Video: I Look at the FUTURE of Trucks from Heavy Duty Pickups to Semi Trucks — Here’s What to Expect

ZF tech demo - featured
(Images: TFL Studios)

Andre checks out new truck tech with folks from ZF — including prototype drives!

There’s three things Andre shows us during his visit to ZF: the ZF eBeam Axle, their new 8-speed automatic transmission, and new safety features for semi trucks. All of these advances will be seeing production in some form, in the future. The first truck he samples is a Chevrolet Silverado HD.

ZF eBeam Axle

Imagine being able to replace the rear axle of a heavy-duty pickup truck with an axle that also has a 47-horsepower motor. That’s basically what the ZF eBeam axle does. The prototype Andre drives, with a ZF tech representative, is based on a Chevy Silverado 2500. ZF removed the engine, transmission and rear end – then electrified it. Hauling a 210-kWh battery, the motor produces 850 NM of torque – before it goes through the 12-to-1 gear reduction. The torque applied to the ground is impressive.

This truck is a test mule, so there were a few interesting sounds the vehicle made as Andre drove. One of the issues many automakers are dealing with is the method and sound of systems powering the steering and braking. Once you eliminate the internal combustion engine noise, you can hear everything else. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the video.

ZF eight speed automatic heavy duty transmission

ZF has build transmissions for years, and now we get to see one put to use in a 26-foot box truck. The Powerline Eight-Speed ZF “Medium-Duty” transmission is placed in a true workhorse. Large box trucks like this are staples for transport and moving companies. In fact, one of the tuning parameters engineers looked at was making it a super smooth transmission. One that’s easy to use, and somewhat intuitive when it comes to driving conditions. That way, rental and leasing drivers will have an easier time driving one.

Issues like: load, road resistance, grade and fuel economy are measured by the system and it can elevate the shift points as needed. According to the ZF representative (and Andre agrees) the shift quality is better than some passenger cars out there.

Semi-truck safety

Near the end of the video, Andre gets to witness safety systems on a fairly conventional tractor-trailer setup. The systems onboard all the truck to avoid running over VRU (Vulnerable Road Users). Essentially, that’s pedestrians on bikes or in cars. There is additional gear that will allow for assisted steering, but that has not been fully integrated yet.

There’s a lot of future technology here, much of which you’ll see in production soon. This is a fun video with lots of on-board action, filmed by Andre. Check it out!

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.