How Engineering and Design Create a Super Truck


Launched in 2016, SuperTruck II is the energy department’s second investment in next-generation technologies, with a focus on cost-effective solutions to more than double freight efficiency in trucking. SuperTruck II is a DTNA research and development program co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a tractor-trailer combination utilizing a suite of technologies including active aerodynamics, advanced engine combustion with improved fuel management. air, intercooling and hybridization. This is the second time that DTNA has participated in a SuperTruck initiative and allows the manufacturer to study high risk and high reward technologies to clear the technical path for their development and potential integration into series production. The goal is to develop commercially viable solutions that benefit the customer. In particular, as part of the transformation of clean diesel combustion engines into battery-powered electric transport, DTNA sees the potential to further improve fuel efficiency.

Once the parameters were set, DTNA’s engineering and design teams undertook an initial investigation into how to combine efficient technology with a sleek aerodynamic design. To start a business of this magnitude, the design team began to take an interest in nature. They sought inspiration for forms, like the way the wind sculpts snowdrifts and sand dunes to create beautiful, sculptural shapes with sharp edges. The designers leveraged the SuperTruck project to help define this new aero shape language for the Freightliner brand.

“We see SuperTruck differently from other projects,” said Jeff Cotner, chief designer at DTNA. “It allows us to take risks… we really think this is our opportunity to go a little deeper and go further than we would otherwise. Normally we might not have the time or the resources to investigate something that is not necessarily doable. . So for SuperTruck we can experiment. “Experience with the needs of the customer in mind.

The DTNA Design Center Studio is based in Portland, Oregon, and is a key area where ideas and concepts start to come true. The team is made up of highly experienced creative individuals responsible for the interior and exterior design of all commercial vehicle products in the DTNA portfolio. With designers, surface modellers, fabricators and studio engineers, the design team collaborate globally to create the most cutting-edge designs that continue to drive DTNA’s products forward.

The design team also allowed for a bit of competition for the overall design. Several designers begin to sketch initial concepts and a friendly competition ensues.

“Something really amazing happens in this process because when a designer comes up with some really cool and interesting ideas, it inherently inspires other designers,” Cotner said. “There’s that organic evolution, that inspiration and that excitement that comes from competing.”

The engineering team, however, had more stringent parameters to adhere to. Comprised of a select group of creative engineers in a variety of disciplines improving the fuel efficiency of the vehicle system, the Advanced Engineering team supports and works with the entire DTNA organization. With the initial SuperTruck project, the team was able to focus more on fundamental research and development, ultimately succeeding with 115% improved freight efficiency. For SuperTruck II, due to be unveiled in 2022, the team has based concepts on technologies that are expected to hit the market in a few years. The project is on track to achieve even more ambitious efficiency targets.

“These goals were to develop commercially profitable technologies in terms of return on investment over the next two years,” said Darek Villeneuve, responsible for advanced vehicle systems at DTNA. “The hardest part is choosing the right technologies with the right balance of performance for the systems critical to energy conservation while making them complement the vehicle. “

As engineering worked to perfect their technology, the design studio kept a close eye on their work. Ultimately, even with the coolest design, the design team figured out that their job wouldn’t matter unless they helped engineering achieve their goals and, ultimately, account, to improve customer efficiency goals. A constant flow of communication has helped designers focus on the parts of the truck that are most important for aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. As Villeneuve noted, the technology cannot be developed in a vacuum and requires strong partners, both internal and external.

“We understand that the design studio must have the freedom to explore. There has been a lot of exchange throughout the process, as well as mutual challenges to determine what is really critical,” Villeneuve said. “I think the product will speak for itself as it is a fantastic vehicle and the performance is the best we have ever produced.”

The importance of staying true to the Freightliner brand values ​​and making transportation efficiency the number one priority was always at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Freightliner, an industry leading brand in North America, has been well known for its innovative technologies and efficiency since its debut in 1942. A number of innovative features from DTNA’s first SuperTruck are available today in the Freightliner Cascadia, including improved aerodynamics, improved engine thermal efficiency and powertrain integration technologies such as speed reduction, and predictive powertrain controls.

“We want SuperTruck II to stand out and be seen. Something that transport business owners and operators will be excited about,” Cotner said.


Daimler Truck North America LLC, headquartered at Portland, Oregon, is a leading provider of comprehensive products and technologies for the commercial transportation industry. Daimler Truck North America designs, designs, manufactures and markets medium and heavy trucks, school buses, vehicle chassis and their associated technologies and components under the Freightliner, Western Star, Thomas Built Buses, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp and Detroit brands. Daimler Truck North America is a subsidiary of Daimler Truck Holding AG (DTG), one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial vehicles. For more information, visit

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