The race toward eco-friendly transportation has mostly involved innovating more and more compact commuter cars, but big trucks need to get green as well. Volvo has been working on its SuperTruck concept for the past five years, which initially aimed to increase fuel efficiency by 50 percent over existing cargo trucking technology. Now, Volvo says the SuperTruck is 70 percent more fuel efficient than a comparable base model and has achieved over 12 miles per gallon in tests which, for a semi truck, is really stellar.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a challenge to car companies to create a cargo truck with 50 percent higher freight efficiency over existing trucks. Five years later, the Volvo SuperTruck has exceeded that goal. The truck’s lightweight design is a key element of its efficiency, and Volvo managed to create a concept semi truck that weighs over 3,200 lbs less than its cousins on the road. Most of the weight was saved by the aluminum chassis, which is half the weight of traditional steel (only the bolts on the SuperTruck are steel). Because of the vast difference in weight, the SuperTruck uses a slightly smaller engine, which increases fuel efficiency even further.
The SuperTruck’s entire roof, hood and side fairings are made from lightweight but super strong carbon fiber, which increases performance while saving weight. To reduce production costs, Volvo is working to develop alternative materials, such as a recycled version of carbon fiber.
Volvo created a new integrated powertrain with refined mechanics to chase peak efficiency as well. There was no existing technology to achieve the program’s goals, so the company and its partners designed a new turbo compounding system to recover the energy normally wasted, boosting fuel efficiency by up to 6.5 percent. In tests, the SuperTruck rates more than 12 miles per gallon, compared to the 4 to 8mpg by current semi trucks on the road.
Images via Volvo