There is not a score of new commercial truck models being rolled out this year — certainly not the influx seen in the previous two model years. It seems most OEMs are focused on improving products they have introduced only recently, mainly to boost fuel and operator efficiency as well as to heighten overall vehicle productivity and to further decrease life cycle operating costs.

What buyers will find on these upgraded trucks runs the gamut — from new engines and drivetrain combinations to aerodynamic enhancements that boost fuel economy to improved interiors to more driver- and safety-oriented specs.

Especially in the medium-duty arena — where Hino, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi Fuso have all rolled out entirely new trucks — there’s a lot to see.

But no matter if your fleet runs light or medium trucks, start here on your way to kicking some tires and taking a spin or two — because your fleet may well be one of the many that will be buying new trucks over the next year.

FORD

The big news from Ford this year is the ramp up to full production of the electric version of its Transit Connect van, along with the introduction of fuel-sipping, gasoline-fired EcoBoost engines for its F-150 pickup line.

The all-electric version of the Transit Connect went into full production in April. Vans are equipped with Azure Dynamics’ patented Force Drive battery-electric powertrain. Ford and Azure began collaborating on an all-electric version of the Transit Connect back in October 2009, and the production-ready vehicle today also sports Johnson Controls-Saft’s advanced lithium-ion battery. Azure is using contract vehicle assembler AM General to produce the Transit Connect Electric in its facility in Livonia, Mich.

For its F-150 pickup trucks, Ford is making available a new optional twin-turbocharged 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 EcoBoost engine, cranking out 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque while delivering 20% better fuel economy than the previous 4.2L V6 it replaces. Revealed last year but only now being made available for purchase, the EcoBoost represents a big gamble by Ford, as it’s expected to become a “base engine platform” for 90% of the company’s North American product by 2013 and account for projected sales of 1.5 million units globally.

Jim Mazuchowski, Ford V6 engines program manager, explains that the EcoBoost is designed to put a V6 engine in place of a V8, providing the performance of a V8 yet the fuel economy profile of a V6. “We’re trying to deliver the best of both worlds here — more power yet better fuel economy as well,” he says.

For example, the 3.5L EcoBoost generates 163 more hp and 168 lb-ft of additional torque over the existing V6 while increasing the F-150 tow rating to 11,300 lb and payload rating to 3,060 lb.

“The tough part is convincing customers of these capabilities,” Mazuchowski says. “But we’ve done four years of engineering work on these engines, testing them in -40°F to over 100°F, while accumulating 1.6 million miles of equivalent customer use.”

www.ford.com

GENERAL MOTORS

General Motors has added factory-built alternative fuel options for its 2012 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cutaway 3500 and 4500 commercial vans.

Brian Small, general manager of GM Fleet and Commercial Operations, says both Chevy and GMC vans will come with a “single-source” liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) option for the 2012 model year, and the company has tapped Knapheide Manufacturing Co. to install two different LPG systems into the 159-in. wheelbase cutaway Express and Savana vans. CleanFuel USA and Bi-Phase Technologies will serve as Tier 2 suppliers for the 49-gal and 75-gal capacity LPG fuel system, respectively.

The cutaways will be built at GM’s plant in Wentzville, Mo., and transported to Knapheide’s nearby facility for fuel storage/delivery system installation. Upon completion, vehicles will then be sent to the upfitter chosen by the customer for body installation, says Small.

Both vans will be covered by GM’s 3-yr/36,000-mi new-vehicle limited warranty and 5-yr/100,000-mi limited powertrain warranty, he adds.

The LPG-powered option joins a fully integrated and dedicated compressed natural gas (CNG) option for the Express and Savana full-size vans. The price of the van includes a dedicated CNG system, a natural gas-capable Vortec 6.0L V8 engine, and heavy-duty trailering equipment.

Powered by a Vortec 6.0L V8 engine, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans come equipped with hardened exhaust valves, and intake and exhaust valve seats for improved wear resistance and durability with gaseous fuel systems, GM notes.

GM’s pickup lines, which underwent extensive redesign in 2011, are not seeing many changes for 2012.

The GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD and 3500HD and the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD models all are offered with GM’s redesigned 6.6L Duramax turbocharged diesel engine, which delivers 397 hp at 3,000 rpm and 765 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. The Duramax now includes a “smart” exhaust brake feature that enables controlled vehicle slowdown on downhill grades without the need to activate the brakes.

Sierra Denali HD crew cabs remain available only in the 2500 Series (¾-ton) 2WD and 4WD configurations, as well as the 3500 Series (1-ton) 2WD and 4WD in both single-rear-wheel and dually versions. The 3500 Series is also available in standard (6 ft, 6 in.) and dually long box (8 ft) versions. A Vortec 6.0L gas V8 Hydra-Matic 6L90 6-speed automatic powertrain is standard, with the optional Duramax 6.6L turbodiesel/Allison 1000 6-speed automatic transmission available for all Denali HDs. Altogether, 11 different models are offered for the Sierra Denali HD.

The Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty lineup will still offer 10 2500HD models and eight single- and dual-rear-wheel 3500HD models, including a new 3500HD crew cab with a 6.5-ft cargo box. WT, LT and LTZ trim levels are offered; popular features, such as the EZ Lift tailgate and rearview camera system, remain optional equipment.

The Silverado gets similar engine/transmission pairings as the Sierra Denali HD, along with beefed up towing capability (21,700 lb) and payload (6,335 lb) supported by the new fully boxed, high-strength steel frames and strong suspensions introduced last year for the 2011 models.

GM notes that its new 6.6L Duramax diesel delivers up to 11% greater highway fuel economy and up to 63% lower emissions than previous versions, along with B20 biodiesel capability and quicker acceleration. A larger fuel tank combined with better fuel economy gives Duramax-equipped Silverado pickups up to 680 mi between fill-ups.

www.gm.com

INTERNATIONAL

The number of dealers selling the International eStar Class 2c-3 all-electric truck continues to grow and build momentum for future sales. Built by the Navistar-Modec EV Alliance, the eStar is now available to buyers throughout the country, from New England to California.

The eStar retains a range of up to 100 mi per charge, making it suitable for many urban applications. When it returns to its home base at the end of the day, it can be plugged in and fully recharged within 6 hr to 8 hr.

Navistar reiterates that the eStar is a “purpose-built” truck, meaning it’s been designed to run on electric power from the beginning. According to the company, some of the hallmarks of this new design are its low center of gravity, with battery placement between the frame rails; a 36-ft turning circle; walk-through cab; and a quick-change cassette-type battery that can be swapped out in 20 min.

Other features include nearly 180° visibility, a low-floor design for easy loading/unloading, and a near-zero noise level, which makes this nimble vehicle suitable for urban areas facing noise challenges.

Navistar adds that with zero tailpipe emissions, each eStar truck can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10 tons annually.

The company also notes that the eStar will continue to be built at its Wakarusa, Ind., manufacturing plant, which continues to ramp up to full production as more fleets place orders.

www.estar-ev.com

MERCEDES-BENZ

Not much change is in store for the Sprinter van sold by Mercedes-Benz USA (MB-USA), a division of
Daimler AG. The van’s lineup consists of the cargo van, passenger van, minibus, cab chassis, and crew van, which seats five with remaining interior room set up for cargo.

Like all the other Sprinter models, the crew van is powered by a 3.0L V6 diesel that offers 30% better fuel economy than a comparable gasoline engine, according to MB-USA. This powerplant boasts the four-valve-per-cylinder Mercedes-Benz BlueTec SCR diesel featuring centrally located piezo-electric injectors, CDI direct injection, variable-nozzle turbocharger, and providing 188 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque.

The Sprinter’s interior standing height remains at 6 ft, 4 in., with cargo capacity of up to 547 sq ft and payload capacity of up to 5,375 lb. Cargo van models still feature a side-door opening that’s 4 ft, 3 in. wide and 6 ft high and has the industry’s lowest step-in height at 19.9 in.

www.mbsprinterusa.com

NISSAN

The first production models of Nissan Commercial Vehicle’s new U.S. commercial van are all officially going to be 2012 models, and include the Nissan NV1500, NV2500 HD, and NV3500 HD vans. They will all be available with a choice of 4.0L V6 and 5.6L V8 engines and in two body styles: standard roof (all models) and high roof (NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD only). High-roof models offer stand-up walkthrough/work cargo area capability.

On the inside, all Nissan NV models feature wide front doors for easy ingress and egress, supportive bucket seating with extensive adjustability, large armrests, and a truck-like driving position with ample leg- and foot-room. The available center console (which is removable) provides a range of integrated storage features, while the fold-down passenger seat adds work-table functionality.

Other interior features include storage pockets, i.e., spaces and compartments designed to provide secure access to the typical commercial customers’ everyday use objects, and an under-seat drawer to fit small tools, stationary, or first aid kits. High-roof models offer an available overhead console designed to hold work gloves, legal size binders, safety glasses, and books.

Another major contributor to the “pickup-like feel” of the NV’s cab is the absence of the traditional van engine doghouse that intrudes into the cab due to the setback engine placement. The Nissan NV uses a conventional truck engine layout with out-front engine design. This not only frees up space under the instrument panel and between the seats, but it also provides easy underhood access to the entire engine for routine service and maintenance, the company notes.

The cargo area of the NV offers a 120-in. cargo floor length and 70.2-in. maximum cargo floor width, with NV standard roof models offering a maximum 55.8-in. cargo area height. The NV’s high roof, however, provides a maximum 76.9 in. of cargo room height, enough for most users to move about the cargo area while standing up straight, Nissan notes.

Along with offering wide door openings, the NV offers room between the wheelhouses to accommodate standard plywood or drywall sheets or pallets; a range of cargo area tie-down rings; and ample cargo area lighting.

The NV is designed to allow aftermarket customization and modifications as well. Roof attachment points are built in for the installation of various ladder or utility rack systems without piercing holes in the roof, which can lead to corrosion and water leaks. “Upfitter pre-wiring” is also available for easy access into the electrical system.

Customers have a choice of two engines: a 4.0L V6 rated at 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque, and a 5.6L V8 rated at 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. Both engines will be mated to a standard 5-speed automatic, with the V6 getting an estimated 10% to 15% better fuel economy than the V8.

Safety systems for all NV models include dual-stage front air bags, 3-point front seat belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, plus optional front seat-mounted side-impact air bags and roof-mounted supplemental curtain air bags.

http://www.nissancommercialvehicles.com

RAM TRUCKS

Chrysler’s Ram Trucks division is making a series of upgrades to its heavy-duty truck line for the 2012 model year, particularly to beef up trailer towing capacity.

Now boasting the ability to pull 22,700-lb maximum trailer weight, the 1-ton Ram 3500 will also get a performance boost to its 6.7L Cummins turbocharged diesel engine that increases its torque by 23% to 800 lb-ft. A new powertrain control module with revised performance calibration allows the 6-cyl. Cummins diesel to reach peak torque at 1,600 rpm. While peak horsepower remains unchanged (350 at 3,000 rpm), the engine’s new calibration delivers more than 40 additional horsepower at typical highway cruising speeds.

Ram is also introducing a new torque converter to improve engine/transmission integration for better towing capability on grades and optimized engine performance, along with a new crankshaft damper to reduce engine noise and vibration.

Dual-rear-wheel-equipped Ram 3500 pickups with the max tow package are now going to be rated at
30,000 lb GCWR — up from 24,500 lb — for maximum towing power. Chrysler’s powertrain engineers gave the Ram 3500 an improved dual-rear wheel axle with a 4.10 gear ratio, new rear-axle pinion, new helical gears, upgraded bearings, and a heat-dissipating, finned aluminum differential cover.

As part of the upgrade, the truck will also get a new engine-mounted, oil-to-coolant transmission cooler to moderate operating temperatures during trailer towing. Max tow is available on regular and crew cab 3500s only.

All Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickups will also get upgraded power steering oil coolers to manage larger loads. The Cummins diesel is optional for the Ram 2500, which gets the 5.7L Hemi engine as the standard powerplant.

Because it uses a single rear-wheel axle, Ram 2500 GCWR remains unchanged at 22,000 lb, and manual transmission-equipped Ram heavy-duty pickups retain their 350 hp/610 lb-ft of torque performance ratings.

Ram is also debuting a Class 1 cargo van (C/V) model that features 1,800-lb cargo payload and towing capability of up to 3,600 lb. It has maximum GCWR of 8,750 lb, a 20-gal fuel tank, and gets 25 mpg highway.

www.ramtrucks.com

TOYOTA

Not much is changing for Toyota’s full-sized Tundra pickup model or for its compact Tacoma pickup. The Tundra will continue to offer a base 4.0L V6 engine with dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) for 2012, increasing power and performance. The 310-hp 4.6L and 381-hp 5.7L V8 engines continue to be offered across the Tundra line.

Standard for all Tundra models is trailer sway control, which uses its Vehicle Stability Control system to help counteract forces on the truck caused by a swaying trailer in tow. The Tundra will continue to be offered in two grades (Tundra and Tundra Limited); three cab styles (regular cab, double cab, and CrewMax); three wheelbase lengths (126.8, 145.7, and 164.6 in. depending on model and configuration); and three bed lengths (78.7, 97.6, and 66.7 in. for CrewMax only).

A Tundra work truck package aimed at commercial truck buyers needing a “no-frills” option will also still be offered. This package features vinyl seating and rubber flooring and comes in regular and double cab configurations with any of the Tundra’s three engine choices.

The 4.0L dual overhead cam (DOHC) V6 that’s standard in Tundra regular and double cab models retains the performance boost introduced last year that increased horsepower to 270 from 236, and peak torque to 278 lb-ft up from 266 lb-ft. The V6 is also teamed with a 5-speed automatic transmission with uphill/downhill shift logic.

The 4.6L i-Force V8 added to the Tundra line for the 2010 model year will remain available for all models, providing 310 hp, 327 lb-ft of torque. It delivers a versatile combination of power and efficiency. The 5.7L i-Force V8 churns out 381 hp at 5,000 rpm while producing 401 lb-ft of peak torque at 3,600 rpm.

For the Tacoma, Toyota has added five 4-cyl. model variations for customers seeking higher value and fuel economy. The five models include: access cab 4×2 PreRunner 4-speed automatic, double cab 4×2 4-speed automatic, double cab 4×2 PreRunner 4-speed automatic, regular cab 4×4 4-speed automatic, and access cab 4×4 4-speed automatic.

The Tacoma line still offers two engines: a 2.7L DOHC 4-cyl. that produces 159 hp with 180 lb-ft of torque and a 4.0L DOHC V6 that outputs 236 hp with 266 lb-ft of torque. In both engines, VVT-i provides strong low-end and midrange torque. An electronic throttle control system with intelligence
(ETCS-i) helps optimize performance and fuel economy.

www.toyota.com


MEDIUM DUTY

FORD

Only minor changes are being made to Ford’s F-Series Super Duty medium-duty truck line this year, largely due to the major overhaul the vehicles received for the 2011 model year.

