In 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy presented Volvo Trucks with a formidable challenge: design a tractor-trailer that boasted a staggering 100 percent more efficiency than a baseline equivalent. Today, Volvo proudly announces that it not only met this challenge but exceeded it by a substantial margin.
The automaker claims that its SuperTruck 2, born out of a focus on aerodynamic enhancements and material innovation, is a remarkable 134 percent more efficient than a similar tractor-trailer from 2009, the year they established as their baseline.
President of Volvo Trucks North America, Peter Voorhoeve, expressed the significance of this accomplishment: “Partnering with the DOE for the SuperTruck program provides an exciting opportunity to push the technology envelope to see what’s technically possible for heavy-duty transportation. We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of our advanced engineering team who worked on SuperTruck 2.”
Much of the newfound efficiency in the SuperTruck 2 stems from its enhanced aerodynamics. The cab exhibits substantial reductions in drag. Moreover, the fairings and boat tail on the trailer contribute to 50 percent less drag than Volvo's 2009 baseline truck.
However, there is more to this efficiency than simply slicing through the air. Volvo went to great lengths to reduce the weight of the truck by employing a composite driveshaft and fewer axles than the typical American truck. The cab itself is more compact, requiring less material in its construction.
Furthermore, the SuperTruck 2 features a 48-volt mild hybrid system acting as a generator with an integrated starter, ensuring drivers can run comfort features without having to idle the engine for extended periods. Though designed as a concept, Volvo is quick to highlight that the insights gained during the development process are already being integrated into their production trucks.
They are committed to testing the project's efficiency gains in real-world conditions. As Peter Voorhoeve pointed out, "Data wasn’t just gathered in a lab or on flat, empty roads with optimal conditions and a light load. Instead, our SuperTruck 2 was tested in real-world scenarios on roads with traffic and elevation changes with a GCVW of 65,000 lbs."
For the first time, the SuperTruck 2 will be showcased to the public at the American Trucking Associations’ 2023 Management Conference & Exhibition, which is set to take place from October 14–17 in Austin, Texas.