Published: March 27, 2016 | Hagerstown, MD
Volvo’s state-of-the-art engine plant in Hagerstown (the truck assembly is in nearby Virginia) unveiled a new family of fuel-efficient engines (with up to 6.5 percent better performance), took a victory lap for selling a record 38,849 trucks, and showed off a new predictive cruise control application called I-See that will allow drivers to not only save fuel, but also attain better on-time performance.
I-See, said Volvo’s Wade Long, director of product marketing, works with the truck’s GPS unit. It maps up to 4,500 routes, taking specific measurements of every hill. The next time that hill is encountered, even with GPS not available, I-See (available in October in the U.S., in Europe now) will instruct the truck to accelerate to gather momentum, then assist in coasting (called “Eco Rolling”) and engine braking after the crest is attained.
I-See strategically uses the vehicle’s kinetic energy. “It also adjusts for the load the truck is carrying, as well as speed and engine load,” said Goran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America. Nyberg also pointed out that Volvo is working on dramatically improving truck fuel efficiency through an old racing trick (augmented with modern technology) called platooning. A vehicle traveling closely behind another has greatly improved aerodynamics—and thus much better performance and fuel economy. The lead truck controls steering, braking and accelerating.
I-See, when used with the truck’s regular cruise control, can result in a fuel economy savings of five percent. It also works best when coupled with Volvo’s improved automated manual transmission, I-Shift, which is now on 83 percent of the trucks sold.
I-Shift can also help with driver retention, said Volvo’s Justin Spence. The trucking industry is facing a shortfall of 75,000 drivers, which could skyrocket to 175,000 by 2024. Auto shifting may help recruit young drivers who can’t handle a manual, and it may keep older drivers—who face increasing difficulty handling a clutch—on the road longer.
Other trucking companies are also working on technologies like this. Daimler recently demonstrated platooning with three WiFi-connected, self-driving trucks on the A52 autobahn near Düsseldorf, Germany. The company says what it calls the Daimler Trucks Highway Pilot Connect system can cut fuel consumption as much as seven percent.