Test Drive: Kenworth Clean Power

Kenworth's Clean Power System is designed to provide managed comfort when the driver needs it.

March 2008, - Test Drives

by Steve Sturgess, Executive Editor

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This truck is green. And it's no coincidence. The T660 features Kenworth's Clean Power electric auxiliary power that can handle up to 10 hours of hotel loads without running the truck engine.

Combining climate control technology from Webasto - the Comfort on the Move company - with extra deep-cycle Optima batteries mounted to the frame behind the cab, the system complies with all the new anti-idling regulations from municipalities and states across the nation.

And it's available today on the T660, with likely application on the W900 and T800 in the future.

Day One

Back last spring, Kenworth rolled out its lineup for 2007 and included our first opportunity to drive a T660. As luck would have it, that was a Clean Power optioned unit, but we only had it for the day and had no opportunity to experience the benefits of the system. So I badgered Kenworth to let me try the truck overnight. What I really wanted to do was experience the up to 10 hours of air conditioning. But it was an incredibly busy year and the test did not come together till the beginning of October, by which time the heating side of the climate control was more appropriate up in Washington State.

After a refresher on the spec of the T660 and a walk-around of the Clean Power components, I headed out on a suggested route that would see me overnight in the remote Vernita rest area on the south bank of the Columbia River and not far from Yakima.

It was well chosen for a quiet night. But it was also chosen for the ability to showcase the forward lighting that has been so improved on the latest-generation T660. Likewise, I used - or had to use - the integrated, in-dash navigation system.

The truck was a new T660 with 425 Cummins ISX Smart Torque power and an Eaton UltraShift 13-speed. The Smart Torque gives 1,550 pounds-feet peak torque that jumps to 1,750 on demand in the top two gears. It's a seamless transition, complementing the shifting in the automated transmission, so the T660 was incredibly easy to drive.

The truck also featured Sheppard M100 power steering for good directional control on the relatively narrow and winding route chosen by the KW folks, and the AG400 tandem suspension - the latest generation eight-bag airride - gave great stability and little lean through the corners.

The first day was just over 300 miles with a mix of Highway 90 out of Renton, Wash., through Ellensburg and south of Moses Lake. Then there was four-lane U.S. Highway 395 south. 

On I-90, the section from North Bend to Ellensburg demonstrated how well the combination of Sheppard steering and the eight-bag suspension worked together, and the downgrades showed that air disc brakes - fitted to steer and drive axles - are a major boon in the mountains. The stretch from Ellensburg to George is a well-known haunt for speed enforcement, so the Smartwheel controls for cruise were pressed into service through here and on out to the turn south in Ritzville.

Taking a break until dark in the somewhat inappropriately named Ritzville, I started out again on the last leg, two-lane Route 26 and 24, where I was able to roast the local landscape with the Xenon lighting. This is a vast improvement over the usual incandescent bulbs; it also much more durable, lasting up to seven times as long as conventional bulbs - altogether a great upgrade.

Clean Power Evening

I had come over from Renton using the navigation system that had been pre-programmed for me. Nav systems are a terrific aid to driving because they take the worry out of finding your way around. In a truck, you have to be careful that you don't let the system put you on a no-truck route or one with low overheads because most of them are designed for car traffic (as is the Paccar system in the KW). 

I find the KW (and Peterbilt) systems somewhat difficult to come to grips with because the different screens take a lot of their own navigation. I much prefer the simplicity of the Tom Tom that I carry in my briefcase. But I'm probably not the best judge, seeing as I struggle with Tivo and I never have been able to set the time on my stereo.

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