Shortly after returning from Charleston, it was back down to the southern states – if Virginia is considered a southern state. I visited Volvo’s New River Valley truck plant in Dublin, Va., where all Volvo trucks for the North American market are built. The purpose of the trip was to drive the 2016 model year Volvo VNs, and specifically a new powertrain configuration referred to as XE-Adaptive Gearing.
Adaptive gearing is intended for fleets that deliver diminishing loads or go out loaded and return home empty. Tanker, flatdeck and end-dump are a few examples of applications that might fall into this category.
When heavily loaded, the Volvo I-Shift locks out 12th gear, instead allowing the transmission to run in direct drive 11th gear for improved fuel economy, since direct drive transmissions don’t suffer from the parasitic losses inherent in overdrive transmissions. When the load is dropped off, load sensors on the rear axles indicate to the transmission that it’s alright to give the driver back 12th gear in overdrive, for improved performance and fuel economy.
XE-Adaptive Gearing has its limitations, which will make it a niche specification within the Canadian market. It’s currently approved for GVWs of just 80,000 lbs and works best at high average road speeds (ie. 64-70 mph).
But what’s interesting about XE-Adaptive Gearing is the lengths to which Volvo has gone, to provide an off-the-shelf powertrain specification geared towards a seemingly small segment of the market. They’re really changing the spec’ing process, by examining the operating characteristics of their customer base and then designing a powertrain spec’ that will work well for each of them, right out of the box. In the case of XE-Adaptive Gearing, it’s almost like having two powertrains in one, and it provides a fuel-efficient option even for customers who choose to run fast, where speed limits allow.
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