A Bullish Future

Meritor is ramping up efforts to capture a larger slice of the electrified global truck component market. The company is building on the success of its traditional MTT-14X drive axle and has recently moved into full production of the electric equivalent — the 14Xe ePowertrain solution for Original Equipment Manufacturers like PACCAR.

Meritor has long been renowned for its expertise in producing some of the toughest and most durable axles and drivelines on the planet.

As part of its Blue Horizon strategy, to capture the rapidly developing electrification market, the company is evolving its core components – such as the MT-14X drive axle – into new products that also include electric drive units, control modules, inverters and power and battery management systems in order to meet the needs of the future.

In fact, Meritor says it’s MT-14X epowertrain platform can cover around 60 per cent of current on-highway truck axle applications making it a prime candidate to develop further as the electric drive marches forward.

The result of this is the MT-14Xe which capitalises on the modular capacity of the standard axle while elevating it to the level required for a new generation of electric trucks.

The company has noted that electrification represents a risk, due in part to vertical integration by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and that scale is required during the transition to electrification.

Expectations are that an elongated global truck cycle will continue through 2025 and that the company plans to generate $USD1.5B of electrification revenue in 2030.

This will be split between Heavy Duty, Transit (bus), and Medium Duty, with Meritor citing the latter as a category with potential for significant growth. In fact, the company commenced production of its 14Xe ePowertrain, which can be adapted to fit various powertrain needs based on vehicle application and duty cycle spanning Classes Five (medium duty) to Eight (heavy duty).

The 14Xe ePowertrain is a fully integrated, all-electric drive system that is claimed to be the first and, at this stage, only integrated electric powertrain being produced for Class Eight trucks in North America.

“Our 14Xe ePowertrain has been thoroughly tested doing real world miles hauling heavy loads in various conditions and multiple applications,” says Chris Villavarayan, Meritor Chief Executive Officer and President. “This new product enables us to offer the industry a proven, all-electric, zero emissions solution.”

The 14Xe ePowertrain, which is produced at Meritor’s manufacturing facility in Asheville, North Carolina, is designed to provide efficiency, performance, weight savings and enhanced space utilisation.

It is based on Meritor’s proven 14X axle housing, which maintains existing axle mounting locations and hardware for ease of OEM integration.

The modular design enables the interchangeability of key components, including electric motors, transmissions, gearing, brakes, wheel ends and housings to suit individual customer specifications.

Meritor’s electric drive solutions for an evolving market encompass three distinct architectures including Remote Mount Direct Drive, Remote Mount Multi-Speed and ePowertrain Fully Integrated.

The company states that advantages of the first option are its speed to market and lowest initial cost.

These advantages are also common to the second option, although it’s also said to be more efficient than the direct drive format.

DAF CF340 8×4.

However, according to Meritor, its fully integrated ePowertrain is the superior solution of the three because it offers the highest efficiency, more battery space and lower weight.

When it comes to specifications of the 14Xe ePowertrain, the core axle components – what Meritor terms its Legacy Content – includes either a fabricated or cast steel housing to suit conventional or independent suspension.

A wide range of differential ratios is available ranging from 2.67 to 6.57:1. Wheel ends are available in either standard or hub reduction along with disc or drum brakes.

Meritor has vast experience in producing these core driveline components stretching back 110 years.

Today the company reportedly produces more than eight million gears annually including helical, spur, worm, straight bevel, spiral bevel, hypoid and amboid at facilities in North America, South America, Europe, India and China. Over the years Meritor has continuously refined its gear manufacturing and metallurgical processes – including precision and near-net forging, machining, grinding, heat treatment, case hardening and testing – in order to optimise efficiency, power density and noise control.

It is this wealth of core gear manufacturing expertise that enables the company to leverage efficiencies in its differentiated ePowertrain solutions.

To transform the core Legacy Content MT-14X axle with its high efficiency hypoid gearing into the 14Xe, Meritor incorporates an electric motor with application-specific continuous power/ peak torque outputs of either 150kW/ 1,000Nm, 180kW/ 1,000Nm or 200kW/ 1,100Nm.

Transmission choices include fully integrated planetary one- or two-speed or dual countershaft two- or three-speed units.

An inverter with base application software and controls works in harmony with a Power Control Module (PCM) which features transmission shift control logic along with pedal and efficiency mapping.

At this stage Meritor has supplied the electric powertrain for more than 180 vehicles produced by a range of OEMs across various market segments. These include heavy-duty prime movers, refuse trucks, terminal tractors, school buses and reach stackers.

PACCAR is a prominent player in the heavy-duty and refuse sectors in North America and Meritor is the primary supplier of battery electric systems including power control and accessory system (PCAS) and ePowertrain for Peterbilt 579EV and 520EV as well as Kenworth T680E models. Closer to home, Meritor has collaborated with PACCAR in Australia to develop the conventional MT-40-14X tandem drive axle assembly used in the DAF CF340 8×4 that is custom designed and built for front loading waste applications.

The big news with this development is that around 500kg has been pared from the vehicle’s tare weight.

According to Adam Carroll, Meritor Australia’s Marketing and Product Manager, the MT-14X axle has been the most widely used axle sold into the heavy duty truck market in the USA since it’s release and was subsequently introduced to Australian Kenworth variants several years ago.

Now, fitting this drive axle assembly to the DAF CF 340 for waste applications has served to make the vehicle competitive with other brands in this segment.

“The extra weight in the DAF tandem drive assembly is due to the European specification which works well in the European markets where tare weight is not so critical,” Adam explains. “However, the Australian market is similar to the US in that tare weights need to be kept to a minimum in order to optimise payload capacity. This is certainly the case in the 8×4 front loader waste segment in Australia.”

The weight was reduced by using Kenworth Airglide suspension grafted onto the Meritor MT-14X tandem drive assembly which also underwent modifications to enable the use of DAF European-spec wheel ends with 335mm Pitch Circle Diameter (PCD) stud pattern and Meritor disc brake assemblies in place of the typical Kenworth drum-braked 285mm PCD wheel ends.

The end result was a phenomenal weight saving of around 500kg, without any sacrifice in performance or durability.

“This collaboration really showcases the prowess and flexibility of Meritor’s local engineering and manufacturing capabilities,” says Adam. “As we embrace the shift to electrification we expect to be able to add even more value, configuring and adapting our epowertrain solutions to suit our unique local applications.”

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