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Podcast Interviews

Fan Drive Technology That Lowers Emissions

Learn how Horton’s fan drive technology can help lower emissions and cut costs for fleets.

Episode 126: Fuel efficiency, sufficient horsepower, and lower emissions are all targets trucks with diesel engines need to achieve in order to help fleets lower their total cost of operation. What role do fan drives play in achieving these goals? 

In this episode, Dale Johnson, a Field Service Manager at Horton answers this question. Dale has worked at Horton for 33-years as a machinist, in product assembly, as a warranty technician, and as the Field Service Manager so he has the product knowledge and expertise to answer our questions.  

Horton Logo. Learn how Horton’s fan drive technology can help lower emissions and cut costs for fleets.

To learn more, go to HortonWW.com.

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Complete Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost per mile.

Fuel efficiency, sufficient horsepower and lower emissions are all targets that commercial fleets are trying to achieve when they operate trucks with diesel engines. When they’re looking at these different characteristics of how the engine works, really, what they’re trying to do is lower total cost of operation. So what role do fan drives, formerly called fan clutches with the older days, play in achieving these goals?

My guest today is Dale Johnson, a Field Service Manager at Horton. Dale has worked at Horton for over 33 years. He started as a machinist, worked in product assembly, worked as a warranty technician and is now a field service manager. He’s got the product knowledge to help us to answer our questions and he has the expertise. So I’m really looking forward to talking to him. Dale, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So happy to have you here.

Dale Johnson:

Thank you, Jamie. I’m happy to be here as well. And thanks for having me on.

Jamie Irvine:

So Dale, most people in heavy-duty parts, they know that Horton manufacturers fan clutches, fan drive technology, but we also have a lot of listeners who may not know the full scope of Horton. Maybe you could start off by just giving us a brief overview of who the company is and what they do.

Dale Johnson:

Horton is a privately held, family owned company with manufacturing facilities too here in the U.S., one in Germany and sales offices all across the world. So we’re a global company and we not only manufacture fans, clutches, we also manufacture fans. And some suspension products.

Jamie Irvine:

Oh I didn’t know about the suspension products. So there you learn something every day. So I’d like to talk about a specific product today. The Horton RCX fan drive, what type of fan drive is this and what applications does that product fit?

Dale Johnson:

The Horton RCX fan drive is a variable speed, electronic sensing viscous fan drive. So a lot of information in one phrase, but it’s, unlike fan drives of the past, the pneumatic fan drives and even some of the first viscous fan drives, it turns on and it turns off, the older style ones. The RCX is a smart fan drive. It knows when and only turns on as much as it’s needed, to cool the engine or the other components on the engine.

Jamie Irvine:

What’s the difference between like when we say viscous or we talk about those older style pneumatic fan clutches. What is the difference there?

Dale Johnson:

The pneumatic fan drives were controlled by air pressure, basically most of them are they’re spring engaged, air disengaged. So you apply air to it to disengage, when it needs cooling, take air away and then it goes up to full speed. Whereas with the RCX it’s has a viscous fluid internally at works somewhat like a torque converter to kind of do analogy the more fluid inside of the fan clutch in the working area, the faster it goes. And the lesser fluid inside, the slower it goes. And this is controlled by the ECM, reading a signal comes from the ECM to tell the fan drive to turn on or turn off. And then there’s also a fan speed feedback within the fan system, a hall effect sensor. It knows how fast the fan drive is going, feeds that back into the ECM. The ECM will tell it whether or not it needs more or less fan speeds.

Jamie Irvine:

Earlier in our conversation, you mentioned that there were older style viscous fan drives. What problems have some of the original viscous fan drives had in the past?

Dale Johnson:

The earlier stages of the fan drive, the viscous ones, they had a very high residual or off-speed, resulting in more parasitic loss and also controllability with the fan drive itself. You couldn’t control the fan speed as well as you wanted to, to be as efficient as it can be. So we’ve developed a new valve and internal design to control the fan speed by being able to control the flow of the viscous fluid inside.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. It sounds to me like the technology just hadn’t evolved yet to the point where it is today. And of course that had implications for the total performance.

Dale Johnson:

Yes, that’s absolutely correct.

Jamie Irvine:

And so if it wasn’t as efficient, so I assume then that had some implications with fuel consumption. And could you maybe go into a little more elaboration on what you mean when you’re talking about that parasitic draw?

Dale Johnson:

The parasitic draws basically the draw of the fan as the fans rotating. It takes horsepower away. And if your fan is turning faster, you have more parasitic loss. So you’re using more power, more energy to turn that fan when it’s really not required. So that’s basically what it amounts to that if you don’t need the fan on, it shouldn’t be running. We could control it down to about a hundred to 150 residual speed and the on position.

