There have been a lot of new product launches at the spring truck shows, as you'll see in this month's cover story. Despite the faltering economy, there's been no let-up in that activity.
In fact, as the pace of change accelerates, we'll be seeing more and more as we go forward.

This year, several deserve a much closer look. Grote's fascinating development of a thin film with embedded LEDs is one. It is so revolutionary that we are limited today by what we can imagine using the films for. But applications will come thick and fast. Daimler's predictive cruise control is another example of how complementary technologies are making for some absolutely incredible products. And there were several more.

But none caught my attention like the novel Bendix Pneumatic Booster System.

It's an engine sub-assembly that blasts compressed air into the intake manifold when the throttle is mashed. Usually it takes up to six seconds for the gradually increasing fuel mixing with increased volumes of air as the turbo spools up before the engine is producing its maximum torque. With the Bendix system, the blast of fresh, compressed air means fuel can immediately be injected into the combustion chamber. A great rush of exhaust is instantaneously produced that zaps the turbocharger up to speed. In less than a second, the engine is up to full torque.

But wait a minute. Bendix? The brake people?

The answer is, absolutely yes.

You see, Bendix and parent company Knorr-Bremse have such a stranglehold on the brake business worldwide that there's not a lot of opportunity left for growth there. So the company is looking for other areas where its expertise in managing compressed air can be used to advantage. Engine systems is one such area, and the PBS really does bring something new to the engineering drafting table.

PBS originally was developed in response to a request for a way to get more power, more quickly from a small bus engine in a South American application. The routes demanded lots of steep hill starts, and the bus engine was not powerful enough to get the bus going smartly. But the chassis couldn't accommodate a bigger engine. Enter the PBS and the problem is solved: a 7-liter engine that performs like a 9-liter. (A quart out of a pint pot, you might say.)

The benefits of this early engine boost are manifold, if you'll pardon the pun. Among them, fuel economy is improved and emissions are reduced - especially NOx - as the throttle is mashed.

Musing about those benefits makes me think about the issues facing Navistar with its go-it-alone technology path for 2010 using Advanced Exhaust Gas Recirculation, or A-EGR. The pundits all say that by going to as much as 50 percent EGR, performance will suffer, fuel economy will fall and particulate matter emissions will go up. These are all areas that the Bendix PBS addresses very elegantly with a single, relatively simple add-on component and its dedicated air tank.

Oh yes, the air in that tank is compressed to 140 psi, and we all know what happens when a sudden flood of compressed air is released: It gets icy cold. That's yet another PBS property that has a positive impact on the combustion process in reducing NOx and PM with A-EGR. And because the engine is to full torque more quickly, EGR can be turned on earlier, further reducing NOx.

Bendix says it will not be offering exclusives on its PBS technology, but I wouldn't mind betting there have been conversations between Navistar engine people and Bendix already.

And here's another thing: Bendix says the technology is still being evaluated with production slated for 2011 or more likely 2012. Navistar has banked emissions credits, so its full compliance with the 0.2 g per hp-hr EPA mandate is not scheduled until 2012. Is that a fortunate coincidence, or what?

Nobody is confirming these musings. Just remember, if the A-EGR International MaxxForce engines for the next EPA hurdle are wearing Bendix PBS, you read about it here first.

From the May 2009 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.