Volvo: We're Making Progress on Lighter Big Rigs

Volvo’s engineers have created a method for making lightweight trucks, the Sweden-based company said in a statement issued this week. Volvo claims it has chiefly used such technology in its aircraft engine parts, but Volvo’s research engineers are using similar means to reduce the weight of a heavy-duty truck’s cab and chassis by at least 20 percent by 2020.

Volvo Technology Project Manager Carl Fredrik Hartung announced that the company is making progress toward achieving a super-light vehicle. Using a computer simulation, hundreds of thousands of small design alterations were applied to reduce the truck’s total weight—without affecting other important components, such as the truck’s ability to carry loads and perform well in a crash.

A lighter vehicle can be powered by a smaller engine, regardless of whether it is a truck or a bus, Volvo maintains. If the lighter vehicle is equipped with an engine powered by renewable fuel, or hybrid solutions in which the diesel engine is jointly powered with an electric motor, then fuel consumption and thus carbon emissions can be further reduced, according to Volvo.

One of the challenges is that such an extra-light vehicle must be manufactured, at least partly, with stronger materials, which means that the truck must be produced in volumes large enough to keep costs down—and boost profits.

For now, the testing continues as Volvo, with its impeccable reputation for emphasizing road safety, takes stock of what it considers an important step toward realizing this goal.

As Volvo’s Hartung puts it: “It is important to conduct thorough computer simulations and standardize the manufacturing process so that it will be profitable to manufacture lighter vehicles for commercial use. We have come a long way but a great deal of work remains before the first super-light vehicles hit the road.” Progress toward an affordable light truck that hauls heavy cargo starts with thinking and tinkering.

[Source: Volvo]

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