Chief among the upgrades that occurred last year is the addition of the Ford-designed and built 6.7L Power Stroke V8 turbocharged diesel engine rated at 390 hp and 735 lb-ft of torque, which replaced diesel engines of the same name formerly supplied by Navistar.

Ford notes that its Power Stroke remains B20 bio­diesel compatible, meaning it can be safely operated on a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% regular petroleum diesel.

The manufacturer maintains that its new diesel engine boasts an average 18% improvement in fuel economy for pickup models and up to 25% improvement for chassis cabs versus its 2010 Super Duty models.

The engine and aftertreatment system also meets 2010 federal emissions requirements for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by using a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) supplied by Terra Environmental Technologies under Ford’s Motor­craft brand name.

In addition, models equipped with Ford’s new 6.2L V8 gasoline engines, which crank out 385 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, some 85 more hp and 40 lb-ft more torque than the OEM’s current 5.4L V8 gas engine, will deliver an average 15% fuel economy improvement over the OEM’s comparable 2010 models.

New for its 2012 Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks is upgraded towing capacity, resulting from a beefed-up frame and hitch. Ford F-350 and F-450 Super Duty trucks with the Power Stroke diesel engine and dual rear wheels now can tow 17,500 lb, an increase of 1,500 lb versus the 2010 Super Duty models, or some 9% more tow load capacity.

Higher-strength steel in a frame cross-member and an upgraded trailer hitch give the Super Duty additional towing capacity. These specification changes also boosted the F-350 DRW 4×2 pickup maximum payload to 7,070 lb and maximum fifth wheel towing to 22,600 lb.

Ford says the hardware upgrades to the Super Duty complement software upgrades to the powertrain control system of the Power Stroke to make towing even easier.

www.ford.com

FREIGHTLINER

Freightliner Trucks is now offering a new automated manual transmission (AMT) for its line of medium-duty Business Class M2 trucks. The OEM says the AMT3 transmission combines the design principles of a manual transmission with what it calls “intelligent electronics” to form an automated, two-pedal shift system that “equalizes driver performance and improves fuel economy.”

Unlike automatic transmissions, Freightliner’s AMT3 eliminates the torque converter and instead couples the engine to the transmission with a hydraulically actuated clutch, according to T.J. Reed, director of product marketing for Freightliner Trucks. This innovative clutch actuation results in minimal torque interruption during acceleration and shifting while providing constant lock-up, he notes. In addition, clutch control and gear shifts are managed by the Transmission Control Unit (TCU). Reed says this means that the TCU evaluates road, grade, and load conditions to perform shifts at optimal engine rpm, resulting in faster and smoother shifting—and significant fuel savings.

Reed also says the AMT3 should significantly reduce wear, virtually eliminating the need to replace the clutch over the lifetime of the truck. At the same time, lightweight materials, such as the AMT3’s aluminum housing, help increase fuel efficiency. “With the Freightliner AMT3, we have created yet another tool that will reduce fuel and maintenance costs to positively impact the bottom line,” Reed adds.

http://www.freightlinertrucks.com

FCCC

An all-electric walk-in van (WIV) is the big news this year from Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC). The van was developed jointly with bodymaker Morgan Olson and powered by Enova Systems’ 120kW all-electric drive system technology.

This model is based on the FCCC MT chassis and is named the MT-EV WIV. FCCC said it partnered with Morgan Olson to develop a ground-breaking body style to provide further benefits to the delivery van owner as well as the driver.

The body is built with lightweight, durable composites that are completely recyclable; the interior of the cab features an automotive-style interior, maximizing driver comfort and productivity and allowing for improved aerodynamics without giving up the functionality of the vehicle, FCCC says.

The MT-EV WIV chassis offers GVWRs ranging from 14,000 lb to 19,500 lb and features a durable steel straight-rail chassis frame construction that reduces flex and bowing to minimize stress while carrying heavy payloads. It also features a flat-leaf spring front and rear suspension, allowing for a smooth, solid ride that minimizes cargo shifts on uneven road surfaces.

Morgan Olson’s body features a one-piece bonded windshield that allows for outstanding visibility, yet one that also takes into account wind flow over the hood, cab, headlamps, and mirrors of the body. This helps to boost its aerodynamic profile, further improving upon the vehicle’s efficiency.

The instrumentation panel within the cab incorporates automotive styling and adds additional features that constantly monitor the EV operating system to provide the driver information such as battery state-of-charge data. Also, the vehicle performance gauge is included to assist the driver in the operation of the vehicle.

The full-feature gauge and informational display includes a larger messaging center display area, prognostic information, and is completely sealed to fully protect it from dust and water projected from backsplash. The larger messaging center display area enables easier reading of fault codes and maintenance notifications.

