After five years of research, Volvo Trucks has unveiled the Volvo Concept Truck, which reduces fuel consumption by 30 percent. In addition to improved aerodynamics and reduced weight, the truck features a hybrid powertrain – one of the first of its kind for heavy-duty trucks in long haul applications.

”Today, long haul transport accounts for a significant share of the total energy consumption in the transportation sector. Using hybrid technology, the potential reduction in fuel and emissions is considerable and an important step towards reaching both our and society’s environmental goals for the future”, says Lars Mårtensson, Director Environment and Innovation, Volvo Trucks.

Concept truck reduces fuel consumption

With support from the Swedish Energy Agency, Volvo Trucks has developed a new concept vehicle, the Volvo Concept Truck. It is the result of a five year long research project aimed at creating more energy-efficient vehicles. The new concept truck, first unveiled in May 2016, cuts fuel consumption by more than 30 percent.

Volvo Trucks’ hybrid vehicle for long haul applications reduces fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by around 30 percent. Photo: Volvo Trucks.

”We continuously work on developing more energy-efficient vehicles. This is a high-priority area both out of environmental concern and in order to reduce our customers’ costs. We’re proud to be able to drive this development. Our concept truck showcases the immense power of on-going technical advances”, says Claes Nilsson, President and CEO Volvo Trucks.

”One of the key factors behind the low fuel consumption is the massive 40 % improvement in aerodynamic efficiency that has benefited both the tractor and trailer. We’ve modified the entire rig and optimised it for improved aerodynamics as much as possible. For instance, we use cameras instead of rear-view mirrors. This cuts air resistance, so less energy is needed to propel the truck”, says Åke Othzén, Chief Project Manager, Volvo Trucks.

In addition to the aerodynamic improvements, the concept vehicle is fitted with newly developed tyres with lower rolling resistance. The trailer weighs two tonnes less than the reference trailer, which translates into either lower fuel consumption or the possibility of higher payload. The project also includes an improved driveline.

Work on the Volvo Concept Truck has been in progress since 2011. The aim is to improve the efficiency for long-haul truck transportation by 50 percent. Since the concept vehicle is part of a research project it will not be available on the market. However, some of its aerodynamic features have already been implemented on Volvo Trucks’ series-produced vehicles, and more of its solutions may be fitted in the future. The research project is a bilateral joint venture between Sweden and the USA involving support from the Swedish Energy Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. The American SuperTruck project aims to increase transport efficiency for long-haul operations on the North American market.

Hybrid powertrain reduces impact on climate

With the Volvo Concept Truck, Volvo Trucks has developed its first hybrid vehicle designed for long haul applications. The hybrid powertrain is one of the first of its kind for heavy-duty trucks in long haul transports, and in combination with the vehicle’s other improvements, the total reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 is around 30 percent.

”We strive to be at the forefront of electromobility and to constantly push the limits when it comes to reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Over the coming years, as society moves more and more towards renewable energy, we strongly believe that electromobility and hybrid technology will become increasingly important. The powertrain in our concept truck has been developed to improve transport efficiency and thereby help the industry towards sustainable transport. With the concept truck we will gain valuable knowledge and experience, which will help us develop the technology further”, Claes Nilsson says.

Volvo’s concept trucks are important platforms for verifying new environment-friendly technologies, says Åke Othzén, Chief Project Manager, Volvo Trucks. Photo: Volvo Trucks.

The hybrid powertrain works by recovering energy when driving downhill on slopes steeper than one percent, or when braking. The recovered energy is stored in the vehicle’s batteries and used to power the truck in electric mode on flat roads or low gradients. An enhanced version of Volvo Trucks’ driver support system I-See has been developed specially for the hybrid powertrain, which analyses upcoming topography to calculate the most economical and efficient choice between the diesel engine and the electric motor, as well as the optimal time to use the recovered energy.

In long haul transportation, it is estimated that the hybrid powertrain will allow the combustion engine to be shut off for up to 30 percent of the driving time. This will save between 5-10 percent in fuel, depending on the vehicle type or specification, and its drive cycle. It also offers the ability to drive in full electric mode for up to 10 kilometres, enabling the vehicle to operate with zero emissions and low noise.

”This is a platform for verifying several new technologies for increasing transport efficiency. Some of these developments have already been introduced to our trucks, and some will be introduced in the near future. The hybrid powertrain is partly based on knowledge and experience from Volvo Buses’ hybrid and electric buses”, says Åke Othzén.

The article was published in March 2017.