Trailer Talk

Hyliion's Powered Trailer Axle Goes to Europe

The company is exhibiting at the giant IAA truck show in Hannover, Germany, by sharing a booth with its battery supplier, Gentherm.

September 18, 2016

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Like the North American version, the powered axle for Europe would replace a "passive" axle. Image: Hyliion Inc.  
Like the North American version, the powered axle for Europe would replace a "passive" axle. Image: Hyliion Inc.

Hyliion, the designer of a hybrid electric-powered axle for trailers, is taking its concept to Europe by exhibiting at the giant IAA truck show in Hannover, Germany this week. The company’s business development director, RF Culbertson, says it is sharing a booth with its battery supplier, Gentherm, in Building 16.

Meanwhile, the company has coined a name — Intelligent Electric Axle — for the product. 

As we’ve written before, the Hyliion (HIGH-lee-on) axle includes a motor-generator that runs through a standard differential. It captures kinetic energy as the truck coasts or brakes, converts it to electricity that’s stored in lithium-ion batteries, then sends the energy back to the axle to help launch a truck or push it up a hill. Electronic controls -- the intelligence in the system -- run the process.

The system is independent of the tractor (and thus will work with any type, new or old), and the driver does nothing to make it operate except making sure it’s switched on, says Thomas Healy, Hyliion’s founder and CEO.

The powered axle replaces a “passive” axle on a standard trailer tandem, and promises big fuel savings – 10 to 20% from hybrid-powered operation alone. Healy says another 10% or more in fuel can be saved if the batteries are used as an auxiliary power unit to run heating, cooling and other accessories in a tractor sleeper during rest breaks, or by running the reefer unit, lift gate or other equipment on a trailer.

The European version would also replace a passive axle in a trailer’s tridem or tandem, and/or the dead axle on a 6x2 truck commonly operated there. Many configurations are possible, he and Culbertson point out.

The Hyliion people are introducing their European concept as plans proceed for fleet testing and manufacturing here in the USA. Initial test units will be assembled at the company’s shop in Pittsburgh, Pa., and volume production – assuming it comes – will probably be contracted out.

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Author Bio

Tom Berg

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Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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