Rather than relying on predetermined maintenance schedules, the incorporation of prognostic information provides the driver critical up-to-the-minute maintenance information, such as the life of the engine, transmission, oil, and filters, FCCC notes. The MT-EV uses Enova Systems’ 120kW all-electric drive system technology, Tesla Motors’ lithium-ion batteries, and is 100% electric, including its HVAC system, says FCCC.

Battery packs provide up to a 100-mi. driving range on a single charge and can be fully recharged in 6 hr to 8 hr. In addition, the vehicle charging system is incorporated into the overall operating system so no exterior devices are required to charge the truck.

The regenerative braking system reduces friction during braking, resulting in less brake wear and extended brake life, FCCC says. The system recycles and stores energy, and then reuses it to propel the vehicle instead of losing it to heat, as is the case with traditional brakes.

www.freightlinerchassis.com

HINO

The big news from Hino Trucks USA, a division of Toyota, is not only the re-emergence of a cabover engine (COE) model for its medium-duty lineup, but also a diesel-electric hybrid model cabover.

Hino will offer four models of the newly designed Class 4 and Class 5 COE trucks: the Class 4 Model 155 and 155h (with the ‘h’ indicating the hybrid model) and the Class 5 Model 195 and 195h.

The 155 and 155h models will carry a 14,500-lb GVW rating, while the 195 and 195h carry a 19,500-lb GVW rating. All of those COE models will be powered by Hino’s J05E Series 5L diesel engine, rated at 210 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque mated to an Aisin A465 6-speed automatic transmission.

Hino added that its COE models feature an ergonomically friendly wide cab with a North American standard 33-in. frame rail width; a 56,900-psi frame; and a standard center-mounted rear fuel tank. Inside, the new cab uses its increased width to provide room for drivers up to 6 ft, 6 in. tall, seating for three, and a versatile mobile workspace with a variety of organizational storage options. A crew cab version is expected to be available in the near future.

Those new COE models join Hino’s existing conventional lineup (the 258, 268, and 338), which is also undergoing changes.

For example, the 2012 33,000-lb GVW Hino model 338 is powered by a J08E series 8L diesel engine producing 260 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque, 13% more than the 2011 version. The 338 also comes with a 5-yr/250,000-mi warranty and standard features such as powder-coated frame rails, diesel
engine exhaust brake, and Allison automatic transmission.

Hino has expanded the optional equipment list to accommodate more vocational needs as well, including a combination of a clean cab-to-axle (CA) and an Allison 2500 transmission with shift energy management (SEM) for straight truck beverage delivery fleets, while municipalities and utility service companies have options for 14,000-lb front axle, front frame extension, and 120,000-psi frames.

Finally, the truck maker has rolled out Hino Insight, powered by Webtech Wireless, which is a telematics solution designed to provide fleets with efficiencies along with improvements to safety and security.

www.hino.com

INTERNATIONAL

Navistar International Corp. says it has received certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its 2011 MaxxForce DT midrange diesel engine at 0.39 g/bhp-hr. The certification indicates Navistar has reduced its emissions 22% from the original 0.5 certification. The OEM, which uses Advanced EGR plus engine credits to meet EPA emissions levels, must still lower its emissions output to the 0.2 g/bhp-hr standard before its available credits expire. The company also says it has submitted its MaxxForce 13 for certification at the 0.2 g NOx standard. According to Navistar, it will continue to phase in lower emissions engines over the next few years.

The OEM is now offering a 4×4 version of its TerraStar medium-duty truck, which debuted last year as a 4×2. “With the addition of a 4×4 model, the TerraStar is poised to win over an even broader range of customers with more severe demands,” contends Jim Hebe, senior vice president–North American sales operations.

He also notes that Navistar is offering a broader range of alternative-fueled vehicles for the medium-duty market, including an International DuraStar Hybrid and a DuraStar model powered by either compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG) natural gas powertrain.

The natural gas option comes via a conversion program. According to Navistar, a kit developed by Emissions Solutions Inc. (ESI) allows DuraStar conversions ranging from 175 hp to 300 hp with 460 lb-ft to 860 lb-ft of torque and will support either liquefied or compressed natural gas. Navistar says the natural gas-powered DuraStar will be fully certified to meet EPA 2010 emissions.

In addition, Navistar notes it will also offer an ESI natural gas conversion kit, and either frame- or back-of-cab mounted natural gas tanks for customers ordering an International WorkStar model with DT 466 engine. The truck can be ordered through its Truck Specialty Center.

http://www.internationaltrucks.com

ISUZU

One of the big additions to the 2012 model lineup from Isuzu Commercial Truck of America is a gasoline-powered option for its N-Series low cab forward medium-duty trucks, an option that hasn’t been available from Isuzu for more than two years.

The new 2012 N-Gas models that complement the existing diesel-powered options will be powered by a Vortec 6.0L small-block V8 engine that produces 297 hp at 4,300 rpm and generates
372 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The new gasoline engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with double overdrive and lock-up torque converter for enhanced fuel economy and performance. Previous N-Series gasoline models offered only a 4-speed automatic.