Jamie Irvine:

Right? And that all has those implications, right? More fuel consumption, more emissions, less horsepower for what the truck needs the horsepower for. So all of that added up to something that was less efficient than what this new model. So we’re going to talk more about that in a moment.

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We’re back from our break. And we’ve been talking with Dale Johnson from Horton about the technology and where it has gone with fan drives. So we were talking before the break about the older fan clutch styles and the original early models of the viscous fan drive. Now we’re going to talk about some of the unique features of this new model, the RCX fan drive that Horton has put out. Dale, tell me about the brackets what’s unique about them and how does that impact the installation of the fan drive itself?

Dale Johnson:

The RCX fan drive has an integrated mounting bracket. It’s a one piece design allowing for ease of installation, and it also has a heavy-duty cable protection bracket in the event of a belt fraying or a belt comes flying off. It’s not going to take out the wiring harness. It has a heavy-duty bracket to keep it from damaging the wire harness that controls the fan drive. It also has the Horton track bearing in it for reliability and a long life.

Jamie Irvine:

So can you explain how the RCX fan drive manages to impact fuel efficiency and horsepower while at the same time lowering emissions? So we kind of talked about the detractors from the older technology. I’d like to learn more about exactly how this works and how it almost seems too good to be true, right? Like better fuel efficiency, more horsepower, less emissions. How does a fan drive do all of that?

Dale Johnson:

So basically it will almost start from here with a fan, a 30 inch or 32 inch fan. It takes about 75 to a hundred horsepower to turn that fan from a dead stop. With the old technology with pneumatic fan drives, you started and you stopped, but it was starting from a dead stop. Well with the variable ,speed fan drive, it knows how fast it needs to turn. So it’s fully variable anywhere from 100 to 2,800 RPM, it can go up to 100, then up to 500 back down to 200 up to 1200, and then back down to 500, for example, it can go anywhere within that range between 100 and 2800 RPM. And it only goes as fast as it needs to because the ECM is controlling it. And the ECM says we need more or less fan speed. It takes current, or it puts current to the fan is speeding it up and slowing it. Like for example, 85 to 90% of the fan cycles are AC related. Well, this helps you eliminate full on engagements with the old style of fan drives. And it keeps it at optimum operating temperature for fuel efficiency and power production. But to say it’s 205 degrees is its optimum operating temperature, and it can keep it within five to seven degrees of that.

Jamie Irvine:

Right? So with the old technology, whether it was on or it was off, and that didn’t matter if the truck was running in South Florida or Northern Canada. So now with this, it’s a lot smarter. It uses these ECM to sense what’s going on in the environment. And because of that, it reacts accordingly. So as we were talking about before we were defining that parasitic power draw on engine horsepower. So because of this variable speed now, what is the impact on horsepower draw?

Dale Johnson:

It can reduce it up to 20 to 50% of horsepower draw. And because it has a lower speed it doesn’t have that residual drag that it normally would, that it would take to turn on. So it barely turned. It may never turn on full speed just because of the design of the fan that keeps it at that optimum temperature. The parasitic loss is usually at the low end when you don’t need the fan, but it comes on anyhow. With the RCX it only turns on as fast as it needed to keep the engine at the optimum temperature.

Jamie Irvine:

It has a positive impact on fuel consumption, maintaining optimum horsepower, and that lower submissions. And then on the other side, without optimum operating temperature, then it also contributes to protecting the engine from any kind of overheating or any kind of issue related to operating temperature.

Dale Johnson:

Yes, correct. It keeps it at optimum temperature, the overheating, you know, it’s not an issue within the fan drive itself, as far as keeping the engine cool. And the AC, you know, requirements are, can be up to seven to eight sensors on an engine on different types of vehicles that can call for fan engagement, anything from a charge air to a hydraulic cooler, to a transmission cooler and obviously engine temp and AC pressure. All these different factors can bleed into the fan drive, engaging and disengaging.

Jamie Irvine:

So for our listeners on TNC radio who are operating commercial trucks, all those things you’re doing right now, driving down the highway, you didn’t realize how much was going on under the hood, just with the fan drive alone. There’s a lot to it. So when we talk about the development of this technology, when Horton is looking at some of the problems, I assume, because of the not only manufacturing them new, but you also have some reman programs, you get to see a lot of what works, what doesn’t. And then is that the way that Horton then develops these improvements in the technology to be able to bring out a product that is enhanced, how is that innovation primarily driven?

Dale Johnson:

The voice of the customer, we’re very focused on that. And as the OEM supplier, with all the major truck companies in and off highway companies, that manufacture equipment, we get a lot of requirements from them and then develop the ideas in our own test facility right here. But a lot of the information and the requirements they come from the voice of the customer.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Are you tired of overpaying to accept credit cards for your business? National Credit Card Processing Group is the premier payment processor for the heavy-duty truck parts and repair industry. They will lower your fees in two steps. First, they’re going to review your statement. Second, they’re going to show you how to drop your fees. It’s that easy. Find out exactly how much you can save head to NCCPgroup.com today. We’re back from our break.

