CHICAGO — Commercial vehicles occupied some of the largest booths at the 2015 AHR Expo and certainly left their mark on the event and its 61,000 attendees as major manufacturers showcased new lines of trucks, vans, and accessories.

Price at the Pump

Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, and Nissan all displayed vehicles from their respective fleets with each bringing something unique to the table. Finding ways to increase miles per gallon (mpg) on those respective vehicles emerged as the overriding trend at the AHR Expo, and for good reason. In a recent interview with CNBC, former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister predicted U.S. oil could undergo a sizeable increase from the current levels of $48 a barrel to $80 by this fall. That would cause gas prices to double from the current $2 price to $4 by next winter.

This projection sees gas prices rising much quicker than the short-term energy outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA expects U.S. regular gasoline retail prices, which averaged $3.36 per gallon in 2014, to average $2.33 per gallon in 2015. Based on those projections, the average household is expected to spend about $750 less on gasoline in 2015 compared to 2014 because of these lower prices. The projected regular gasoline retail price, according to the EIA, increases to an average of $2.72 per gallon in 2016.

With the instability of gas prices and the realization that price spikes could occur at any time, producing vehicles with a manageable rate of mpg has become an essential checkmark on manufacturers’ to-do lists.

Fuel Efficiencies

Chevrolet answered the proverbial bell with a clear focus on efficiency in its 2015 lineup. Chevy’s 2015 Colorado has an available 3.6 liter (L) V-6 engine with 305 hp and gets a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-estimated 26 mpg on the highway. The Colorado also has the option of a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine with an EPA-estimated 27 mpg. “Many people like the ‘can-do’ spirit of a truck, but they want a vehicle that is easier to maneuver in traffic and easier to park at work or at home,” said Tony Johnson, Colorado marketing manager. “For them, bigger is not necessarily better. Also, they don’t want to give up the latest in convenience and safety features, which aren’t available on current midsize pickups.”

The 2015 City Express 4-cylinder cargo van from Chevrolet offers 131 hp with an estimated 1,500 pounds of payload capacity. It features 24 mpg in the city and has a 12-V outlet. Additional features include 20 integrated, reinforced cargo mounting points and six exterior roof rack mounting points, and the truck is upfit-ready with weld nuts for attaching bins. The available modular packages include shelving, drawer units, hook bars, door kits, trade packages, and dividers.

Dodge’s Ram 1500 EcoDiesel will be available in March. At the recent North American International Auto Show, Ram brand CEO and president, Bob Hegbloom, announced the truck would now provide a manufacturer’s estimated 29 mpg highway.

When making the announcement, Hegbloom said: “We know that fuel economy is many customers’ top priority, which is why this truck will provide a very high fuel economy among all pickups in the industry. The 1500 EcoDiesel sets the bar even higher…and this truck will be great news for owners who tell us they really rack up the miles on their daily commutes.”

The Ram 1500 Tradesman model gets 25 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in the city. It features a 3.6-L V-6 engine, eight-speed transmission, rear-view camera, automatic headlamps, and spray-in bedliner.

Ford’s Transit Connect van/wagon has become a popular option for HVAC contractors in recent years, and the 2015 model gets an estimated 30 mpg on the highway. The Transit Connect has a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds and has dual-sliding side doors. Optional features include a rear-view camera, forward- and reverse-sensing systems to provide audible alerts of objects located in front of and behind the vehicle, and also rain-sensing front wipers which can automatically clear the windshield of rain, snow, and mist.

On the truck side, Ford’s Super Duty pickup line ranges from the F-250 XL up to the F-450 XL. The Ford Super Duty has an available 6.2-L V-8 engine, 385 hp, and 405 foot pounds of torque. “The designers of the original 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbo diesel predicted it would eventually need to be upgraded for higher output,” said David Ives, technical specialist Ford Power Stroke. “They made it easier to add a larger turbocharger, increasing airflow and creating more power for dramatically improved performance; and, yet, we haven’t lost any efficiency.”

Nissan’s NV1500 cargo van comes to the table with a 4.0-L V-6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, and four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS). The NV1500 features water-repellent cloth seats with vinyl wear patches on bolsters, six floor-mounted D-rings in the cargo area, 57 total integrated reinforced cargo mounting points, and 10 exterior roof-rack mounting brackets.

The 2015 NV200 compact cargo van has a 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine, Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), and a four-wheel ABS. It features a fold-down passenger’s seat with a seatback tray table, mobile-office-style center console with storage, 20 interior integrated reinforced cargo-mounting points, and six exterior roof-rack-mounting points.

The Essential Accessories

While the vehicles themselves grab most of the headlines, there are several other elements at play when discussing the role of trucks in the HVAC industry.

Dr. Shrink’s shrink wrap packaging system has been on the market for some time, but, in 2014, the product became available in a 60-by-100-foot 10-mil size to complement its other 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-, and 12-mil sizes and 12-60 foot widths. The product contains maximum UV inhibitors and provides protection for air-handling equipment during transportation and storage. The shrink wrap offers protection against weather damage, will not chafe or damage covered products, and can also be ventilated.

SpaceKap products are self-contained mobile units, and their transferable service bodies have a universal fit for Ford, GM, Dodge, and Tundra trucks. Numerous North American companies have adopted the concept as a way to increase efficiency and reduce cost and fuel consumption. The SpaceKap facilitates transfer from one pickup truck to another, allowing users to re-use the equipment inside the SpaceKap many times. According to the company, for each vehicle that runs a total of 20,000 miles per year, 250 gallons of fuel will be saved.

Publication date: 2/23/2015

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