As part of its 2022 Electromobility Summit, Volvo Trucks North America spent a week inviting clients, partners, and the media to its customer center in Dublin, Virginia to highlight the work it has done to pioneer the electrification of the heavy trucking industry. The Volvo VNR, a Class 8 semi truck with the same appearance and feel as its predecessors to make it easy for drivers to jump in, is the centerpiece of Volvo Trucks’ operations in North America. Under the hood, however, is a powerful completely electric motor and battery system.
CleanTechnica visited the location to test drive the VNR on the Volvo test track, speak with Volvo experts, and find out what lies ahead for Volvo’s intriguing lineup of heavy-duty trucks. Numerous Volvo VNR vehicles have already left production and are in the hands of clients across North America. They are being produced at Volvo Trucks’ New River Valley factory right adjacent to the Customer Center.
Disclaimer: The author’s lodging and travel expenses to this event were covered by Volvo Trucks.
At their customer center in Dublin, Virginia, Volvo Trucks allowed a small group of customers and members of the media to drive a few loaded VNR semi trucks on their one-mile private test track. Volvo has worked hard to build the acceleration profile for maximum load stability while ensuring adequate performance for all the normal situations a heavy truck will be put to use because they have so much torque and power. A few circuits around the track shown that even with little to no experience, it’s simple to get in and start feeling at ease with the streamlined controls of a hefty vehicle like the VNR. The vehicle switches easily into drive with a single push of the Drive button on the dashboard, and we were off to the races. The air brakes operate similarly to those in a typical truck.
I was quietly rolling down the track, evaluating its outstanding three level regeneration and acceleration. Similar to passenger cars, the Volvo VNR’s regeneration system provides practical one-pedal driving for the vast majority of usage scenarios. I learned that the trailer was completely loaded with a 76,000 pound (34,400 kilogram) load after my test drive since it contained multiple pallet loads of sand. Although I may not have had enough practice operating a class 8 truck, I couldn’t tell at all, and the truck didn’t feel like it was having any trouble. Electric motors pack so much power into such a compact space that it is simply mind-blowing.
Take a look at these tiny individuals (pen for scale):
By simply switching between one of three settings on a lever to the right of the steering wheel, the regen may be readily adjusted. Because of this, drivers may easily modify the amount of regen to meet their needs at any given time. moving downward? Increase the regen to its maximum setting to recover some energy and protect the friction brakes. On the test drive, changing the regen’s setting from level zero to level three caused a same amount of slowdown as the regen in a Tesla Model Y Performance. Given that the truck was also slowed considerably by the weight of the trailer’s entire load, this achievement is remarkable. In every one of the many trucks put to the test, the regen felt quite in control and secure.
Integration vs. upheaval A practically silent ride is what fully electric power trains promise and provide, virtually removing all of the severe vibrations that are typical of the large diesel engines that generally power these enormous trucks. Similar to this, the two-speed transmission in Volvo’s VNRs has a single shift that occurs as the car accelerates from a low speed of under 24 miles per hour to a higher speed. This allows for maximum efficiency and guarantees that, when the driver needs it, the twin electric motors will deliver the best possible balance of power and torque to the ground.
The little bundle of power produced by these tiny twin motors and the two-speed transmission appears to be smaller than the engines found inside of passenger cars. The twin electric motor and transmission set is nearly the same size as the gearbox when compared side by side with Volvo’s enormous diesel engines and transmissions from vintage combustion-fired vehicles. This results in significant weight reductions for the engine. The huge battery packs that supply the energy required to power the twin electric motors rapidly offset any weight savings from the engine bay, of course.
COMFORTABLY LINKED Two of the many variables Volvo has included in the custom-built telematics system it designed are regeneration and acceleration. Due to the truck’s fully integrated telematics from the OEM, fleet operators may track important KPIs on a driver by driver and trip by trip basis. The entire cost of conducting business in terms of time, kilowatt-hours, and money for each route and each driver in the fleet are factors that are important to fleet management. These metrics include regeneration, acceleration, kilowatt-hour consumption, and efficiency.
This transparency is a game-changer because it gives fleet operators access to the capabilities they desire but didn’t know they needed, enabling entirely new degrees of fleet visibility. These technologies can be useful in enabling the gamification of efficiency within an operation; they are not meant to penalize drivers. Fleet managers are no longer required to review top-level data on diesel use, punch cards, or computerized records. In the electric future, they will only need to consult the reports generated by their telematic system to obtain the information. It’s simple to picture. Fleets may hold monthly contests and awards to recognize the most cost-effective drivers on each route, rewarding these drivers with gift cards, complimentary barbecue meals, and other perks. Take off!
Fully electric vehicles present a once-in-a-generation chance to rethink fleet operations and help fleet operators step up their emission reduction efforts. There are several new methods for acquiring data, optimizing costs, and refueling, and early adopters will have a big advantage over rivals. Volvo makes it simple for fleet managers to transition to fully electric fleets while also providing them with additional tools to advance their operations. The future is electric, as Volvo has made very obvious. Today is the future.
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