Proprietary Powertrains

About 10 years ago, Paccar developed a strategy to offer a complete Paccar powertrain and established this as "a very important goal," Mark Pigott, company chairman and CEO told me. Since then, it has invested more than $1 billion dollars in capital and research and development in establishing its own powertrains.

The strategy's objective is to have the lowest cost of ownership by creating best-in-class durability, reliability, fuel economy, drivability, torque-to-weigh ratio and serviceability.

As a global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of high-quality light, medium and heavy duty trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF (a leading commercial vehicle manufacturer in Europe) nameplates, Paccar has considerable resources and experience to make this happen, and is.

The latest evolution of its powertrain strategy was the launch last month of the Paccar MX engine to be installed in heavy duty North American Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks beginning this summer.

The six-cylinder, 12.9-liter engine will work with all types of transmissions. It is available with a horsepower range of 380 to 485 and torque outputs from 1,450 to 1,750 pound-feet. It comes standard with an integral engine compression brake that provides 460 brake horsepower at 2,200 rpm - 15 more brake horsepower than the nearest competitor.

The new engine, developed through a very significant investment in research and testing, has accumulated more 50 million test miles with fleets in rigorous and severe conditions in North America. While new to the North American market, more than 125,000 Paccar MX engines are successfully operating in DAF Trucks globally.

The MX engine meets U.S. EPA 2010 emissions regulations using selective catalytic reduction (SCR) in combination with exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). For the SCR catalyst, it is using copper zeolite, said to be more efficient in reducing diesel engine emissions compared to the iron zeolite commonly used. EPA certification is expected soon.

The MX has a B10 engine life of 1 million miles, meaning 90 percent of the engines will reach that mileage. Officials say that is "unparalleled," as other engine manufacturers' stated durability is B50 - 50 percent of the engines will reach one million miles.

Think of the impact this will have on helping minimize engine maintenance and vehicle downtime. More vehicle uptime and minimal maintenance helps improve the bottom line, a competitive advantage for any fleet, especially in today's business climate.

The MX engine block and cylinder head have been manufactured with high-strength compacted graphite iron, a premium material is stronger (75 percent) and lighter (20 percent) than conventional grey iron, resulting in superior power-to-weight performance.

There is a single camshaft with no counterweight for a more simplified and 25-pound lighter design. This reduces weight and increases power for quicker acceleration and smoother overall operation.

The Paccar MX uses fractured cap technology for connecting rods and main bearing caps. This technology produces a rough irregular mating surface that forms when the bearing cap is physically fractured from the rod, virtually eliminating cap shift. This results in greater strength and contributes to longer power and torque curves along a wide rpm range.

Other engineering accomplishments on the new engine have contributed to significantly reduce vibration and lower in-cab noise levels. That makes for a more comfortable driver environment.

Mechanical vibration impacts the "tightness" of a vehicle. The characteristics of the vibration - frequency, magnitude and duration - cause rattles and squeaks and shake things loose. That in turn creates downtime for increased maintenance and repairs. No driver is happy with an annoying vibration.

Exposure to vibration, particularly whole body vibration, also effects driver performance and health, and that has consequences for fleet operations.

I had a chance to drive a variety of Kenworth and Peterbilt tractors with the new engine with different horsepower ratings pulling fully loaded trailers. I was pleasantly surprised with the responsive feel, power and quietness - both inside and outside.

Paccar engineers told me the MX engine is two to three times quieter at idle and one and one-half times quieter at 55 to 70 mph than competitive engines.

The more comfortable a driver is, the more productive he will be and the greater the tendency to take good care of the equipment. Here again, less time in the shop.

Another nice feature is the electrical systems for the Paccar MX engine, designed to provide increased reliability through the use of sealed connectors and an air-cooled ECM. A fully encapsulated wiring harness mounted directly to the block protects wiring from the elements and removes stress from connectors for a more dependable electrical system. This results in a dependable electrical system that is serviced in a non-invasive manner.

The idea behind having an integrated powertrain is that vehicles can be better engineered to perform for optimum efficiency and productivity, say the manufacturers that have them. Engines, transmissions and axles can function better because they can be designed to work together.

With control over quality, these manufactures say they can assure the best product possible, and that would be a good thing for fleets and repair and maintenance operations.

Further, these OEMs believe their engineering teams are best at putting together vehicles to ensure the most advantageous vehicle configuration for an application.

Now that Paccar has its own engines and axles, it is eyeing development of its own gearboxes and transmissions, Pigott said.

When this happens, Paccar engineers, in developing new truck models, will be able to focus on further reducing noise and vibration generated by the entire powertain. That would help reduce unscheduled downtime for repairs and maintenance even more.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.