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Passenger cars and trucks aren’t the only road-going vehicles undergoing a fuel-saving transformation. Daimler has just announced its Freightliner SuperTruck has surpassed the Department of Energy’s criteria for the SuperTruck Challenge that began back in 2009. And surpass it did – the Freightliner SuperTruck beat the DOE goal of a 50 percent improvement, surpassing the fuel economy averages of a 2009 baseline truck by a whopping 115 percent. That translates to an average of 12.2 mpg.

While that might not seem too impressive, consider the truck and its cargo weigh 65,000 pounds and was moving an average speed of 65 mph over a 312-mile test loop on the open interstate. Oh, and it’s powered by a 10.7-liter turbodiesel that makes 390 horsepower and 1,400 pound-feet of torque. Yep, I’m impressed.

This is all part of a corporate challenged issued by the DOE back in 2009 to raise fuel economy levels of transfer trucks. The challenge set forth the goal of a 50 percent improvement in fuel economy and a 50 percent improvement in brake thermal efficiency. While two other truck makers are in the competition, neither of their entries come close to touching the Freightliner’s advancements.

Continue reading to learn more about the Daimler SuperTruck.

  • 2015 Daimler SuperTruck
  • Year:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    12-speed automated manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Energy:
  • Displacement:
    10.7 L
  • 0-60 time:
    20.0 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    110 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front Engine; Rear Drive
  • Price:
    300000 (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:


2015 Daimler SuperTruck
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Much of the improvements in fuel economy can be credited to the truck’s exterior design. Active grille shutters – much like those on modern cars – open and close depending on cooling needs, while lower side skirts that cover the wheels, a steeply raked windshield, aerodynamic side mirrors, and low rolling resistance tires all contribute.

Of course, the engineering goes much deeper than that. In fact, high-strength materials are used in the frame, allowing it to be lighter by 700 pounds yet still capable of handling 32 tons of weight. Even the oils used inside the engine and differential are specially formulated with lower viscosities for better performance.

Not only did Freightliner work on the tractor portion of its big rig, it also redesigned the trailer. Side skirts divert air from under the trailer, keeping turbulence around the tires at a minimum. The trailing edge of the cab also routes air around to the sides of the trailer, diverting it from hitting the flat front of the trailer.


2015 Daimler SuperTruck
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Modern big rig trucks are part truck and part RV, with sleeping quarters behind the front two seats. Daimler went to great lengths to cut weight in this area. The space is logically designed with no wasted space and all the building materials are lightweight. Even the cabinets are made from carbon fiber.

The truck’s interior also boasts a futuristic design. Bolstered seats are covered in Alcantara and LEDs light the space.


2015 Daimler SuperTruck
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Many of the efficiency improvements are found under the truck’s sloping hood. Freightliner uses its most high-tech engine combined with power-saving accessories and friction-reducing internal components. Big rig engines are big – displacing around 15 liters on average. Freightliner’s new engine is cut down to 10.7 liters, yet is still in the traditional inline six-cylinder configuration.

Engineers added special coatings on the internal parts, especially on the middle sections of the cylinder walls where piston speeds are the greatest. A variable speed water pump, a clutched air compressor that powers other onboard systems, and low-viscosity oil in the crankcase.

Mated to the turbodiesel is a Detroit DT12, 12-speed automated manual transmission. It features Direct Drive and eCoast technologies that work together and with the truck’s Predictive Technologies to improve shifting base on road grade, engine output and vehicle speed.

Beyond the powertrain, the SuperTruck uses a next-generation aftertreatment system for scrubbing the exhaust gasses clean of NOx. The system creates less backpressure, reducing the strain on the engine. Further down the exhaust pipe is a heat exchanger. It uses the hot air to generate steam in an onboard boiler. The steam then utilized in making electricity for propulsion. Sadly the steam system isn’t ready for full-scale production at this time, but that will likely change in the coming years.

All this advancement culminates in an average mpg of 12.2. That’s far an above the average of six mpg on today’s semi trucks.


2015 Daimler SuperTruck Wallpaper quality
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While Daimler hasn’t officially posted how much it has spent making this one-off truck, the DOE’s 2012 Cost/Benefit Analysis estimates the cost of such system would incrementally increase a semi truck’s cost by between $36,700 and $102,500 on top of its base price. Prices for a standard semi tractor these days range from $150,000 to $200,000 – and that doesn’t include the trailer. However as time marches on, costs for these new technologies will begin to fall, becoming evermore affordable.


