When you think of Volvo, sleek isn’t the very first thing that pops into your mind.
Sure, these describe their cars…..from a few decades ago. These days, the stereotype falls flat on its face as Volvo has done a complete 360 in the past decade. From design to automotive engineering, Volvo has proven its a force to be reckoned with in the auto industry. Here are just a few awards won by Volvo cars and trucks:
The 2017 Volvo S90 won Automobile’s Design of the Year.
The 2016 Volvo XC90 won the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) award for automotive excellence.
The Volvo Dynamic Steering makes arrow-straight driving stable in any road condition; this won an Swedish Institute of Quality Innovation of the Year in 2013.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
Up for a New Challenge?
5 years ago, Volvo Trucks was handed a new challenge by the U.S. Department of Energy to create a more energy-efficient truck, with improved freight efficiency of up to 50 percent.
Volvo Trucks, a subsidiary of Volvo Cars, rose to the challenge and in 2015, delivered the first version of their concept truck. Following a number of refinements, they released a newer version in 2016.
With the alternative fuel market booming (every major manufacturer has at least 1 hybrid vehicle in its line up), one would expect Volvo to be playing catch-up right?
The company unveiled a truck to rival the best of them.
Fuel Efficient Trucks are a Possibility
To digress for a bit – vehicles like the Volvo concept truck, represents a new era where commercial trucks and long-haul big rigs are making even more gains, in fuel efficiency, than passenger vehicles. With large commercial trucks being a major source of emissions, any steps to improve the fuel economy (and thus cut carbon-dioxide emissions) is long overdue.
With the Volvo Supertruck Concept vehicle, Volvo focused on 4 key elements to improve efficiency:
Improved Aerodynamics: Based on the sheer size and shape of a big rig, aerodynamic drag has been a constant source of fuel inefficiency. But Volvo has managed to achieve a massive 40 % improvement in aerodynamic efficiency by:
Replacing the conventional rear-view mirrors with cameras to reduce air resistance. This has the added advantage of offering better visibility and increased safety. Adding aerodynamic spoilers that extend the trailer and cut air resistance, so less energy is needed to propel the truck.
Low Rolling Resistance Tires: The concept truck is fitted with low rolling resistance tires that are designed to reduce energy loss, by decreasing the effort required for a full revolution. This leads to vastly improved fuel efficiency.
In the Volvo, the accompanying trailer is also 2 tonnes lighter than a regular trailer. This offers a number of advantages including lower fuel consumption or the possibility of transporting a higher payload.
Hybrid Powertrain: A new introduction in vehicles of this size, Volvo’s diesel-electric hybrid powertrain works by recovering energy when the vehicle is driving downhill or braking. The stored energy kicks in when it’s in all-electric mode to coast along flat roads or low gradients. The electric motor can be used up to 30% of the time, improving fuel economy by up to 10%.
I-See Driver-Assist System: One of Volvo’s many innovations, the I-see driver-assist system, makes an appearance in the Volvo concept truck. This enhanced version of Volvo’s driver support system, uses GPS data and digital maps to analyze the surrounding topography.
Advanced software then determines the most efficient use of the available power sources, the best times for energy recovery and the optimal time to deploy the power stored in the battery packs.
From Concept to Reality
Volvo stresses that this Concept Truck is just a concept. However the innovations discovered during its production have already found their way into passenger cars and trucks. The ultimate goal of reducing fuel consumption by exactly 50% hasn’t been reached, but with vehicles like the Concept Truck showing what’s possible, I don’t think we’ll have to wait for much longer.
Also with manufacturers from Mercedes to Nikola developing their take on alternative power sources, it’s only a matter of time. Concepts from all-electric to hydrogen fuel cell to hybrid battery-electric systems to hybrid electric-internal combustion engines, are all in development.
It does seem like the era of the combustion engine is firmly on its way out.
With more collaboration and partnerships, we can create a transport system with less environmental impact, less congestion without sacrificing capacity. At BrightOrder, we welcome innovation and we can’t wait to see more of the new concepts make the jump from prototype to production in the near future. What do you think?
Should concept vehicles remain concepts or should they have a place in the industry?