And before the break, we were talking all about the features of this RCX fan drive manufactured by Horton. Dale, we’re recording this right now, it’s the fall of 2021 and winter’s coming. What technology does the RCX fan drive have that helps with cold starts for people who live in Northern Canada like me?

Dale Johnson:

Well, the basic function with the viscous fan drive, especially with the Horton RCX fan drives, there’s the internal rotor, which is like an impeller inside of a pump. So we’ll put it that way. And it’s rotating whenever the engine is rotating and there’s fluid inside of this fan drive, a silicone viscous fluid. When the valve is open, there’s a reservoir that holds this fluid internally. When the valve opens that fluid exits the reservoir and into the working area of the fan drive. Then when you put power to it, it closes that valve. And when it closes that valve, it doesn’t allow any more fluid to go into the internal workings or the working area of the fan drive. And as it’s rotating, it pumps the fluid out. And then your fan speed drops.

In the design of the valve inside the RCX is such that when it’s been sitting for at least an hour, an hour and a half to two hours, that valve is open and an older models of this cause clutches that fluid has a gravity flow in, it flows in, and it fills up that working area. With the Horton design that fluid isn’t allowed to flow in there until it’s rotating when the engine is running. So when you start it back up, it closes that valve and it pumps a minimal amount of fluid in there. And your fan speed drops faster because there isn’t the volume of fluid in there like there were with the older models of the viscous clutches.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, for all of us in those colder regions, we appreciate that because unfortunately there’s a few months ahead of us here where we’re going to be facing cold starts. So let’s just go from the top. When we look at all of these features and benefits at the end of the day, like you said, Horton’s responding to what customers are asking for based on the environments that they’re working in. And so what really is the impact on cost of operation or cost per mile when you opt for the RCX fan drive?

Dale Johnson:

It varies by application. I don’t like to put a lot of numbers on it, but we’ve had some customers that because of the operation and the smart clutch technology to speak that they seen an improvement because of the, you know, reducing the full-on fan time, for example, in a residual garbage truck, or a residential type garbage truck and did some testing, the fan clutch and an old pneumatic turned on 57 times in two hours, we put on an RCX fan drive and it reduced it down to less than nine times. And that was nine full engagements because it’s not running at full speed all the time. It can be more efficient at cooling the engine and it doesn’t require to turn on the full speed.

Jamie Irvine:

Right, and of course, this is dependent on the vocation, depending on the work environment, but this is not a minor little marginal improvement. This is a significant improvement.

Dale Johnson:

Yeah. And over the road vehicles has seen anywhere from 3/10 to 5/10 of mile per gallon improvement over the different models of fan clutches. Again, the vocation and the application is specific to those and how the vehicles are operated.

Jamie Irvine:

For over the road trucks that are traveling large distances every day, that a little bit of fuel. It doesn’t sound like a lot but as we all know, if you’re paying for the fuel, it adds up quick.

Dale Johnson:

Four bucks a gallon, and you have 250 trucks and you get 3/10 of a mile per gallon and you’re running from Georgia to California. That’s quite significant.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s going to pay for itself pretty quick. So you’ve worked at Horton for 33 years. What’s one thing you’ve just loved about the company and working there?

Dale Johnson:

I’m a farm boy from North Dakota and our factory is out in South Dakota, just 30 miles from where I grew up. When I started there as a machinist, but Horton, it’s a family owned company and we’re all treated like family. And they’ve afforded me the opportunities to advance. They’re community-minded and focused on the customer. It’s about doing the right thing at the right time and being fair and honest. So that’s what I enjoy about it. And it sounds cliche, but you’re part of a family.

Jamie Irvine:

And that’s not insignificant. You know, one of the things that we say at The Heavy-Duty Parts Report is the trucking industry is the backbone of society. And it is so important for us all to do whatever we can to support that industry. And so it sounds to me, like not only did you find a place where you could call home, but like you said, it aligned with your values and it feels really good to be able to play a small part in contributing to helping the trucking industry move forward, because it’s such an essential part of our society. We need it.

Dale Johnson:

Yeah. It’s truly a relationship business. That’s what I’ve learned in my 33 years that you build the trust and confidence of your customers and in your product.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, it’s amazing, right? Listen to the customer, give them what they ask for and sometimes give them a little more and they will always take care of you. You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with Dale Johnson, a Field Service Manager at Horton. To learn more about Horton, visit Hortonww.com. Links are in the show notes. Dale, thank you so much for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I really appreciate it.

Dale Johnson:

Thank you Jamie.

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