Dodge Power Wagon Blends Refined Design and Raw Power

4 January 1999

Dodge Power Wagon Blends Refined Design and Raw Power

DETROIT, Jan. 3 -- Dodge's Power Wagon concept truck is as refined and tailored as the original 1946 workhorse was rugged and simple.

"Our objective was to create more of a 'Sharper Image' truck than an everyday work truck," said Trevor Creed, Vice President, Advanced Design and Exterior Jeep(R)/Truck, Interior Design, Color & Trim - DaimlerChrysler Corporation. "With this concept, we're asking, 'Is there room in the truck market for appeal to new customers who desire all their extras and still want the traditional capability of a truck to pull their boat and haul stuff?'

"We drew on the Dodge heritage and classic proportions of the original Power Wagon, but our concept is entirely modern and high-tech in its execution," Creed explained. "For example, this expressive design, with its contrasting finishes of brushed aluminum, European ash wood and raw steel, gives it a mechanical, tailored look as well as an honest simplicity."

With a 7.2-liter, direct injection I-6 turbocharged diesel engine that generates 780 lb.-ft. of torque in an over-the-road configuration, this truck earns the "power" designation in its name. To compare, the industry's most powerful full-size truck, a production Dodge Ram with an 8.0-liter V-10 gas engine, yields 450 lb.-ft. of torque.

"Looking at the vehicle, you can see it's not your father's Power Wagon," added Bernard Robertson, Senior Vice President-Engineering Technologies and General Manager-Truck Operations - DaimlerChrysler Corporation. "Nor is it your father's diesel engine. In fact, this isn't even running on diesel fuel. It's burning a clean, sulphur-free 'designer' fuel that we're jointly developing with Syntroleum.

"You can't find a more efficient engine than today's advanced diesels. Many new injection, combustion and exhaust after-treatment technologies are being developed to meet stringent future emissions standards," Robertson explained. "Perhaps the single most influential factor that could have an immediate impact on lower car and truck emissions would be cleaner fuels."

Comparing the original 1946 Power Wagon with today's concept truck dramatizes the evolution of trucks through the decades.

"While working on the clay model, we brought a red 1946 Power Wagon into the studio," said Mark Allen, the Power Wagon's exterior designer - DaimlerChrysler Corporation. "From the pictures, we thought it was humongous, but it was dwarfed when placed next to the 1999 concept."

Standing well above the original Power Wagon, the silver-bodied concept's 35-inch tires help place the vehicle's overall height at 77 inches, or three inches taller than today's four-wheel-drive Ram. Built off the Ram chassis, the Power Wagon's cab is similar in size to the Dakota Club Cab to portray the classic proportions of the original truck. Like the Ram Quad Cab, the Power Wagon concept features rear-hinged half doors to provide easy access to the rear storage area. Instead of extra seating, designers chose to offer expanded storage space with drawers built into the back of the cab. A power- actuated tailgate eases loading and unloading.

"Early in the design process, we debated whether to do a basic work truck versus an upscale truck," Allen said. "We chose to distance ourselves from the ultimate simplicity of the original truck. That's why you don't see the spare tire mounted on the side of the truck box or free-standing head lamps. I see this as a thrill-seeker's truck, for the gear-oriented sports enthusiast. It's the vehicle to take you rock climbing or mountain biking."

Some of the elements surviving from the post-WWII model include the separated bumpers, fenders and running boards. The gray, raw steel bumpers of the new concept contrast with the silver painted body and aluminum detail on the gas cap, door handles, hinges and wheels, helping to modernize the truck's image.

From the front of the vehicle, the recognizable Dodge crosshair grille sits above another Power Wagon distinguishing feature -- a front-mounted power winch. A winch this size could be powerful enough to pull an eighteen-wheel truck out of a ditch, and goes well beyond the normal call of duty. Gas- discharged projector beam head lamps are another item that sets this concept truck apart from the rest of the pack.

Many functional aspects of the vehicle are revealed. Angled slits in the sheet metal expose the engine compartment. No attempt was made to cover the axles that show below the truck. Aluminum fasteners and bolts are also exposed throughout the vehicle, an idea Allen borrowed from Miller race car engines.

Power Wagon trucks saw duty from 1946-1968 as school buses, tow trucks, emergency vehicles and farm trucks. They were light on comfort and heavy on utility features, such as a winch, power take-off and tow hooks. Getting the "Deluxe Cab" option granted customers the luxury of an arm rest, sun visor and dome light. Hence, Steve Sowinski, responsible for the Power Wagon's interior design, was not able to borrow many features from the original truck.

"People will have to stretch their imaginations to find similarities between the interior of this Power Wagon and the 1946 original," Sowinski said. "Whereas the original was a study in raw steel, we used a mix of new materials to get a clean, high-tech look."

Sowinski's goal was to bring the same kind of finished, detailed look to the interior as the exterior. The same European ash wood that lines the truck box also lines the cab floor behind the seats. Stainless steel shift levers and door handles contrast with the distressed leather seats in keeping with the upscale "Sharper Image" truck theme.

Cognac-colored leather is the primary interior shade with granite-colored leather for the accents. Various-sized drawers, as well as a netted pouch, line the back of the cab for convenient storage. The instrument panel gauges all reside within a single, round steering cluster similar to a chronometer watch, to create a clean and fresh design approach.

Diesels Could Clean Up Future Vehicle Fleet

With the development of new fuels, fueling and combustion systems, and advanced exhaust after-treatment technologies, diesels could power the "green" cars and trucks of tomorrow.