N-Series models getting the gas option include the NPR (12,000-lb GVWR) single cab in wheelbases of 109 in., 132.5 in., 150 in., and 176 in.; the NPR crew cab in wheelbases of 150 in. and 176 in.; the NPR-HD (14,500-lb GVWR) single cab in wheelbases on 109 in., 132.5 in., 150 in., and 176 in.; and NPR-HD crew cab in wheelbases of 150 in. and 176 in.

Another new option being offered is a telematics system called Fleet Director, which is provided by Teletrac. Designed to help fleet managers and dispatchers track vehicle usage in real time, Fleet Director sends detailed vehicle and driver performance reports that are accessible from any Internet-connected computer.

The system is backed by a 3-yr/unlimited-mileage warranty and is available for 2011 and 2012 NPR-HD, NQR and NRR models as either a port- or dealer-installed option. Availability for 2011 and 2012 NPR Eco-Max and 2012 N-Gas models will follow at a later date, the company says.

Isuzu says fleet managers can view the analytics generated by Fleet Director for the entire fleet, by any group of trucks the user selects, or even by single vehicle and driver via customizable “dashboard-style” screen views that allow the user to summarize monitoring of various areas on a single screen. The company notes that this telematics system can generate up to 18 management reports that document vehicle location, operational status, mileage, speed, and idle time.

www.isuzucv.com

KENWORTH

Kenworth Truck Co. has added a 6x6 configuration for its T370 medium-duty truck. The application-specific model, according to chief engineer Preston Feight, has a factory-installed front drive axle available in ratings ranging from 10,000 lb to 16,000 lb. The 6×6 will be equipped with a 40,000-lb-rated rear suspension. Initially, the Chalmers series 854-40 suspension will be offered, followed by the addition of the Hendrickson Primaax EX rear air suspension later this year.

T370 6×6 customers can choose either the Paccar PX-6 or PX-8 engine. Feight notes that the truck “builds upon the 4×4 configuration introduced for the T270 and T370” last year.

“This new offering will benefit operators running utility service, construction, oilfield service, and boom trucks, in addition to municipal applications, such as fire and emergency vehicles,” adds Feight. “Customers get a great medium-duty truck for applications that require a heavier front axle and tandem rear axle to get the job done.”

Kenworth is also offering Hendrickson’s Primaax EX rear air suspension on both the Kenworth T270 and T370 front drive axle-equipped medium-duty models.

The T440, the OEM’s newest model, was rolled out last year. This heavy Class 7 to light Class 8 model continues to be offered as a truck or tractor model and is targeted at various vocational work-truck applications as well as for regional, P&D and municipal fleet operations.

According to KW, its NavPlus in-dash technology platform, which is available on all Class 5-8 trucks, is being enhanced with mobile connectivity as Sprint is integrating its network into the NavPlus system. NavPlus includes truck-specific navigation, vehicle data, hands-free phone options, audio controls, camera inputs, roadside assistance, and optional Internet access. It comes with a high-resolution, 7-in. color screen and 8 GB of memory. It comes standard on all premium trim offerings and is optional on all others. NavPlus is built on the Windows Embedded Automotive software platform and is expandable, notes the OEM.

http://www.kenworth.com

MITSUBISHI

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America (MFTA) is rolling out a new 4-door Canter FE160 crew cab addition for its 2012 model lineup. The beefed up 15,995-lb GVWR vehicle offers a longer maximum body length of 129 ft to give the Canter FE the capability to carry a crew of seven, plus a substantial amount of gear.

MFTA added that it has refined the 2012 Canter’s instrument panel, adding a digital display that gives the operator every detail of vehicle operation, fluid level, and system status at a glance. The cab is fully trimmed with more interior space, a full bench seat second row, and increased storage area.

For the 2012 model year, MFTA said it has combined a new engine, new transmission, and new emissions treatment system into the FE160 crew cab’s standard powertrain. The company says its Canter FE160 crew cab provides smooth, efficient operation and car-like drivability with its new 4P10 dual-overhead-cam, dual-balance-shaft, dual-turbocharged, intercooled 4-cyl. diesel engine coupled to an advanced Mitsubishi Fuso 6-speed demonic transmission.

The emissions control system components are sourced from Daimler Trucks North America, specifically the company’s BlueTec emissions control package, which combines SCR technology with a diesel particulate filter to meet EPA 2010 emissions standards.

Dual-caliper, hydraulically actuated disc brakes with vacuum servo assist and ABS are standard at all four wheels of the FE160. A drum/driveline internal-expanding-shoe type is used for the parking brake.

MFTA has completely restyled all of its Canter FE models for 2012, adding a larger windshield and deeply sculpted door windows to improve the aesthetic profile and driver visibility. The company noted that line-of-sight from the driver’s eye level to the street in front of the Canter FE is only 8 ft, compared to up to 25 ft for a conventional Class 4 truck. In addition, compact halogen headlamps allow sculpted fender profiles, but their greatest contribution is “improved nighttime visibility.”

