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Volvo's SuperTruck

According to a September 13, 2016 article in HDT Truckinginfo, Volvo Trucks North America has unveiled its SuperTruck demo rig which features a freight efficiency improvement of 88%. This exceeds the 50% goal set forth by the U.S. Department of Energy for the SuperTruck program using the 2009 Volvo VNL 670 model as a base comparison. (The DOE's SuperTruck program was a 5-year effort to boost freight efficiency or the ability to carry more payload with better fuel efficiency.) According to Truckinginfo, the new semi-truck technology responsible for the increased efficiency includes

  • solar panels on the top of the cab powering its battery and interior lights
  • a super-light aluminum frame
  • an advanced 425 horsepower 11-liter engine

The aerodynamic tractor-trailer combination enhanced fuel efficiency by a whopping 70%, consistently surpassing 12 miles per gallon in testing. (The base model 2009 Volvo VNL 670 got only 7 miles per gallon.) Powertrain brake efficiency was improved by 50%.

Truckinginfo notes that Volvo's sleek aerodynamic design features a shorter front end than trucks currently on the road, and a downward sloping hood. Cameras replace rearview mirrors, and lightweight fairings run the length of the cab and the truck, for streamlined management of airflow.

Two additional factors in better fuel efficiency are an enhanced version of Volvo's I-See, a new feature that memorizes thousands of frequently traveled routes and translates the knowledge into an optimized cruise speed, keeping the automated manual transmission in the most fuel-efficient gear possible at all times, and the downsized 11-liter Volvo engine, which features fuel-injection, cooling, oil and turbo-charging systems, and "wave" pistons. The truck also features a new waste-heat recovery system converts heat that is normally wasted as exhaust into torque, which helps to power the truck, for another way to boost fuel economy.

Although the truck touts great advances in several areas, the DOE recently announced a SuperTruck II program, and Volvo has once again been selected to participate. The new program will target 100% improvement on a ton-mile-per-gallon basis and a powertrain capability of 55% brake thermal efficiency. Stay tuned!