Volvo is a Swedish car manufacturer well-known for the safety standards implemented in its cars. For a long time, people have associated Volvo as a car brand that produced safe yet unexciting cars; despite performance and a long lifespan, people often cannot shake that the company produced bland and boxy designs. However, they still must be doing something right as the company’s engineering has gone beyond cars, making their trucks a serious contender for future long-haul vehicles.
The combined D13 engine and I-Shift automated-manual transmission take rates are close to 95%. The I-Shift take rate alone is more than 90%. When compared to any other vehicle, these statistics are hard to beat.
Volvo calls its bold idea the SuperTruck, a tractor trailer which was the result of a $40 million collaboration between Volvo and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Volvo SuperTruck has an average mileage of more than 12 miles per gallon (mpg). This is double the standard mileage of trucks now running on the highway.
The SuperTruck is not the product of brute-force engineering. It is the result of multiple approaches which include not only the engine, drive train, and truck and trailer design, but also software and engine programming.
The initial goal of the program was to increase freight efficiency by 50%. Impressively, the SuperTruck reached 88% freight efficiency. It also improved fuel efficiency by 70%, and exceeded 12 mpg, with some test runs reaching 13 mpg. The powertrain brake thermal efficiency also reached 50% – better than the 42% thermal efficiency baseline, effectively delivering 8% more power from the fuel.
It uses a new engine, the 2017 D13, which has better fuel efficiency than its predecessor. It incorporates turbo compounding and wave piston technology to achieve improved efficiency. The truck is more streamlined than before, as it has done away with almost all external features that can contribute to drag, including most of the side view mirrors. The remaining side mirrors were retained because these are mandated by law. All the rest of the mirrors have been replaced by external cameras and monitors conveniently located where the driver would have seen the mirrors.
The truck was not a reinvention, as 75% of its components are already in production. The remaining 25% are custom-fabricated to be better and smarter. The truck was designed to be aerodynamic; in that regard, there were compromises made, including a skirt which covers the sides of the trailer. To get to the wheels, wheel well panels must be raised. It also looks wider than its predecessor due to rear chassis flare which improves air movement down the trailer’s side.
Powertrain and Transmission
Another improvement was the powertrain package take rate. The combined D13 engine and I-Shift automated-manual transmission take rates are close to 95%. The I-Shift take rate alone is more than 90%. When compared to any other vehicle, these statistics are hard to beat.
Volvo has also invested in making software updates seamless. Traditional software updates required that the vehicle be brought back to the dealer for the update to be downloaded. Volvo has cut downtime for long haul operators with over-the-air software updates. This means updates can reprogram the engine without the need for the vehicle to visit the garage or dealership.
The SuperTruck demo is not for sale. However, the price tag starts at $2 million without the engine, transmission, and accessories like tv monitors, cameras, etc. which cost less than $20,000.