The FE Canter cab now sports a smooth V-shaped frontal surface joined almost seamlessly with the side panels and grille for the 2012 model year, not only lending an air of refined styling but also helping reduce wind noise. Even the engine air intake uses a noise-reducing snorkel design with dry paper element to help make the cabin quieter and less fatiguing for the driver and up to six passengers, the company says.

For better visibility, MFTA is offering standard split door mirrors with convex surface mirroring on the lower section to increase the driver’s view of objects adjacent to the vehicle. The doors still sport the company’s unique offset hinge, which opens to 70°, then pushes forward several inches. The result for drivers and passengers is access equal to a 90° opening but with limited extension of the door into traffic or curb-side obstructions.

The FE160 crew cab has a 169.3-in. or 187.0-in. wheelbase for the 2012 model year, accommodating 12-ft to 19-ft bodies.

Daytime running lights are standard, and doors include internal crush bars for increased frontal-impact protection. Extra storage compartments are available in the cab area and an enclosed storage area is available under the rear seat.

All Canter FE and FG models for 2012 include a 3-yr/unlimited mileage bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 4-yr/unlimited mileage rust-through warranty, and an exclusive 5-yr/175,000-mi powertrain limited warranty. The 5-yr warranty includes most bolt-on components as well as “wetted” driveline components.

www.mitfuso.com

PETERBILT

Peterbilt Motors Co. has expanded its medium-duty powertrain options, including all wheel drive (AWD) capabilities, with the Paccar PX-8 diesel engine. “The PX-8 engine partnered with all wheel drive provides customers maximum power and performance for utility, municipality, and vocational applications,” says general manager Bill Jackson. “The combination also provides enhanced fuel economy, durability, and overall low cost of operation.”

The PX-8 engine with AWD capabilities is available on Peterbilt Models 337 and 348. The Model 337 is available in both truck and tractor configurations with a GVW of 26,000 lb to 35,000 lb. Both the 337 and 348 AWD models are also available with the Paccar PX-6 engine and can be spec’d with either an Eaton Fuller manual or Allison automatic transmission. The Model 337 is Pete’s flagship medium-duty offering. Introduced last year, it replaced the Model 335. It can be ordered with a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain. Also out for just a year is Pete’s Model 348 midrange truck. It replaced the Model 340 and is again being offered as a truck or tractor. Its GVWR starts at 35,000 lb, and it comes powered by the Paccar PX-8 diesel engine.

www.peterbilt.com

RAM TRUCKS

The 2012 Ram chassis cab medium-duty truck models are getting beefed up to offer more payload and towing capability, along with some other upgrades as well.

For starters, the 2012 Ram 4500 and 5500 medium-duty Class 4 and 5 chassis cab commercial truck models will be available with an optional 30,000-lb GCWR (an increase from 26,000 lb) and an upgrade that’s part of an optional “max tow” package available on both regular and crew cab models and in 4×2 and 4×4 configurations.

The Ram max tow package includes a new transfer case gear set and chain and sprocket upgrades, recalibrated transmission software, and an enhanced collection of thermal management devices, according to the company.

The 2012 Ram 3500 model chassis cab truck comes standard with a 5.7L Hemi V8 and new 6-speed automatic transmission to increase GCWR to 20,000 lb (a 3,000 lb increase) while delivering 383 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The 6.7L Cummins turbocharged diesel engine is an option for these models as well; it can crank out 305 hp at 2,900 rpm with 610 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm.

The beefier Ram 4500 and 5500 medium-duty models come standard with the Cummins diesel, along with an optional Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission and 4.88 rear-axle ratio. A 4.44 axle is standard on 4500 models and not available with the max tow package. A class-exclusive 6-speed manual transmission is standard on Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cab models.

The 30,000-lb GCWR gives the Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cab a 4,000-lb increase in trailer-towing capabilities, up to a maximum of 22,300 lb if those trucks come equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Ram said it will continue to maintain what it calls “upfit friendliness” via the chassis standard 34-in. frame rail spacing and flat, clean frame rails on a proven one-piece C-channel rear-frame rail boasting 50,000-psi steel strength. All chassis components are below the frame surface, allowing easy adaptability and versatility for virtually any upfit application, the company said.

Last year, Ram introduced four all-new upfitter switches with one fused 20A battery feed and one fused relay-controlled 20A ignition integrated on the instrument panel and linked to an auxiliary power distribution center (PDC) located under the hood.

In addition to these feeds, the PDC supports four new customizable switches. Two switches are ignition-fed and the remaining two are either battery or ignition. Switch outputs are found under the hood in a connector for further ease of upfit. A seven-circuit trailer harness and a special upfitter jumper cable — a wiring harness for ancillary power needs — remain standard.

