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Fuel consumption limits on heavy-duty vehicles: a trigger of industry “shock”?

The Fuel Consumption Limits of Heavy-Duty Commercial Vehicles (Stage III, draft for comment) has been completed and submitted to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) for approval. The following reveals some important information before the official release of the draft.


Major aim: reduce fuel consumption

Vehicle diesel consumption currently accounts for around 55 percent of national total diesel consumption. Over 70 percent of newly-added petroleum consumption each year is from newly-added vehicles. In 2014, China’s petroleum apparent consumption exceeded 518 million tons with a net petroleum import of 308 million tons, pushing the degree of external dependence to nearly 60 percent. It is estimated that over the future period of time, China’s car ownership will maintain sustained growth and thus will make energy shortage a more prominent issue. Heavy-duty commercial vehicles account for about 10 percent of total vehicle production and sales but consume much more than 10 percent of petroleum consumption due to their high fuel consumption per 100 km and longer mileage traveled.

According to an anonymous reporter, reducing commercial vehicle fuel consumption is not only energy-saving and environmental-friendly, it will also contribute to national energy security.

According to Fang Yi, vice president of sales and marketing of CAMC Hualing, lowering energy consumption, emissions and cost as well as increasing efficiency is not only the requirement for transport companies and mid-to-heavy-duty truck manufacturers to upgrade and restructure, but also their corporate social responsibility. It is of vital significance to reduce commercial vehicle fuel consumption limits, which is energy-saving and environmental-friendly, especially for China at its rapid development stage of economic growth. In the face of enormous demand for energy, commercial vehicles are one of the major sources of consumption of fossil energy.

Xing Min, executive vice president and secretary general of China Internal Combustion Engine Association, said that China had to push the progress in its fuel consumption limit of Stage III to narrow the gap between it and developed countries as the U.S. and European countries had launched new requirements on fuel consumption limits.

According to the Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicle Industry Development Plan (2012-2020) released by the State Council, the fuel consumption limit of new commercial vehicles will reach internationally advanced levels by 2020.


Define goals based on comprehensive consideration

It is reported that many enterprises engaged in this standard draft work make their own analysis of the cost and technologies involved. As one of those enterprises responsible for the draft work, SAIC-IVECO-Hongyan claimed that it was actively pushing forward the development of methods to reduce fuel consumption based on growing demand from its customers. According to Feng Feng, general manager of the commercial vehicle team of ACEA Beijing office, different energy-saving technologies should be applied to different actual conditions of vehicles. As there are various types of vehicles with different quality as well as differences in actual operational conditions and energy-saving technology potential, energy-saving objectives should be classified based on the vehicle type and quality.

It is also reported that there are differences in fuel consumption measurement, load and evaluation unit of domestic heavy-duty commercial vehicles, which is difficult to make comparisons with standard technological indicators. Therefore, the process of establishing standards is quite complex and has gone through many stages. According to a reporter from the standard draft team, a practical objective must be set for the standard that requires considerations in the energy-saving technological potential for different types, as well as customer affordability when the purchase cost rises. Eventually, in this exposure draft, the general energy-saving target is set at “fuel consumption limit tightened by 15 percent by 2020 on the basis of 2015.”


Promote advances in truck technologies

If the Stage III standards could be put into practice, it will undoubtedly improve the technological upgrading of the truck industry, including the application of new technologies and new materials. Reduction of fuel consumption is related with the improvement of engines, parts technologies, transmission efficiency and steering systems as well as the technological level of electronic control systems. Members of standard draft team expressed that to meet the new standard, enterprises needed to apply advanced technologies to reduce energy consumption. Fuel consumption decrease for vehicles need to further improve exterior design and lower wind resistance; the engines also need to be energy-saving to propel the improvement of engine technologies. So the implementation of new technologies will facilitate the progress of vehicles and engine technologies.

CNHTC is also one of the enterprises engaged in the standard draft. According to Yao Zhangtao, head of MC11 and MC13 Engine Design Institute, Engine Department of its Technology Center, now they can raise the thermal efficiency of engines to over 40 percent. It would be the best if the number can reach 50 or even 55 percent in special cases. The advanced technology of preheat for waste gas applied in engines may be adopted to make the vehicle’s fuel consumption more economical in the future. He also added that the reduction of vehicle’s fuel consumption was also related to driving cabs, transmission systems, tire resistance and vehicle quality. The new standard might propel the application of aluminum materials as some enterprises had initiated the study of aluminum frame adopted by heavy-duty trucks.

Tan Xiuqing, an expert from China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), told reporters that the key to lowering fuel consumption for commercial vehicles lay in the match between engines and vehicles. According to Fang, the further segmentation in such professional logistics and transport industries as dangerous chemicals, express delivery and cold chains would promote the segmentation of the commercial vehicle products configuration, which require vehicle manufacturers to invest more in the R&D of transmission assembly and to make scientific product planning and market segmentation in the application of vehicle configuration. Meanwhile they would conduct technological cooperation with suppliers in improving transmission efficiency and reducing fuel consumption.


Guide the industrial transformation and upgrading

According to Feng of ACEA, the new standard is mandatory, which indicates that only advanced enterprises are encouraged while backward ones will be obsolete as not all targeted audience can meet it. If all enterprises can meet the standard, it will be meaningless; so by 2020, there will definitely be some adjustment in the engine and heavy-duty truck industries.

Xing told reporters that heavy-duty truck industry would be greatly influenced by this standard. Some engine manufacturers would get obsolete once their technologies fail to meet the standard. The new standard in implementation together with the Diesel Industry Standard Conditions implemented since January 1 will be of tremendous benefit to industrial upgrading and transformation.

According to Fang, the constant upgrading of the new fuel consumption limit will promote the technologies for vehicle products in the short term; and for the longer term, with the gradual improvement of national standards and industry laws, it will also contribute to the upgrading of the corporate structure for China’s mid-to-heavy-duty truck enterprises, as well as the transformation of management and manufacturing models. As a result, these truck enterprises will develop towards the direct featuring development-oriented structure, refined management and smart manufacturing.

Moreover, with the stricter national standards on vehicle fuel consumption limit and the national emphasis on new energy research, it is possible that breakthroughs will be made in the new energy technologies for medium to heavy-duty trucks.

If put into implementation, the Fuel Consumption Limits on Heavy-Duty Commercial Vehicles (Stage III) will definitely promote the technological upgrading of truck industry. To meet the new standard, enterprises need to apply advanced technologies of energy consumption reduction. More efforts should be made in uplifting exterior design, lowering wind resistance, and adopting energy-saving engines to reduce fuel consumption.

(Rewritten by Xu Jun based on author’s article in China Automotive News

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