Volvo Trucks North America claims to have taken a serious leap forward with its groundbreaking SuperTruck 2. This tractor-trailer was aiming to meet the US Department of Energy's challenge for a 100% efficiency increase and even exceeded it, achieving a 134% boost in efficiency. However one may argue that the task wasn’t so difficult since the baseline was set by a 2009 truck.
At the heart of SuperTruck 2's efficiency is (unsurprisingly) its aerodynamic design. The cabin is shaped into a sleek wedge, complemented by a wraparound windshield. This design, coupled with meticulously engineered fairings and a boat tail on the trailer, allows the SuperTruck 2 to slice through the air with 50% less drag than the models from 2009.
Volvo also reduced the vehicle's weight by employing a composite driveshaft and minimizing the number of axles. The cab, shorter than its peers, also uses lighter materials.
Volvo's vision extends beyond just road performance. The SuperTruck 2 features a 48-volt mild hybrid system, a smart addition that allows drivers to use comfort features without the need for prolonged engine idling. This thoughtful integration highlights Volvo's commitment to efficiency at every turn.
Peter Voorhoeve, President of Volvo Trucks North America, emphasizes that the SuperTruck 2 was rigorously tested under real-world conditions, not just in controlled environments. This approach ensures that the truck's efficiency gains are practical and applicable in everyday scenarios, a crucial aspect for a concept vehicle aiming to influence future production models.
While the SuperTruck 2 remains a concept, its influence is already percolating into Volvo's production trucks. The insights gained from this project are shaping the future of trucking, focusing on real-world efficiency and environmental responsibility.
While the SuperTruck 2 is a hybrid vehicle, it has an all-electric cousin - the VNR Electric 6×2 Day Cab Tractor, boasting a range of 275 miles courtesy of a huge 565 kWh battery. This electric powerhouse generates 455 hp (339 kW/461 PS) and an astonishing 4,051 lb-ft of torque, marking a significant step in Volvo's journey towards sustainable transportation.
It’s a commendable effort for sure, but it feels removed from reality, it feels as if Volvo engineers were locked up in the factory without access to the outside world. While 275 miles range is impressive for a tractor-trailer unit on its own, it should be benchmarked against the best in the industry - and that, whether we like it or not - is the Tesla Semi at the moment.
Going by the same token, boasting about the SuperTruck 2’s efficiency improvements based on a 2009 truck isn’t really something to be shouting about from the rooftops. 14 years in automotive technology is a very long time and while the improvements are desperately needed, Volvo - out of all the automotive companies out there - should be aiming a wee bit higher.