First Kenworth T660 rolls off the line

CCJ Staff | Commercial Carrier Journal

The first Kenworth T660, which will replace the truck maker’s T600 in January with the switch to new engine technology, rolled off the line Aug. 16 at Kenworth’s largest truck plant in Chillicothe, Ohio. The first T660 was equipped with a 2007 Caterpillar C-15.

Although the T660 doesn’t go into production until next year, Kenworth is starting to build validation units to prove its readiness on the road with customers as well as the readiness of the manufacturing process.

Among the T660’s features or options are:

  • Aerodynamic improvements in bumpers, hoods, grilles, windshields, fenders and headlights.Mike Dozier, Kenworth chief engineer, said these measures are partially in response to the heavier 2007 engines, which will add at least 100 pounds of weight, and to the drop in fuel economy expected from ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. He declined to quantify any aerodynamic improvements but said the T660 definitely is more aerodynamic than the current T600.
  • New halogen-projector headlights that produce 40 percent more light than conventional sealed-beam lamps. Optional xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights provide 70 percent more light than sealed-beam lamps. The headlights also can be replaced without tools, Dozier said.
  • New seats with armrests that fold away to provide 4 more inches of sleeper access.
  • A GPS navigation system with an in-dash color display and touchscreen control that provides a variety of diagnostics, including real-time fuel economy. The GPS provides turn-by-turn guidance throughout the continental United States and Canada, with a memory that stores up to 1,000 destinations. A built-in MP3 player stores up to 5,000 songs for playback through the cab stereo system.GPS is standard on the Diamond cab interior and optional on the Splendor cab interior. “That’s a growing demand item,” said Bob Christensen, Kenworth general manager. “There’s a lot of interest in navigation.”

    Another new factory option for the T660 is the premium Pendleton Limited Edition cab and sleeper, which features leather in the seats, door pads, steering wheel and sofa bed and wood grain throughout the interior. It comes with a plaque of authenticity from Pendleton Woolen Mills and a custom Pendleton travel bag and wool jacquard blanket that share the design touches found in the sleeper.

    Driver retention is a factor in designing such amenities, Dozier said. “Anything that can keep drivers satisfied is a good thing.”

    Available on the 72-inch sleeper beginning in the second quarter of 2007 is the new Kenworth Clean Power system, a proprietary design years in the making, which provides up to 10 hours of hotel-quality 110-volt power with the engine off, thanks to four dedicated batteries that store the power generated simply by driving. Five hours of operation fully recharges the system.

    “We’re separating the starting circuit from the hotel-load circuit,” Christensen said.

    Simply driving also freezes the liquid inside the under-the-bunk Thermal Storage Cooler. About the size of a microwave oven, it can cool the parked sleeper for up to 10 hours even in 95-degree temperatures. It’s a closed system, so the water doesn’t evaporate, Dozier said.

    Heating uses a small diesel-powered unit, also mounted beneath the bunk. Shore power, when available, serves to recharge the whole system.

    Kenworth believes its system is friendlier to users, the environment and government regulators than traditional diesel-based HVAC systems, Dozier said. The target weight for the system is 550 pounds, comparable to that of a medium-size APU, and the price should be comparable as well, Dozier said.

    Given the high price of diesel, “The payback to the operator can be measured in just months,” Christensen said.

    Kenworth Clean Power is not a simple aftermarket install, Dozier noted. Kenworth is looking into that possibility, “but our priority is the OEM installation,” he said.

    Asked about fuel-economy prospects in coming years, Dozier said opportunities for further aerodynamic improvements include the interaction of tractor and trailer, “but I wouldn’t give up on tractor alone.” Cooling advances, for example, could enable the front of the truck to get smaller, he said.

    Diesel-electric hybrids “do have and will have a future in the heavy-duty industry,” but customer wants and needs will be crucial in determining the shape of that future, Dozier said. Heavy-duty hybrid research is going on, but at this point research is all it is, Dozier said.

    To show off the new truck, a four-month Kenworth T660 Road Tour launches at the Great American Trucking Show, Aug. 24-26 in Dallas, and goes on to nearly 60 Kenworth dealerships nationwide, from California to New Jersey. For a complete schedule, go to www.kenworth.com.