MONTREAL, Que. — Keep your eyes peeled for a black Volvo cabover with “GLOBETROTTER” printed above the windshield deflector and a moose bumper bolted to the grille. Transport Robert is running two of them under a Transport Canada waiver for the next two years in a test of the robustness of their 24-volt electrical systems.
This is a Volvo project. Volvo brought two 2013 Volvo Globetrotter European tractors across the pond in the spring of 2013 and modified them in its North American headquarters in Greensboro, N.C. for the Canada trials. Robert is leasing the vehicles, acting primarily as the operator and keeper of maintenance and repair records.
Volvo wants to learn more about the durability of the Globetrotter’s 24-volt electrical system in different duty cycles, driving styles, living styles and cold climate operation. “Utilizing the Volvo FH (Front High cab) was the quickest way to put a 24V system into operation in North America,” a Volvo official told Truck News.
“We will run them for two years and prepare a report for every repair or maintenance task. We keep any parts that have to be replaced. Then they will be sent back to Sweden for a component analysis,” adds Yves Maurais, technical director, asset management, purchasing and conformity, Transport Robert.
Perhaps it seems unnecessary that a vehicle type as well seasoned as the Volvo FH, which was introduced in 1993, should need more testing for life in North America. But, Maurais explains, “The trucks in Europe do not pull the same weights, nor are they driven as fast. The trailers are shorter. Volvo wants to make sure the system is sturdy enough for North America.”
Volvo adds, “We hope to learn how the electrical system behaves and reacts … North American applications are different and often require higher hotel loads – using electrical accessories while the truck is parked.”
Robert will be running the tractors in heavy electrical demand situations such as B-trains, long combination vehicles and heavy hauling; ie., over-dimensional loads. “It is basically an endurance test,” Maurais says.
North American transport trucks have 12-volt systems, but there are advantages to 24-volt systems. “Advantages include enhanced startability, reduced cost and size of wiring due to higher currents and some opportunities to reduce the weight of the starter motor, alternator and window motors,” Volvo says.
“The 24-volt system has plenty of power for accessories and stronger electronic signals. With the amount of electronics involved in today’s trucks, the 24-volt system is better suited to handle all the requirements,” Maurais says.
Although Volvo’s main focus is on the performance of the 24V electrical system and driver and carrier feedback, Robert most certainly has an eye on the fuel consumption of the Globetrotter. In September 2013, Project Innovation Transport (PIT) compared the fuel consumption of the Globetrotter with a Volvo 2014 VNL 670 and a 2009 Volvo VNL 630 tractor. Robert is driving all three Volvo types and comparing them.
The test results are confidential, but according to Maurais, some Volvos can get up to 10 mpg, with an apples and oranges caveat that European and North American Volvos are set up to optimize fuel consumption at different speeds.
The Globetrotters have 460-hp engines, 1,696 lb.-ft. of torque, I-Shift transmissions and a 2.57 rear axle ratio. They are outfitted with Michelin XZA2 295/80 R22.5 tires on the steer axles; because of the forward location of the engine, the axles are rated for 12,200 lbs. The drive axle tires are the Michelin XDA 2+ 295/80 R 22.5. The wheelbase is 182 inches. The sleeper has a 30-inch bunk.
The Greensboro modifications include installing a 12-volt converter between the tractor and the trailer, a 90-watt solar panel on the roof, an electrical A/C & heating unit to eliminate idling and modifying the fifth wheel height to 47 inches.
As well, the Globetrotters have lane departure, anti-collision and automatic windshield wiper systems. Robert also opted for an aluminum moose bumper, which Volvo installed at its plant in Sweden. It takes five minutes to remove.
Volvo is making no confessions about whether it is preparing to introduce 24-volt tractors to the North American market.
“This project is part of our normal evaluation of possible solutions for our products,” Volvo says.” So are 24-volt transport trucks the future in North America? “It’s too soon to say, but there are some advantages,” Volvo adds.
Maurais comments that 12-volt transport trucks are behind the curve compared to construction vehicles, for example. He also reveals an interest in the cabover. “The ride is different and we will collect data and comments from our drivers. I don’t think there is a formal plan to introduce European trucks in North America any time soon, but we never know.”
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