Another addition for 2012 is a customer-selectable maximum speed governor. Ram said its chassis cabs can be ordered with it from the factory or it can be programmed by a dealer at no charge with 55 mph, 60 mph, 65 mph, 70 mph, or 75 mph speed limits. The company noted its Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cab trucks both have a standard top speed of 87 mph, which it believes is important for fire, ambulance, and other safety and rescue truck roles.

http://www.ramtrucks.com

SMITH ELECTRIC VEHICLES

New battery technology is the main upgrade to Smith Electric Vehicles’ Newton this year. Smith contracted with A123 Systems, the developer and manufacturer of advanced nanophosphate lithium-ion batteries and systems, to integrate its 5kW/hr automotive-class prismatic modules into the Smith Newton’s battery packs in the second half of 2011.

The Newton is an all-electric medium-duty Class 4-7 truck that delivers a top speed of 55 mph and a range of 50 mi to 120 mi on a single charge. Models range from 7.5 tons (16,535 GVWR) to 15 tons (33,000 GVWR). The Newton also offers a payload of over 16,000 lb, making it suitable for urban delivery operations, the company says.

http://www.smithelectric.com

WORKHORSE

Workhorse Custom Chassis, a Navistar company, has added no new models since its year-ago production launch of the W62 step van chassis. It is powered by a GM Vortec 6.0L gasoline engine that the OEM says delivers better than 20% fuel economy improvement over the larger Vortec 8.1L gasoline engine it replaced. According to Workhorse, the engine uses variable valve timing (VVT) that enables the powertrain to take advantage of late intake valve closing for greater efficiency.

VVT allows a previously unattainable mix of low-rpm, even torque delivery over a broad range of engine speeds, and free-breathing high-rev horsepower, notes Workhorse, which states the resulting benefits are considerable. This includes a cam phaser that maximizes engine performance for given demands and conditions. At idle, the cam is moved to an advanced position, allowing exceptionally smooth idling. Under other operating demands, the phaser adjusts to deliver optimal valve timing for performance, drivability, and fuel economy. At high rpm, it might retard timing to maximize airflow through the engine and increase horsepower, the OEM points out, while at low rpm it advances timing to increase torque. Under a light load, it can retard timing at all engine speeds to improve fuel economy. It also helps control exhaust emissions because it manages valve overlap at optimum levels and eliminates the need for an exhaust gas recirculation system, according to the OEM.

The GM Vortec 6.0L powerplant is mated to the Allison 1000 HS automatic transmission. The GVWR of the W62 chassis ranges from 19,500 lb to 23,500 lb. It is also offered with the EPA 2010-compliant International MaxxForce 7 diesel.

Workhorse’s latest W42 step van chassis is powered by the GM Vortec 4.8L gasoline engine, which also boasts variable valve timing as well as extended maintenance intervals, notes the OEM. The 4.8L engine is mated to the GM Hydra-Matic 6L90 6-speed automatic transmission.

www.workhorse.com

UD TRUCKS

Not much is going to change for the 2012 models produced by UD Trucks North America (UDNA). The single biggest change is the addition of a rear engine-mounted power take off (PTO) as a dealer-installed option.

The company offers seven different models in the U.S. market with GVWs ranging from 17,995 lb all the way up to 32,900 lb: the UD1800, UD200, YD23DH, UD23LP, UD2600, UD26LP, and UD3300. UDNA’s trucks all come equipped with a 7L GH7 diesel engine that was jointly developed with Volvo Powertrain Development. It can crank out from 245 hp to 280 hp and is equipped with an SCR-based exhaust aftertreatment system.

UDNA noted its cab and interior were completely redesigned for the 2011 model year, adding more legroom and driver comfort upgrades, as well as the addition of a wide variety of transmission options, including the Allison 3000 Series automatic.

http://www.udtrucksna.com

SIDEBAR: EV SALES SURGE

Production of electrified vehicles (EVs) is gearing up all over the world, and automakers are planning to launch an increasing variety of new models over the next few years, as is evidenced by several examples in this 2012 model preview. According to Pike Research, a market research and consulting firm based in Boulder, Colo., hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will all share the market stage as electrified vehicles continue to capture a larger portion of the vehicle market.

Based on data from a new report from the research firm, cumulative sales of PEVs (the category that includes both PHEVs and BEVs) will reach 5.2 million units by 2017, up from just under 114,000 vehicles in 2011. By the same year, cumulative sales of HEVs will represent an additional 8.7 million vehicles, for a combined total of 13.9 million units in all electrified vehicle categories. While electrified vehicles will become a growing portion of total vehicle sales, Pike Research projects that the penetration rates will remain relatively low in the context of the total automotive industry. The firm forecasts that PEV and HEV sales together will represent approximately 3% of total light-duty vehicle sales in 2017. Adoption will be highest in North America, where electrified vehicles will capture 4.9% of the total light-duty market in that year.

EC&M has run several EV-related articles recently. In the July 2011 issue, Staff Writer Beck Ireland explores the technology and installation issues involved in building the EV infrastructure in “Charging Ahead,” available online at: http://ecmweb.com/market_trends/electric_charging_ahead/index.html. In “Supercharged,” featured in the August 2011 issue, Ireland explains how electrical contractors are getting revved up about potential revenue from installing this infrastructure. (http://ecmweb.com/construction/electric-vehicle-installation-trends-20110801/index.html).