ComVec attendees celebrate new ideas

Addresses by Tesla co-founder Ian Wright and PBS panel discussion were highlights

ComVec attendees celebrate new ideas
Tesla co-founder Ian Wright addresses the ComVec conference


New blood and fresh ideas were in abundance at Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia’s (HVIA) biennial engineering conference, ComVec 2018, held in Melbourne last week.

With more than120 attendees, the conference was an opportunity to hear from respected industry experts in presentations and panel discussions, HVIA president Nathan Usher says.

"ComVec has always been a unique opportunity for heavy vehicle industry engineers to get together and look at issues and opportunities that are on the table, on the horizon and even beyond, and this year’s program certainly did all of those things," Usher adds.

"We were delighted and grateful with the many newcomers who joined a host of industry stalwarts in attendance, both as speakers and as delegates, all taking the time away from their busy schedules to participate in ComVec."

Diesel here to stay

For many attendees one of the major highlights was the presentation given by Tesla co-founder Ian Wright – and particularly, his forecast that the 15-litre diesel engine is set to dominate long haul trucking for the foreseeable future.

Wright says he expects the technologies he is developing for his new company, Wrightspeed, such as a multi-fuel turbine generator for range-extended EV powertrains, to take over within the next 10 years, but only for urban vehicles that stop frequently – such as garbage trucks or buses.

The cost and weight of batteries on their own, let alone time and infrastructure for charging, make the fully battery operated linehaul vehicles impractical.

"For long haul trucking it’s going to be fifteen-litre diesels for as long as I can see," he says.

"There will be enhancements to make them more efficient, but you’re not going to get rid of the diesel engine for long haul trucking anytime that I can see."

Difficult subjects 

Conference attendees did not shy away from tough topics, with conversations about performance based standards (PBS) and the component substitution issues that they standards created also proving popular.

HVIA policy and government relations manager Greg Forbes said substitution of tyres within PBS designs has been a controversial issue for some time – with one director estimating it was costing the industry up to $2 million per year.

"Many operators and equipment manufacturers have learned the hard way that fitting unapproved tyres and components can be an expensive mistake when it comes to having a PBS combination certified," he says.

Industry experts on the panel advocated an approach to increasing the range of approved tyres available for PBS designs and ensuring that any approved solution must be applicable to all components that could reasonably be replaced during a vehicle’s lifespan.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) Les Brusza acknowledged that work needs to continue towards resolving the issues.

"HVIA will use these discussions to further inform our ongoing work with the NHVR, and to offer solutions to these issues including ensuring industry is educated to understand the issues and their implications," he says.

ComVec will return to Melbourne in 2020.

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