The Peterbilt SuperTruck II is a clean-sheet design focused on production-ready innovations and technology.   -  Photo: Jack Roberts

The Peterbilt SuperTruck II is a clean-sheet design focused on production-ready innovations and technology. 

Photo: Jack Roberts

Towering over the West Hall entrance of the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES 2024 is the Peterbilt SuperTruck II. Tall, sleek, and decidedly futuristic-looking, the truck is the star of the Paccar booth, which also features a Kenworth hydrogen fuel cell T680 and a DAF 270E electric truck.

CES is a multi-day tech trade show that draws a global audience every year to see the latest and greatest cutting-edge technology and products. Paccar considers the show vital for showcasing its technological innovations to a broader global audience.

The SuperTruck 2 program, a public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, tasked OEMs with achieving a 100% freight efficiency improvement over their submitted 2009 baseline.

SuperTruck II: Throwing Out the Rulebook

Peterbilt pulled the curtain off of its SuperTruck II more than a year ago, when it stopped attendees in their tracks at the American Trucking Associations' management conference.

Jake White, product marketing manager, Peterbilt, said at CES that the first priority was to show the truck in front of the North American trucking industry.

“There are a lot of technologies being evaluated on this truck,” he says. “We’ve done a lot of testing on public roads in Texas to validate those technologies. And we felt it was important to let our customers know what’s going on first.”

Peterbilt’s SuperTruck I debuted in 2014, and that truck was a more traditional design based on the Peterbilt Model 579, White explained.

“But the SuperTruck II is a complete clean-sheet design,” he said. “We threw out all the rules for this truck. Our goal this time was to see what we could achieve with all-new technology and highly advanced aerodynamics. We wanted to take things as far as we possibly could in terms of new technology and new ideas.”

The SuperTruck II features a 15-liter diesel engine with a 48-volt mild hybrid drivetrain to “augment” its propulsion when necessary.

“The mild hybrid powertrain is more about fuel efficiency than propulsion,” White explained. “Fuel efficiency is really what this truck is all about. The mild hybrid powertrain provides assistance to the diesel engine at launch, going up grades or similar situations.”

Automatic Lowering at Highway Speeds

White said the Peterbilt design team chose not to focus on autonomous technology for the SuperTruck II. “We really wanted to explore technologies that are currently feasible for production trucks,” he said.

One example: the extreme lightweighting efforts that went into the design. This includes the use of new carbon-fiber body panels and expanded use of aluminum body components.

“It’s a Peterbilt,” White quips. “So, you know there’s going to be aluminum in our design!”

All told, White says Peterbilt engineers shaved more than 500 pounds off of the SuperTruck II, making it significantly lighter than a conventional Class 8 long-haul tractor today.

Peterbilt engineers worked hand-in-hand with Great Dane trailers to optimize the SuperTruck II’s complete aerodynamic profile, White added. Those efforts include light-weighting for the trailer, rear-view camera systems, and retractable aerodynamic flaps.

The entire tractor-trailer is designed to automatically lower closer to the road at highway speeds to increase aerodynamic efficiency. It raises up at lower speeds to help maneuver better and avoid impact damage to the lower portions of the trucks caused by potholes, debris, curbs, and other hazards.

The Peterbilt design team worked with Great Dane Trailers to create an automatic system that lowers the entire tractor.  -  Photo: Jack Roberts

The Peterbilt design team worked with Great Dane Trailers to create an automatic system that lowers the entire tractor.

Photo: Jack Roberts

Human-Centered Truck Cab Design

The Peterbilt SuperTruck II doesn’t have a single conventional rear-view mirror on the truck. But that’s not the only new feature drives will notice. The truck has a center-cab driver’s seat and a “human-centered” interior design aimed squarely at comfort, safety, and efficiency.

“We brought in a lot of drivers and talked to them about all of the new things we were working on,” White said. “We already have the largest center-console display screen in the industry. But they really told us that they deal with a lot of information to do their jobs. So, I think you’ll continue to see larger display screens in the future.”

In addition to aiding with the truck’s propulsion, White said the 48-volt hybrid system also powers all the accessory systems on the truck, such as the lighting systems and HVAC system.

“It’s much more efficient for powering vehicle accessories,” White said. “We really feel this technology has a lot of long-term potential.”

All of these new technologies have combined to give the Peterbilt SuperTruck II a 32% increase in freight ton efficiency, White added.

“What we’ve done with the SuperTruck II is demonstrate that all of these new technologies actually put money back in the pockets of our customers."

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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