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Volvo introduces Canadian customers to I-Shift automated tranny

TORONTO, Ont. - Volvo's I-Shift automated mechanical transmission is coming to Canada where company officials hope it will receive a warm welcome. To prepare customers for the product launch, the comp...


TORONTO, Ont. – Volvo’s I-Shift automated mechanical transmission is coming to Canada where company officials hope it will receive a warm welcome. To prepare customers for the product launch, the company recently held a ‘getting to know you’ session where fleet managers were formally introduced to the single countershaft transmission with 12 forward gears.

About half of Volvo trucks overseas are currently spec’d with the I-Shift. Of course, North American drivers tend to be more resistant of technology they feel takes control out of their hands. Volvo’s hoping fleet managers and drivers will embrace the I-Shift when they understand the advantages the new transmission offers.

Firstly, there’s the improved fuel economy that comes with an AMT, explained Volvo’s Bo Hammerlid. The transmission shifts at optimum RPMs every time and skips one or two gears whenever possible. Smoother shifting also reduces strain on the driveline and tires.

The I-Shift also allows operators to reduce fuel use while in top gear – an industry first, said Hammerlid. A feature called Eco-Roll disengages the engine and lets it idle while the truck is descending a long, slight, downhill grade. Hammerlid said leaving the engine engaged while travelling down a slight grade is a waste of energy – kind of like pedaling a bicycle while travelling downhill.

There are five software packages available with the I-Shift, so it can be tailored to the specific application it’s intended for. The economy family includes: Basic; Enhanced Basic; and Fuel Economy modes. They each include a basic shifter – there’s no manual shift buttons or Economy/Performance buttons on the gearshift.

The performance family features the Performance and Comprehensive modes. These models allow the driver to switch between Economy and Performance operating modes. In Economy mode, the transmission selects shift points that maximize fuel mileage. In Performance mode, it focuses on maximum acceleration and gradeability, explained Hammerlid.

2007 engines

Volvo officials also took time to discuss their 2007 engine lineup and announced the new engines will come with a Discharge Recirculation Valve (DRV). This valve has been kept under wraps up until the information session, as Volvo is the only manufacturer to employ the new technology (currently being patented). It’s designed to “better facilitate active regeneration in difficult situations” such as extremely cold weather, explained Randy Fleming, powertrain sales manager with Volvo.

Volvo’s 2008 model trucks will have stainless steel smokestacks – a result of the exceptionally clean 2007 engines. In the past, soot from the engine would coat the inside of the smokestack, protecting it from corrosion. The new engines are so clean-burning, not enough soot accumulates on the stacks to protect them from rust, necessitating the stainless steel.

Fleming said the new engines will deliver about a 3% improvement in fuel mileage compared to today’s models (if lab testing on test benches holds true in the real world). The company has increased injection pressures from 29,000 psi to 35,000 psi, thanks to new dual solenoid injectors. Fleming said the result is a more efficient combustion process.

Volvo has also managed to double oil change intervals (to 30,000 miles) on its new generation of trucks. The D16 engine can go up to 45,000 miles if it’s spec’d with a 55-quart oilpan, Fleming said. He said Volvo is urging all customers to use ultra low-sulfur diesel and CJ-4 engine oils on all their trucks – old or new.

Customers will have to pay more attention to their rear axle ratio gearing, Fleming warned.

“Your cruising speed should be less than 1,500 RPM if fuel economy is important,” he said, adding 1,400 RPM is about right for most 80,000-lb applications. “Don’t assume the rear axle ratios you’re running now are going to be ideal.”

Volvo is also unveiling a rear-mounted geartrain on its 2008 model tractors, which along with a camshaft damper, reduces vibration and noise.

The 2007 engines will run warmer, but Volvo says its hood will look the same as it does today, since it already redesigned the hood to accommodate the increased cooling capacity in 2004. The new trucks will have a larger fan, which will be mounted on the engine.

When the fan is activated, it will only operate at the speed that’s required, pointed out Fleming. That feature extends belt life and saves fuel. He said the new trucks will have 30% less fan-on time than today’s trucks.

As far as diesel particulate filters (DPFs) go, Volvo will allow for a vertical (on the back of the cab) or compact (underneath the cab) mount. When frame space is not limited, the compact mount is recommended as it’s closer to the turbocharger so the exhaust can better retain its heat. The end result is a higher percentage of passive regeneration and improved fuel economy.

Customer support

Another feature Volvo touched on at the information session was the support the company is putting behind its 2007 engine line. Trucks with 2007 engines will come standard with Volvo Link Sentry and Volvo Action Service coverage for three years. Volvo Link Sentry constantly monitors the health of the vehicle and communicates fault codes back to Volvo Action Service – the company’s 24/7 support center. From there, Volvo Action Service can advise the driver whether to pull over and address the problem immediately, or to continue driving.

“It’s like having a team of service professionals travelling with your drivers 24/7,” explained Paul Kudla, national fleet manager with Volvo Trucks Canada.

Volvo Action Service also tracks other information, including: fuel used; distance travelled; percentage of driving time in the sweet spot; the use of cruise control; idle time; time above or below pre-set speeds; and fuel purchased versus fuel used. Weekly reports are generated which can be viewed online.

“You don’t have to hook a computer up to your truck,” to generate reports, Kudla pointed out.

Volvo Link Sentry also records stability system interventions and ABS engagements. After three years, customers can continue to subscribe to Volvo Link Sentry and Volvo Action Service at a cost of $22 per month.

Focus on safety

Finally, Volvo officials took some time to talk about safety and how it can impact a fleet’s operating costs. Carol Fawcett, marketing manager with Volvo, said the average truck has 2.2 accidents per million miles, costing an average of $84,000 including soft costs such as loss of use and reputation damage.

Since 30% of heavy-duty truck crashes are rollovers, Volvo has made its stability system (Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology) standard on all highway tractors. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found electronic stability systems can reduce rollovers by 67%.

That alone can reduce a fleet’s accident-related expenses by 20%, Fawcett pointed out.

Volvo has also strived to improve visibility with its sloped hood and large windshield. Fawcett said 90% of rear-end and intersection collisions can be eliminated if a driver is afforded one extra second of visibility.

For the same reason, the company has designed a clutter-free dash with an ergonomic layout.

Volvo also touted the safety benefits of its steel cabs. Aluminum cabs may be cheaper and lighter, Fawcett admitted, but she said the rivets can loosen over time. Volvo’s steel cabs are welded together and hold up better in a collision, she said.


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