Sep

Russian fuel management technology coming to SA

2013-09-12 08:36
Rebeccah Mangwane walked away with the first prize in the fire drill test at the Engen Driver of the Year Awards. Mangwane also won a special award for being the first woman finalist in the FormulaE programme.

The secret of the fuel management technology used in the Dakar Rally’s winning trucks is coming to South Africa. Omnicomm, the Russian company whose intelligent fuel sensors are used in Kamaz trucks, has set its sights on the Republic.

“Technology transfer into fellow members of the BRICS trading bloc is a key strategic move,’ says Moscow-based fuel management expert and Omnicomm export manager, Yury Panikov. The company currently accounts for 65% of the fuel telematics market in its motherland, Russia.

“Sky high diesel prices mean there is a common objective , the necessity to cut fuel consumption. In how to go about it, there are many different options and tactics,’ says Panikov, adding that he sees intelligent GPS reporting as the ideal solution for South Africa given the vast distances, climate extremes and problems with fuel fraud.

“Intelligent sensors in the truck’s fuel tank communicate status and all fuel events by GPS back to base around the clock no matter where the vehicle may be. Management no longer has to wait for vehicles to return to the depot but can monitor them on a dynamic real-time basis identifying fuel wastage caused by inefficient driving or sharp practice.’

According to Panikov, it has been through torture-testing in extreme conditions that they have developed the technology for everyday fleet efficiency. “The technology is tested and proven in motor sport events such as the Dakar Rally where harsh terrain and high temperatures punish the vehicles and the drivers are under constant pressure to perform.’

For maximum performance in such events, it is essential to cut weight and thus fuel management is vital as every 100 litres of unused fuel adds 83 kg to the truck’s mass. Yet it’s also critical not to underestimate fuel status as Kamaz learnt in the 2005 Dakar rally – before they were using the new technology – when they took 18th place simply because their team ran out of fuel a mere 50kms from the finishing line.

“Of the many things that can wrong on such a rally, running out of fuel is frustrating as it pales alongside other hazards,’ says Panikov. “In 2005, the turbulence of ride conditions especially over soft quicksand and stony surfaces ate into fuel consumption and confused conventional gauges, resulting in inaccurate fuel calculations.’

Learning the lesson, Kamaz co-operated with Omnicomm to create a solution using sensors that measure fuel levels and consumption to over 99% accuracy, unaffected by vibration. Status is displayed in the cab and sent to base by GPS. In 2013, Kamaz made a clean sweep of the podium.

Conditions on the N3 corridor from Durban to Johannesburg may be less hazardous than the dunes and deserts of Peru and Chile but according to Panikov, there are still parallels even if the scale is different. “Tight deadlines, drivers working long hours and the challenge to measure and manage fuel usage mean the technology used on Kamaz trucks is just as applicable,’ he reckons.

Check out Omnicomm’s contribution to Kamaz’ performance in the Dakar rally by clicking here. You’ll also enjoy some ‘˜mean’ truck driving.

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