Volvo’s SuperTruck 2: Cutting-Edge Aerodynamics and Advanced Engineering
In a groundbreaking revelation, Volvo Trucks North America has unveiled the SuperTruck 2, a marvel of engineering and innovation that has shattered expectations in the realm of freight efficiency. The SuperTruck 2 program, a collaborative effort with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), tasked Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) with the audacious goal of achieving a 100% improvement in freight efficiency compared to their 2009 baseline. Despite the formidable challenges posed by supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Volvo Trucks not only met the DOE’s objective but exceeded it, achieving a remarkable 134% increase in freight efficiency.
The SuperTruck 2 made its grand debut on Volvo Trucks’ official YouTube channel, providing a comprehensive overview of its achievements and technological innovations. This monumental achievement will be showcased at the American Trucking Associations’ 2023 Management Conference & Exhibition in Austin, TX, offering a glimpse of the styling and engineering cues that will shape the future of the trucking industry.
Peter Voorhoeve, the president of Volvo Trucks North America, expressed his enthusiasm for the collaboration with the DOE, stating, “Partnering with the DOE for the SuperTruck program provides an exciting opportunity to push the technology envelope to see what’s technically possible for heavy-duty transportation and which solutions can be scaled into production, but equally important, which solutions don’t work for scaled production. We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of our advanced engineering team who worked on SuperTruck 2. A program of this magnitude pushes the limits in every possible area — creativity, problem solving, feasibility and innovation, to which we feel we did successfully. Some of the technologies on SuperTruck 2 will most certainly shape the future of trucking and change everything we once thought possible.”
The DOE’s SuperTruck 2 program is designed to promote research and development in the pursuit of enhancing the freight efficiency of heavy-duty Class 8 long-haul tractor-trailer trucks. The objective is to accelerate the development of cost-effective advanced efficiency technologies that are not currently available in the market. For SuperTruck 2, all participating OEMs were tasked with demonstrating more than a 100% improvement in vehicle freight efficiency measured in ton-miles per gallon. Volvo Trucks not only met this goal but exceeded its own internal stretch target of a 120% freight efficiency improvement relative to the 2009 baseline, achieving a staggering 134% improvement during real-world demonstrator validation.
The cornerstone of Volvo Trucks’ SuperTruck 2 program is advanced aerodynamics. The truck features a wedge-shaped cab, a raked and wraparound windshield, a downsized cooling package, and a fully aerodynamic trailer equipped with gap fairings, skirts, and a boat tail. To further reduce drag, Volvo Trucks replaced traditional hood and cab-mounted mirrors with a streamlined camera monitoring system, resulting in over 4% less drag.
This holistic approach to aerodynamics has led to a 50% reduction in drag compared to Volvo Trucks’ 2009 baseline, marking an approximately 20% improvement over their earlier SuperTruck 1 model. Most of these aerodynamic gains in SuperTruck 2 can be attributed to a brand-new cab design, including a radically different windshield. SuperTruck 2 has demonstrated the potential for significant aerodynamic enhancements by altering the Body-in-White.
In addition to advancements in aerodynamics, engineers implemented several weight reduction strategies, achieving a significantly reduced curb weight of 27,000 lbs. for the combined truck and trailer. The 4×2 configuration used by Volvo Trucks, while less common in the U.S., is frequently employed in Europe, allowing for fewer axles while maintaining the same payload capacity. Furthermore, the truck features an aluminum chassis and an optimized drive axle system with a single composite driveshaft.
Volvo Trucks worked closely with project partners to develop a custom, lightweight aerodynamic trailer that seamlessly complements the truck’s design. Additionally, a tire manufacturer provided lightweight, smaller 19.5-inch advanced low-friction tires for both the SuperTruck 2 and its custom trailer.
The SuperTruck 2 also places a strong emphasis on the driving environment, featuring a 48-volt micro hybrid system that acts as a generator with an integrated starter. This system powers driver comfort features, including an all-electric HVAC system that allows drivers to avoid idling during rest breaks while still enjoying amenities.
Voorhoeve emphasized that the SuperTruck 2 was rigorously tested in real-world conditions. It faced challenges on roads with traffic and elevation changes, all with a Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW) of 65,000 lbs. The results speak volumes about the potential for technology innovations to be developed commercially.
Volvo Trucks collaborated with several project partners to bring the SuperTruck 2 to fruition, including Bergstrom, Johnson Matthey, Metalsa, Michelin, Motivo Engineering, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knight Transportation, Wabash National, Wegmans, and the University of Michigan.
The Volvo SuperTruck 2 is not just a remarkable achievement; it represents a significant leap forward in the realm of heavy-duty transportation and freight efficiency. The innovations showcased in this program are poised to reshape the future of the trucking industry, ushering in a new era of advanced technology and sustainability. Volvo Trucks’ commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible sets a high standard for the future of trucks, with potential benefits for both the industry and the environment.