How to Boost Power and Cut Fuel Costs
New technology and hotel amenities can take a toll on a truck’s electrical system. But did you know that these systems can also hurt its fuel efficiency?
Let’s start with a short refresher on electrical systems.
The key components of any vehicle’s electrical system are the battery, starter and alternator, and each has an important job to do. The battery provides energy to the starter and the starter’s motor. The starter’s motor rotates the engine’s flywheel, which turns the crankshaft and begins the movement that powers the pistons. And the alternator keep the truck’s battery charged and the whole system working as it should.
And what powers this chain of events?
- Fuel. As fuel is consumed by the engine, it feeds a conversion process that ends in electrical energy. Here’s a streamlined explanation of how this process works:
- The chemical energy that is stored in fuel is combusted in the engine. This converts the stored energy in fuel into thermodynamic pressure.
- In the cylinder of the engine, thermodynamic pressure expands to create linear power.
- Linear power is converted into rotational power by the engine’s connecting rods and crankshaft.
- The crankshaft pulley turns the drive belt, which makes the alternator’s rotor turn.
- The alternator, through its rotor, provides the magnetic field that makes the production of electrical power possible.
Power losses occur at each step during the energy conversion process, which ends with the alternator. A more efficient alternator ultimately means that less fuel is consumed throughout the process. Most alternators are at most 60% efficient as energy is lost due to belt friction, heat, drag and load.
An alternator that is more efficient – running at about 35-50% of its rated current – uses less fuel. The amount in fuel savings can add up to several hundred dollars each year.
For this reason, many owner-operators and fleet managers are purchasing new alternators that are slightly oversized to improve overall alternator efficiency. Larger alternators also are able to better handle the increased electrical demands of modern trucks, including onboard tracking and hotel amenities.
Size Is Everything
Since starters, alternators and batteries work together, each should be considered in terms of the other when purchasing new components. For example, an undersized alternator can cause a vehicle’s starter to overheat and ultimately fail as it draws more amps from the battery to do its job.
The electrical load must all be considered as part of the electrical system. The load includes anything that places demand on the vehicle’s electrical system, including driving habits, average weather conditions and vocational application. An energy audit can determine a truck’s electrical load and help fleet managers determine if a truck’s alternator or starter needs to be upgraded.
Road Choice® Can Meet Your Power Needs
Road Choice starters and alternators are engineered to provide high quality. Road Choice offers some of the most popular starter and alternator models on the market, with options for most every truck make, model and load demand.
Road Choice alternators and starters:
- Offer performance specifications that are equivalent to OEM designs
- Undergo a final, 100% product test that ensures reliability
- Do not use remanufactured cores or materials
- Are guaranteed by a three-year, hassle-free unlimited mileage warranty with labor covered when installed at a Mack Trucks or Volvo Trucks dealer