Contrary to what many drivers think, the diesel engine has come a long way since the days when trucks and buses spewed out huge clouds of smelly black smoke. Despite its outdated reputation, today's electronically controlled diesel provides better fuel efficiency than any other car engine on the road -- 40 percent better fuel economy than gasoline engines. At the same time, new diesels offer low noise and exhaust emissions levels, and good performance as well.

In short, it's not your father's diesel anymore.

"While we're not claiming to have already developed the perfect diesel engine, we are claiming that diesels have a significant future in the passenger car and truck industry," said Bernard Robertson, Senior Vice President-Engineering Technologies and General Manager-Truck Operations - DaimlerChrysler Corporation. "With further refinement of engine technologies, exhaust after-treatments and cleaner fuels, diesel engines will be a major player as we continue to look for more efficient and cleaner powertrain alternatives."

DaimlerChrysler is pursuing dozens of technologies to improve diesel engines. The main areas for improvement are in the fuel itself, the way the fuel is squirted into the combustion chamber and technologies to control the exhaust emissions. Here are some examples:

Designer Fuels

* Research with Tulsa-based Syntroleum Corp. to test new sulfur-free "designer" fuels is one path. By synthesizing compression ignition fuels from abundant natural gas, sulfur is not present in the fuel -- a key requirement enabling advanced after-treatment devices for emissions control.

The new designer fuels could also provide a big boost to the development of advanced technologies that will help DaimlerChrysler improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide even more, according to Robertson. "Less fuel burned means fewer greenhouse gases released into the air," he said.

Potentially the cleanest practical hydrocarbon fuels ever made, the new fuels would also be ideally suited for future technologies such as fuel cells, hybrid electric vehicles and direct injection, spark ignition gasoline engines.

The new Dodge Power Wagon concept truck is burning a Syntroleum fuel today.

Fuel Injection Technology

Another development, comparable in scope to the change gasoline engines underwent with the move from carburetors to multi-point fuel injectors, is the effort to develop high-pressure electronic fuel injection systems. Higher fuel injection pressures permit engineers to improve combustion, which reduces emissions and enhances performance of diesel power plants.

* One of the most promising of these new injection systems is the common rail system. DaimlerChrysler introduced common rail technology in 1998 with the Mercedes A-class. A high-pressure pump forces diesel fuel into a passage (called the rail), where it is stored until the engine's electronic control system signals valves to open and close, injecting fuel into the combustion chamber. The injection arrangement is comparable to that found in today's gasoline engines except the fuel pressures are much higher. Diesel fuel is injected at a pressure of 20,000 pounds per square inch (psi) compared to 50 psi in gasoline engines. Engineers say that the best thing about common rail technology is that the fuel pressure is independent of the engine speed, so that appropriate pressures can be maintained over the speed range of the engine.

* The new electronically controlled fuel systems will also allow tiny, precisely metered amounts of fuel to enter the combustion chamber both before and after the main charge is injected. Pre- or pilot-injections can help reduce noise by smoothing out combustion, while post-injection can be used with new catalyst technology to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by causing a chemical reaction that produces water and benign nitrogen gas.

* The electronically controlled systems may also permit engineers to close the loop on diesel fuel combustion by allowing the use of sensor-controlled feedback just like modern closed-loop gasoline engines do today with oxygen sensors. By using sensors to monitor the exhaust gas composition, these clean diesels will be able to adapt to transient operation as well as operational changes that come with wear (from use) and to variations in fuel quality.

Exhaust After-Treatment Technologies

* DaimlerChrysler engineers are working toward the development of a new smoke sensor that can help a diesel engine reduce the output of NOx and particulate emissions. Traditionally, a trade-off exists between lowering NOx or particulate emissions. Because standard three-way catalysts do not work with lean-burn engines like diesels, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) is currently the best way to reduce diesel NOx emissions. But overuse of the EGR system tends to boost the generation of sooty particulate matter. Since smoke is an indicator of particulate production, control feedback from the new smoke sensor will allow an advanced diesel engine to set the optimal EGR rate, thus balancing the low, controlled output of both NOx and particulates.

In the meantime, automotive researchers all over the world are racing to develop effective "de-NOx" catalysts for lean-burn engines (like the diesel). There are many approaches to this technology -- both active and passive.

* New passive de-NOx units featuring special catalysts that can operate under lean-burn (low fuel ratio) conditions are expected to trim NOx output by three to five percent.

* Active systems, including the post-injection types previously mentioned that add hydrocarbons (in the form of fuel) to the exhaust, may eventually lead to NOx reductions of seven to ten percent.

This hydrocarbon injection technique is more widespread than is generally known. Stationary utility powerplants all over the world regularly slash NOx emissions up to 95 percent by injecting ammonia into the exhaust streams of their fuel-fired drives. Diesel engines could do the same, although most customers would not want to drive with a tank of ammonia. So urea, a natural hydrocarbon compound commonly used in industry, could be used via exhaust injection with similar results to lessen diesel NOx output. Heating urea produces ammonia and water.

* DaimlerChrysler is also testing a new plasma-based NOx scrubber. Working jointly with researchers at Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Eugene, Ore., engineers are testing an advanced system that destroys NOx with high voltage. When electric current is passed through the unit's pebble-bed catalyst, nitrogen oxide exhaust molecules are converted into a hot plasma of charged particles that reforms into nitrogen and water.

DaimlerChrysler engineers have tested the plasma reactor units in cars over real-world driving cycles. The new after-treatment systems cut NOx emissions by an average of 70 percent.

So despite what many drivers believe, the diesel really is starting to come clean. No, it's not your father's diesel, but there is a good chance it could be your son's or your daughter's ...

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