Volvo: Changes will boost fuel efficiency 8%

LOUISVILLE, KY. Several changes to powertrain components and aerodynamics have boosted fuel efficiency of new VN highway series tractors 8% over those with EPA 2007 engines, Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) said today at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The use of fleet management and driver development tools could push those gains even higher, the company said.

LOUISVILLE, KY. Several changes to powertrain components and aerodynamics have boosted fuel efficiency of new VN highway series tractors 8% over those with EPA 2007 engines, Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) said today at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The use of fleet management and driver development tools could push those gains even higher, the company said.

See video of the new aerodynamic Volvo

VTNA also unveiled new interior features and announced that it has gained market share, according to its February numbers.

“Volvo Trucks continues to aggressively target areas to help lower our customers’ operating costs,” said Ron Huibers, Volvo Trucks senior vice president, sales and marketing. “Labor and fuel are the top expenses across the industry and the situation doesn’t appear to be changing. Analysts predict a large driver shortage and diesel prices continue to rise, but we’re confident our product enhancements will help fleets attract and retain drivers and further our position as fuel efficiency leaders.”

Volvo’s 2010 engines use its “No Regen” SCR technology. The company has recently introduced a new 455 hp. Volvo D13 engine with available torque ratings of 1,550/1,750 lbs.-ft. The new rating complements the company’s existing eco-torque and dual-torque ratings of 405, 425, 475, and 500 hp. to maximize fuel economy by offering a driver-intuitive, easy-to-use algorithm that rewards fuel-efficient driving and encourages low-rpm engine operation, VTNA said.

“Eco-torque and dual-torque ratings take advantage of high-torque-rise engine curves and take effect in the top two gears, where drivers in line-haul operations spend as much as 95% of their driving time,” said Ed Saxman, Volvo Trucks’ drivetrain product manager. “On demand, engine torque will increase by 200 lbs.-ft. – even 300 lbs.-ft. in the case of the 425 hp. engine – to allow the vehicle to remain in top gear on most grades. Eco-torque ratings allow full performance and fuel economy in the remaining gears, while dual-torque ratings are available to allow lower-rated transmissions to be used.”

Volvo Trucks also offers the eco-torque ratings on both its D11 and D16 engines.

To complement the engines, Volvo has created the mass-based variable torque software program. The software senses the gross combination weight of the truck and adjusts the engine’s torque when the truck is hauling less weight. This improves fuel efficiency, the company said.

Aerodynamically, 2011 Volvo VN model trucks will include redesigned mirror heads with aerodynamic shrouds and arms, redesigned hood mirrors that also increase visibility, new bumper and side fairings, and a newly designed bug deflector that reduces fuel efficiency degradation compared to aftermarket devices.

Volvo Trucks’ VN day cab models also now offer a more aerodynamic roof fairing and sun visor.

“The fuel enhancement package allows customers to optimize airflow around the cab, eliminating turbulence during the transfer of air to the trailer and improving fuel efficiency,” said Frank Bio, Volvo Trucks product manager.

Because drivers play such a large role in fuel efficiency, Volvo Trucks is offering a fuel management tool though Volvo Link. The tool provides weekly reports with driver and vehicle data so managers can compare their fleet’s results with similar fleets for benchmarking purposes.

Volvo also rolled out an online driver development program – www.edrivertraining.com – focused on providing drivers with technical knowledge about their truck, information about active safety features, and techniques for maximizing the fuel efficiency performance of their vehicle.

The company is also offering three new interior options and 10 new seat coverings for 2011.

“Professional drivers use their truck as a living space, to work, cook, eat, sleep and socialize, so we want to provide contemporary designs that are functional and create a relaxing environment,” Bio said. “We gave each trim level a complete overhaul and introduced a softer color pallet with contrasting, multidimensional fabrics to complement our ergonomic cab design.”

According to Huibers, Volvo Trucks held 13% of the U.S. Class 8 market in February, following up on a 2% gain in 2010.

“We clearly executed on our North American turnaround strategy in 2010,” Huibers said, “and we’ve carried that momentum into 2011. Combined with our two-point market share gain last year, the 13% U.S. Class 8 share we earned in February has sent a strong message that we fully intend to be leaders in this market.”

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