Peterbilt SuperTruck

2015 Daimler SuperTruck
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One of Daimler’s main competition is from Peterbilt. The company debuted its SuperTruck concept back in 2013 with its own set of fuel-sipping technologies. Despite this, Peterbilt’s truck didn’t make use of a more aerodynamic front end, resulting in an average fuel consumption on the same 312-mile test loop of 10.7 mpg. Still, that’s an improvement over the average conventional truck, but is 1.5 mpg short of Daimler’s SuperTruck.


2015 Daimler SuperTruck
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It’s very interesting to see how semi tuck are going green with the use of steam, aftertreatment systems, and using lightweight materials. Considering how many miles truckers log each year, getting twice the fuel economy is a very big deal – especially when some drivers are having to buy their own fuel.

It will likely be several more years until these fuel-sipping systems make their way to production trucks, but at least someone is pioneering the engineering.

  • Leave it
    • More expensive due to new tech
    • Only a prototype
    • Some of the tech isn’t ready for mass production
Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
About the author

Press Release

At North America’s biggest commercial vehicle exhibition, the Mid-America Trucking Show, the Daimler subsidiary Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is presenting new products of the Freightliner and Western Star US-brands as well as the SuperTruck study. The study demonstrates a wide range of possibilities for significantly improved efficiency of road freight transport in the future. The highlight among the production-ready products at the trucking show is the new Western Star 5700 XE, which will be produced in Cleveland, North Carolina, beginning in May 2015. The tractor has sophisticated aerodynamics and is equipped with the highly efficient new Detroit powertrain with the downsped DD15 engine and the DT12 automated transmission. As a result, the truck consumes almost 15 percent less fuel than the reference vehicle.

2015 Daimler SuperTruck
- image 624295

The new SuperTruck study provides further evidence of Daimler Trucks’ technological leadership. In addition to the existing series-production vehicles the SuperTruck from Freightliner shows how targeted measures in aerodynamics, energy management, the use of an intelligent powertrain and other levers can further reduce fuel consumption. For example, the SuperTruck is equipped with the DT12 automated transmission and predictive technology that controls the vehicle speed using GPS and digital 3D maps.
In test drives, the SuperTruck at a weight of 29.5 metric tons (65,000 lbs GVWR) consumed an average of about 19 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (12.2 mpg) at a speed of around 100 km/h (65 mph). In addition, the SuperTruck achieved a 115 percent freight efficiency improvement (measured in ton-miles per gallon) over a 2009 baseline truck.
DTNA initiated the SuperTruck research and development project in 2010. The U.S. Department of Energy supported the project with a $40 million grant. Daimler’s SuperTruck greatly surpassed the Department of Energy’s aim to increase the freight efficiency of U.S. Class 8 trucks by 50 percent. The project’s improvements to aerodynamics and the powertrain have already been incorporated into the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution and Western Star 5700 XE series-production vehicles. For example, about every fourth Freightliner Cascadia Evolution is equipped with the automated DT12 transmission. Increasing numbers of customers appreciate the benefit of a fully integrated Detroit powertrain from a single source, in which the engine, the axles and the transmission come from Daimler Trucks and are thus perfectly synchronized.

2015 Daimler SuperTruck
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While these optimizations are feasible for customer use, the SuperTruck study also shows that for example ultralight materials are not economically viable at this time.
“The SuperTruck engagement is another component of our strategy to make future road transportation as environmentally friendly and fuel efficient as possible,” said Martin Daum, President & CEO of Daimler Trucks North America.
NAFTA remains an important sales driver for Daimler Trucks
Daimler Trucks expects the NAFTA market to grow by around 10 percent in 2015. New products such as the Western Star 5700 XE and successfully established products such as the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution should substantially help the company to maintain its market leadership in the region.

2015 Daimler SuperTruck
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In 2014 Daimler Trucks was once again the undisputed market leader for medium-duty and heavy-duty Class 6-8 trucks in North America, where it had a share of 37.2 percent. Sales rose by 19 percent to a record high of 161,500 vehicles. The Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, which has supplemented the product range since March 2013, has contributed greatly to this sales success.

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