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Volvo Group to bring heavy-duty hybrid to commercial truck market

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A partnership with the US Air Force has enabled Volvo Group to prove its I-SAM hybrid technolog...


This Mack Granite is powered by a hybrid engine that harnesses braking power and uses it to help power the vehicle.
This Mack Granite is powered by a hybrid engine that harnesses braking power and uses it to help power the vehicle.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A partnership with the US Air Force has enabled Volvo Group to prove its I-SAM hybrid technology is viable for heavy-duty applications, the company announced yesterday.

I-SAM (Integrated Starter Alternator Motor) technology can deliver fuel savings of up to 35% depending on application and driving conditions, announced Leif Johansson at a press briefing in the US capital. Mack Trucks has received four contracts from the US Air Force to develop hybrid-powered trucks and plans to take the technology to the commercial truck market.

A number of heavy-duty hybrids will be built in 2007, with customer field testing set to commence in 2008 and serial production in 2009. Johansson said there is a substantial potential market for heavy-duty hybrids in North America and Europe: 20,000 refuse; 80,000 construction; and 200,000 urban delivery vehicles are already in operation, he pointed out.

Theres a big market out there, Johansson told a gathering of trade press editors yesterday.

Sten-Ake Aronsson, head of Volvo Powertrain in North America, said the heavy-duty hybrid trucks consist of: a traditional diesel engine; a Volvo I-Shift automated mechanical transmission; an electronic motor that generates electric power (about 160 hp); a power/electronics box; an energy storage box; and a powertrain control unit.

The electric motor delivers full torque as soon as the throttle is applied, improving efficiency, he pointed out. The vehicle harnesses braking energy and stores it for use during acceleration. While powered by the electric motor, the vehicle operates nearly soundlessly, which makes it ideal for applications in urban areas where noise is a concern, Aronsson said.

Paul Vikner, president and CEO of Mack Trucks, said Mack is leading the hybrid charge for Volvo Group, thanks to its partnership with the US Air Force. Macks four contracts with the military are worth US$6.8 million and include the building of six vehicles. The cost of building hybrid trucks is the largest barrier to widespread commercial use, Vikner pointed out, adding the company is seeking other partnerships with refuse companies, municipalities and government.

The value proposition for heavy-duty hybrids is founded on fuel savings, reduced emissions, auxiliary power generation (which can power hydraulics and other components), environmental responsibility, and reduced noise. However, Vikner admitted companies are concerned about the initial cost of the technology as well as cost of operations and reliability. He suggested government should provide incentives for companies to explore the benefits of hybrids, until the value of heavy-duty hybrids can be proven in real-world applications.

We cant sell a lot of these right off the shelf, Vikner said. We would like to work with more partners and create more deals with the people who are going to be servicing these vehicles and to really test these vehicles in real-world circumstances.

He said incentives would help jump-start the use of heavy-duty hybrids, but eventually They will begin to sell themselves.

For more information about how the technology works, as well as a first-hand account of how they operate, pick up the February issues of Truck News and Truck West.


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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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