Street Smarts: A Bittersweet Milestone for Navistar

29 November 2023

Production begins on last ICE powertrain the OEM will ever produce.

Like truck and engine OEMs the world over, Navistar is currently planning for a zero-emissions future while striving to provide the cleanest and most efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) technology possible during the transition away from diesel. A big part of that effort was highlighted on Oct. 17, when Navistar inaugurated the start of production on the new International S13 integrated powertrain at the company’s Huntsville, Ala., production facility.

A ceremonial ribbon cutting opened the new assembly line at the Huntsville Powertrain Plant, which will support production of S13 Integrated Powertrain components. (Photos: Navistar)

It was an event made all the more significant by the recognition that the S13 powertrain will be the last ICE that International will ever produce.

Navistar – at the time International Harvester – designed and built its first proprietary ICE in 1907. This means that when production of the S13 powertrain ceases sometime in the next decade, it will mark the end of over a century of reliance on ICE technology for the company and the transition to a whole new range of zero-emission vehicles.

Important milestone

Navistar recently completed a 110,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the Huntsville Powertrain Plant to support production of S13 Integrated Powertrain components. The now 410,000-sq.-ft. facility has transitioned from a single assembly line to two — one for the T14 transmission and one for S13 powertrain assembly — plus incorporates three major machining lines. It will be the first time the plant will produce a transmission.

A ceremonial ribbon cutting opened the new highly automated assembly line as plant workers and a host of dignitaries from the state of Alabama, the city of Huntsville and Navistar and Traton executives celebrated the event.

Speaking prior to the ceremony, Stefan Palmgren, executive vice president, production and logistics, Navistar, noted that while the S13 powertrain is the right solution for North American fleets today, the company’s eyes are firmly fixed on the future.

Navistar’s Stefan Palmgren speaking at the dedication of Navistar’s S13 powertrain production line at the Huntsville Powertrain Plant.

“We at Navistar are on a journey to accelerate the impact of sustainability with zero-emission solutions that support the future growth of our customers,” he said. “This ICE is an important milestone on that journey. Our S13 powertrain and ICE technology today provide a balance for our customers by providing them with a cleaner yet more affordable propulsion technology to use while zero-emission technologies build out.”

Clean-sheet design

Announced in August 2022, the S13 Integrated Powertrain, developed in collaboration with the Traton Group, significantly increases operating efficiency, reduces operating costs and provides greater profitability for customers, according to Ryan Ludera, S13 program manager for Navistar.

Ludera said the S13 powertrain is a highly efficient ICE option for fleets, delivering advanced fuel efficiency and performance through combustion efficiency and a reduction of friction and pumping losses. He noted that its dual stage aftertreatment system eliminates exhaust gas recirculation, ensuring a more complete fuel burn and allowing cleaner air to enter the combustion chamber on the intake cycle to mitigate soot buildup.

“This was a clean-sheet design that resulted from a partnership between Traton, Scania and Navistar,” Ludera said. “These groups all stood up to figure out how to develop this powertrain as a global platform, but still allow it to be tailored to meet North American fleet needs.”

Jack Roberts is a Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based independent journalist and licensed commercial driver with more than 20 years’ experience covering the North American and global trucking industries.

“A modular design allowed us faster time to market while improving quality and reliability,” Palmgren added. “This also allows for regional adaptation to address specific customer needs around the world.”

Ludera called the S13 powertrain “the most efficient” that Navistar has ever designed and built. “We are focused on efficiency with this integrated powertrain,” he said. “We can give fleets longer service intervals and a tremendous improvement in fuel economy. The S13 powertrain delivers 15% better fuel economy than a non-integrated powertrain. All this gives our customers lower total cost of ownership as well as sustainability.”

The S13 goes into production with thousands of hours of research and development work behind it, as well as millions of road-test miles and extensive climate testing to validate its performance. Ludera said “the keys will soon be in customer hands,” and he is excited to see the powertrain finally entering into fleet service.


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