“Racing is accelerated deterioration,” said Banks Power founder Gale Banks at the 2013 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, explaining his efforts to leverage a racing vehicle to develop future products.
“I love a racing project because it pushes my engineering guys something fierce—if they don’t perfect it in time, we’re not going,” he said.
Banks refers to the Super-Turbo Freightliner Cascadia that tore up Pikes Peak earlier this year during the annual Hill Climb competition as a “testbed” for advanced technologies. “We want to look at different fuel types, [and] I want to do a hybrid version of this [truck]. That’s really big on my plate,” he said.
Banks considers hybrid technology a “performance tool,” especially on takeoff and coming off turns. “The [truck] will be a lot quicker off the turns two years from now after we put the hybrid setup on it,” he said.
Banks Power is partnering with Robert Bosch on the hybrid technology, which can also offer significant benefits to the military. “The hybrid technology in a military vehicle is extremely important because we can run the vehicles silently for a distance just on the motor-generator unit,” Banks said. “That’s hugely advantageous if you don’t want people to know you’re coming.”
Mike Ryan, owner of Mike Ryan Motorsports and the race driver pushing the souped-up Class 8 to its limits, responded to Banks’ hybrid announcement with surprise: “I heard it here first, folks!”
Ryan also is a proponent for testing and advancing new technologies on the truck, mentioning in particular the variety of alternative fuels available now. “I think…the truck of the future—possibly the car of the future—is going to have some sort of multi-fuel situation,” he said, adding that extreme environments such as Pikes Peak can help expedite development of such technologies.
While the hybrid and multi-fuel variants are the future, the truck currently employs a mid-engine design featuring a 14-L Detroit Diesel 60 series engine with a 15:1 compression ratio and a fuel redline of 2700 rpm. Other components include an 8.3-L Whipple twin-screw supercharger and S510 BorgWarner turbocharger combination to improve throttle response; a Banks Straight-Shot, Double-Shot, and Triple-Shot water-methanol injection system; and a ZF HP 600 5-speed automatic transmission.
The result of this setup is not only increased performance, but also improved fuel economy and reduced emissions, Banks claims.
“The Super-Turbo thing is not a new invention for us; you just don’t see people doing it” because it’s “kind of tough to manage,” Banks said.
Banks Power developed its methodology to run the system and compensate for the altitude change based on previous work it had done turbocharging Humvees for action in Afghanistan.
Development of the Super-Turbo package took about five months, Banks told SAE Magazines at the SEMA event. “The concept of water-methanol—this is a seminal vehicle in terms of us applying the microprocessor to the running of those types of systems. Sensing all the elements including air density” can be a challenge, he said. “A whole lot of new technology happened right here in five months.”
The engineering team for this project consisted of 10 or 11 people, he shared, including several EEs (electrical engineers), which Banks referred to as “ace calibrators,” to work on the control strategies. Machining and fabricating staff also were essential to the project’s success.
“It helps you bring along the younger guys, involving them,” Banks added. “My EE team and my ME [mechanical engineer] team, they are so interlaced—there’s no buffer in between the two.”
The truck’s frame, chassis, and roll cage were designed and built at Freightliner by volunteer engineers and fabricators. The body is constructed of fiberglass and carbon fiber.
Banks and Ryan offer more details on the truck’s development and technology in an SAE video at http://video.sae.org/11753/.