Research to push limits of Volvo electric trucks in extreme temperatures

Volvo Trucks North America will test how its Class 8 VNR Electric performs in extreme temperatures through a project with the University of Minnesota, Murphy Logistics Solutions, and HEB Grocery Company in Texas.

It’s part of a Battery Efficiency for Sustainable Trucks (BEST) project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technology Office.

Two VNR Electric trucks with six-battery configurations — and rated ranges of 275 miles (440 km) — will be used in the tests to help understand performance in the face of different routes, terrains, and payload weights. Murphy and HEB will follow routes of more than 250 miles (400 km) per day, beginning with a full charge and returning with about a 10% state of charge by the end of the shift.

Volvo and University of Minnesota researchers
Volvo is partnering with the University of Minnesota, Murphy Logistics, and HEB Grocery to put VNR Electric models through their paces in extreme temperatures. (Photo: Volvo Trucks North America)

“This research project is a critical step to ensuring the efficiency and reliability of Class 8 battery-electric trucks regardless of the environmental factors,” Keith Brandis, Volvo Group’s vice-president of system solutions and partnerships, said in a press release. “The results of this testing can be expected to bolster fleets’ confidence in the Volvo VNR Electric trucks’ reliability and performance in all weather conditions while still providing the creature comforts for drivers.” 

An integrated battery thermal management system’s dedicated heating and cooling system is designed to help optimize the battery range that would otherwise be affected by extreme temperatures.

It isn’t the only way temperatures can affect vehicle range. Drivers are more likely to tap into auxiliary power to cool or warm their cabs at temperatures above room temperature, Volvo notes. 

Energy management system

The university has also developed an intelligent energy management system to help fleets understand how driving styles can affect range, take advantage of energy-efficient routes, and lower the cost and time required for on-route battery charging. Its machine-learning algorithm informs drivers about available range and charging requirements based on loads and ambient temperatures. And it’s already helped Murphy and HEB boost available range by 20%.

“Collaborating on research projects that will have a direct impact on the viability of battery-electric trucks in extreme weather provides a tremendous opportunity for our faculty and students to not only gain insight into the role that research and development plays in industry but make a real difference in advancing sustainable transportation,” said William Northrop,  professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Thomas E. Murphy Engine Research Laboratory at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

“Most testing in the past has been in a lab setting but now we are working with two fleets to improve real-world route efficiency and driver productivity to validate our data and software.” 

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