user a full night of power,” said Harms.

The system recharges when the truck is operating.

The industry has previously relied on diesel or other fossil fuel powered units. In the face of increasing costs and ever-stricter fossil fuel emission regulations, those units pose problems including high fuel and maintenance costs.

Harms said the Silent Night™ APU is able to operate at about 60 percent of the cost of fossil fueled APUs. The Silent Night™ prototypes are bolt-on replacements to existing diesel APUs.

MagLev and UCF are further developing the technology for other clean-energy applications. For more information on MagLev: http://maglev-energy.com/