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Derive Systems: Improving Fleet Fuel Efficiency via Software Solutions

Fleet vehicles use a whopping amount of fuel. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that the average delivery truck travels approximately 13,000 miles per year, a police car slightly over 15,000 miles, and a light truck nearly 12,000 miles. Multiply those numbers by the size of each fleet and the numbers roll up.

Whether it’s a police cruiser, an appliance repair truck, or an executive transport coach, optimizing idle settings is key to slashing overall fleet fuel consumption. The average fleet vehicle spends a monumental amount of time idling. A fleet manager can see a substantial reduction in fuel costs by implementing some simple changes. Yet it’s rarely done.

Derive Efficiency handheld OBDII device

I visited with Derive Systems in Sanford, Florida to see how easy it is to optimize efficiency with an ECU reflash. Derive focuses on two pursuits: power and efficiency. Their consumer-facing SCT and Bullydog brands specialize in improving the performance of muscle cars and trucks, while their B2B Derive Efficiency division specializes in making fleet vehicles more fuel efficient.

Miles per gallon isn’t an effective way to measure the fuel efficiency of a vehicle that spends much of its time idling. In these cases, it comes down to gallons per hour. Derive Efficiency promises to reduce idle fuel consumption from 10 to 30 percent, while increasing overall fleet fuel economy by up to 12 percent. Efficiency improvement at idle is largely achieved by reducing idle RPM levels.

The company’s efficiency tunes also optimize throttle response and transmission shift points, in addition to providing a speed limiter option. Torque converters can be locked at lower speeds and cylinder deactivation can be adjusted on GM vehicles with active fuel management.

Implementing the software change is quick and easy. Tom Kanewske of Derive Systems demonstrated the ECU reflash procedure on a 2016 Ford Transit cargo van, equipped with a naturally-aspirated 3.7-liter V6, running on regular unleaded fuel.

Ford Transit at stock idle speed

The Derive Efficiency handheld device is plugged into the OBDII port, the ignition switch is turned to the on position, and the device reads the current ECU settings. The specific tune parameters are selected and downloaded to the ECU. The procedure takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. When the vehicle is restarted, the vehicle is running on the new tune.

The 3.7-liter FlexFuel V6 engine in the Ford Transit cargo van idles in a 750-900 RPM range with the stock settings, and is EPA-rated at 14 city / 18 highway / 16 combined miles per gallon (MPG). The idle speed dropped to approximately 650 RPM after the reflash.

Ford Transit 3.7-liter V6 at optimized idle speed via Derive Efficiency tune.

So how do the numbers work out in the real world? A modest ten percent improvement in fuel efficiency would bump the combined MPG up to 17.6. This would represent a $234 yearly savings per cargo van, with 13,000 miles driven over the course of a year with gasoline at $3.00 per gallon. Multiply that savings by dozens or hundreds of vehicles in a large fleet and the potential for savings is substantial.

Derive’s fleet effort primarily focuses on General Motors and Ford pickup trucks, vans, SUVs, and sedans, although the company also supports the popular Isuzu N-Series Tilt Cab Truck. Their fleet clients include Sears, Pepsi, Union Pacific, and the Dish Network, along with a host of government agencies.

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. Derive Systems kindly provided transportation and travel arrangements.

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 Andy Chido on 01.12.17 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the post. We agree that new technological advances from some of the major car manufacturers are a great way to reduce financial waste. Optimizing a vehicle’s efficiency—especially for business purposes—is integral to maintaining profitability.

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