Freightliner Leads the Way in Environmental Responsibility

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July 4, 2009

By Bob Difley

Though this achievement doesn’t yet save you money or increase your miles per gallon, the fact that Freightliner has taken serious steps to reduce pollution and landfill waste in their manufacturing operations indicate where their collective heads are. The initiation of their Zero Waste to Landfill program as of May has achieved a 94.1% waste-free status. They expect to be 100% landfill waste-free by 2010.

They accomplished this by recycling plastic, paper, aluminum, cardboard, metals, wood, and nylon, as well as stopping air leaks, using power-saving methods, and reducing CO2 emissions and pollutants.

ecofred2Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. is a division of Daimler Trucks North America and in addition to manufacturing delivery vans, school and shuttle busses, they also make motorhome chassis. Their alternatively fueled chassis include hybrid-electric, compressed natural gas, and hydraulic hybrid vehicles including ecoFRED, the first hybrid-electric Class A motorhome chassis that couples a diesel engine with an electric motor/generator and lithium-ion batteries.

ecofred1Winnebago currently has a 35-foot Adventurer “concept hybrid” on an ecoFRED chassis touring the nation with Recreational Vehicle Industry Association spokespersons, Brad and Amy Herzog. This is not a stripped down model designed to achieve marketable statistics, but a fully-equipped, three-slide motorhome.

If this tour is successful, gaining acceptability and desire in the marketplace, you may see Winnebago as well as other manufacturers starting to produce efficient, higher mileage, reduced carbon footprint RVs. That would be good for the industry and good for acceptance by much of the the general public that sees RVs as gas guzzling behemoths. It would stimulate RV sales, bring in new environmentally sensitive buyers, and create some excitement for RV dealers. Not to mention being better for the environment.

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  1. Joseph – I like that idea of a special “experimental certification” for vehicles. It should be provided a no cost to encourage development of new ideas and let people create. A few vehicles that don’t meet emissions or safety standards will not affect the population as would hundreds.

  2. Joeseph

    Actually, government regulations play 2 opposing roles. Incentive and tax breaks can help get new technologies over the initial hump, but the maze of federal vehicle rules and regulations can also kill innovative ideas before they get a chance to take off.

    One of the reasons that people could run trucks ‘with all kinds of crazy stuff’ during the 40’s is that we didn’t have the long lists of safety and emission regulations that we have now. You can’t get on the road (legally) without passing all kinds of standards, and the inspection system isn’t set up to encourage people who are trying new things.

    I don’t know anyone who is against safe vehicles or clean air, but we could use something like an ‘experimental’ certification for vehicles. That would let people try new things without needing a full time government compliance staff to do so.

    As is the case in so many things, the government can help (a) by giving things a little push and (b) by getting the heck out of the way.

  3. Bob Difley

    Well said, Lily. Makes a lot of sense. It helps if the government is behind this innovative and crazy stuff, or else whenever the price of oil drops making the innovative stuff less economic, the public will turns away and venture capital dries up making it difficult to get through the first stages of alternative energy innovation to the second and later stages of mass production and cost reduction. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Lily Cutter

    Seems to me it makes sense to make the big gas guzzling units more fuel efficient and sustainable rather than to build smaller vehicles in order to reduce energy use. Tractor tailers and vehicles that haul living spaces need a reasonable amount of cube and commercial vehicles and companies can’t help but benefit and be a ready market for greater efficiency. If a system works for a tractor trailer it will be a great social benefit. All that surface on a 40′ trailer would be a great substrate for photovoltaic skin to generate some of the energy needed to operate the vehicle. If you don’t like batteries create some other type of system to utilize the power. With the size of a truck you could try reving up some fly wheels and recapturing braking energy, integrating capacitors into the system, maybe building long thin plasticized battery packs that do double duty as the walls of the trailer box. During the 2nd world war they were running trucks with all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s amazing what people can engineer if they put their minds to it. Our real problem is that people and companies are programmed to think narrowly about thier own personal interest and so they work against each other rather than together, Its all about who can be on top, be in control and make the most money rather than how to come up with the best solutions . To bad we weren’t a little more like ants or bees.

  5. GMAs

    Well… we still can’t get it out.. the battery is not the solution to the answer for efficiency… sorry

    Batteries take too long to recharge and the losses are where they fail to meet the grade when the rubber meets the road…

    You still only get less than 50% of the amount of power that you put in… i.e 150% for the 80% you get back out… and the curve dimenishes… as they get older…

    As to using peanut oil well… just not enough french fry’s out their .. yet…

    Nice try but still way too expensive for what you can afford

    If they want to get this country back into the groove we need nuc power.. and get away from the carbon foot print…(nat gas, oil, etc…for elect generation) which takes more out of the environment than cars do… We use the elect from these powerplants for all the simple things.. like computers, lights, and industry… Once we get off the gas for the powerplants… then we will have lots of fuel for the green things… we enjoy…

  6. Steve White

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on the issues of fuel efficiency and particularly on how they will eventually apply to RVs. I wish I could afford one of these new units, but will have to make do with our Jayco Class C Granite Ridge for the foreseeable future. I still like to read about the new ones coming down the pike, though.