Interview with Dr. Hunter Mack, Director of University Massachusetts Lowell's Energy and Combustion Research Lab about his independent analysis of RelGen on working trucks.

Do you want to reduce your idle time and fuel costs while keeping your hotel load batteries or your liftgate and pallet-jack batteries fully charged? But, do you also feel overwhelmed by the number of sales pitches coming your way promising to save you and your fleet money?

We realize it is easy to tune out because it's too much to sift through what's real and what's not while keeping up with the demands of your fleet. 

To prove that our fuel savings are genuine, we asked the Energy and Combustion Research Lab at the University of Massachusetts Lowell to conduct an independent, third party analysis of our product on our customer trucks. There's a lot of noise in the efficiency and electrification space in transportation. But not a lot of companies have the chops to bring a third party in to analyze the product on customer trucks without being able to control the outcome.

So that's what we did - we contracted Dr. Hunter Mack's Energy and Combustion Research Lab at UMass Lowell to prove we are saving our customers money while reducing emissions. Laynie caught up with Dr. Mack to hear about his experience conducting the study and the value that RelGen brings to heavy truck fleets as well as decarbonization efforts. 

Laynie: How did you first encounter Blackburn Energy? 

Dr. Mack: The first time I met Andrew [Amigo, Founder & CEO], I saw Blackburn at a technology showcase that was here at the [University of Massachusetts – Lowell] campus at the Innovation Hub, which is a building we have that hosts startup companies. They give a platform to startup companies in the Lowell area. Andrew is a graduate of Umass Lowell and he came and talked about some of the work he was doing. So I first got to see it there and it made obvious sense, right? Whenever you look at a new technology you immediately askdoes it pass the sniff test? Is it something that makes sense? Will it work? And you have to make sure it isn’t violating any laws or thermo dynamics. [RelGen] is an elegant solution and furthermore, it is addressing an acute pain within the marketplace. Idling trucks is a huge issue. A lot of emissions come from that. I understand why [idling] is done.  If trucks didn’t have to idle and they could run an AC or whatever auxiliary components necessary so that the driver is comfortable and safe, it's an obvious value proposition. The combination of an elegant and Ilsay simple in quotation marks – Blackburn’s elegant and simple solution to a pressing problem perked my interest.  

How did you go about designing the research study? 

When we were approached to do this as part of Blackburn’s [Massachusetts Clean Energy Center grant], I had a couple of asks.  The first was: Can we operate the truck with the RelGen enabled and [disabled].  So it would be the exact same truck with the exact same usage patterns to get a real clear idea of what the benefits would be.  When we originally got together [to discuss this project] we looked at a couple of different types of trucks and the different types cases for the RelGen.  I determined we could analyze both long-haul and box trucks with liftgates.  Can we have distinct periods when it's on and off? Can we control as many variables as we can like routes, drivers and ambient conditions and things of that nature?  In the end, we did a pretty god job.  We were able to get continuous data for multiple days on each of the trucks with RelGen enabled and disabled which gave us the best apples to apples comparison as one could ask. So that was the main thing with designing the study: Can we get the raw data as it comes out of the engine? So that it is unfiltered so our team have everything to look at. And then can we put together the conditions to understand what is happening with the engine? 

How did you design the analytic tool? 

We took the raw data that came from the trucks. We programed everything in MatlabsMatlabs is a standard computing platform for programming and mathematics We use it heavilin the Department of Mechanical Engineering.  It is a platform used by mechanical engineers across the country.  My students work with MatLabs in their classes so they also have a high level of familiarity 

So wimported the raw data in from the engines and analyzed it My laboratory is mostly focused on experimental studies The fun thing was looking at the engine codes and all the data that was associated with it and create an understanding of the codes that was coming out of the engine and it what was doing at the time to create an understanding of the different operating conditions for each individual truck. 

What surprised you about the results? 

RelGen has a very practical application.  When we first started this study, I knew that we could scavenge some extra power to charge these batteries which is the way RelGen works. But what was surprising to me was how often trucks are idled and what kind of impact that can have on overall fuel usage and emissions. I don't come from a trucking industry background so those are not numbers have on the back of my hand. It was surprising how much fuel was used and how much emissions that come from that.  

The other interesting thinthat came about was that Blackburn started branching into liftgate operation. That was not a market I originally saw with this product, but it obviously makes sense.  Liftgates are a large power draw and if you are in a delivery truck operating the liftgate from 10 to 100 times a day, thats a lot of energy and if you can do anything to make it better in terms of fuel usage.  That offers an additional value proposition to the liftgate operator sector for Blackburn to operate in. 

The third surprising and revealing thing for me was that the delivery companies that use liftgates were not as concerned with the fuel savings as they were about the reliability of their liftgates.  They wanted to avoid running the liftgate batteries down to 0 so that the truck wouldn't turn over. So basically, reliable operation was a number one concern, and fuel savings were secondary. I had no idea how many trucks get stranded because they run their liftgates too often.  

Our industry is awash with greenwashing and false promises of fuel and carbon savings particularly in the electric vehicle market. Some of these technologies create more emissions than diesel trucks at the moment despite their zero emissions advertising. Can you speak to the importance of having real scientific analysis and data to help with transportation decarbonization? 

Threading the needle between advertising and science is difficult. I think the greenwashing side of things is less of an issue. Popular opinion is focused on electrification. As a mechanical engineer, I am a big proponent of electrification of vehicles. But we have to understand that it's not going to happen quickly and there are sectors where it's not going to happen at all. We as scientists and engineers have to be able to come up with products that can increase efficiencies which decrease fuel usage and emissionsWhether that's biofuels or RelGen - all of these are important tools for decarbonization. It is incumbent upon us to approach these technologies systematically to observe what their actual savings are. Collectively, across the entire transportation sector even small improvements can reduce a lot of emissions 

We are working hard to connect with policymakers and regulators to show them what RelGen is capable of in terms of reducing emissions now and for decades to come. Do you have any advice on how we can appeal to them to look at our technology? 

One of the main values a regulator or policymakers can immediately see is that companies that have a lot of capital investment in their fleets at this point will be reticent to wholesale throw that in the trashcan to go with an unproven technologies So RelGen is a capitally inexpensive technology that can impact lots of business from small, to medium to large. There are large deliveries companies like UPS that would gain frousing RelGen immensely and then there are small distribution companies that may only have 10 or 20 vehicles. But they can realize gains quickly which will make an impact on their pocketbook. Regulators and policymakers always like to help our small and medium businesses while also helping us realize our climate change goals by reducing emissions. This two headed spear of helping out business from all sides from an economic perspective while getting us closer to our emissions reductions in the short term and long-term is a compelling argument.  

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in learning more please email: