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Nexteer Touts Heavy-Duty EPS

Electric power steering enables more driver-assist features for big trucks
#tech #chassis


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Nexteer Automotive is introducing a new version of its ubiquitous electric power steering (EPS) technology.

The Michigan-based supplier, which pioneered the fuel-saving technology in 1999, makes about 10 million EPS units per year for passenger vehicles.

With its new high-output rack-assist system, Nexteer now aims to bring EPS to a new market: heavy-duty pickup trucks and light commercial vehicles weighing as much as 7,000 kg (15,400 lbs).

More Power

Currently, most big trucks use hydraulic power steering systems, which Nexteer says have been better suited to handle their hefty size and load requirements.

Nexteer high-output EPS (Image: Nexteer)

But this now can be accomplished with EPS, according to the supplier. Nexteer’s new high-output system can handle as much as 24 kiloNewtons (5,400 lb-force) of output force at the steering rack. This compares with 10-15 kN (2,250-3,370 lb-ft) for a typical rack-assist EPS system and 15 kN for hydraulic units.

The system is applicable to conventionally powered and full-electric heavy-duty trucks. “Steering up to 24 kN of load on a 12-volt electrical system would have been thought to be unachievable just a few years ago, but now that capability exists with High-Output EPS,” Nexteer says.

Why It Matters

Nexteer has long touted the fuel economy benefits of EPS, which in light vehicle applications can boost efficiency by 6%.

More recently, EPS has served as an enabling technology for various driver-assist systems. Similar advances are expected with truck applications.

“Larger vehicles like heavy-duty trucks can now be steered with an electric system instead of a hydraulic one, opening the door for EPS’ advanced safety, comfort and fuel efficiency while staying true to the truck brand’s steering feel,” says Robin Milavec, Nexteer’s senior vice president and chief technology.

In addition to current passenger vehicle applications such as lane-keeping assist, EPS also could enable new truck-specific features. Nexteer cites crosswind compensation and trailer assist as examples.

Nexteer says it has three contracts for the high-output EPS in electric trucks. The applications are for a full-size pickup truck, delivery van and an electric Level 4 people mover with no steering wheel.