Volvo tests long haul hybrid

Volvo Trucks first unveiled the Volvo Concept Truck in May 2016, and has now developed and enhanced the vehicle even further. In addition to the improvements in aerodynamics, rolling resistance and reduced weight, the new version also features a hybrid powertrain – one of the first of its kind for heavy-duty trucks in long haul applications.

Volvo Trucks CEO Claes Nilsson says, “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.”

The hybrid powertrain works by recovering energy when driving downhill on slopes steeper than one per cent, 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% of driving time. This will save between five and 10% 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.

Lars Mårtensson, director Environment and Innovation, Volvo Trucks, says, “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.”

The Volvo Concept Truck also builds on many of the gains achieved by its predecessor, namely improved aerodynamics, rolling resistance and reduced vehicle weight. Åke Othzén, chief project manager, Volvo Trucks, says, “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.”

The Volvo Concept Truck is the result of the Swedish part of a bilateral research project involving both the Swedish energy authority Energimyndigheten and the US Department of Energy.

An American Concept Truck, the SuperTruck project, was developed as part of the US Department of Energy’s SuperTruck programme, which promotes research and development to improve transport efficiency for long-haul operations in North America.