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Heavy trucks of the future will be super-light

The Volvo Group’s engineers have created a method for constructing trucks that weigh less while carrying the same payload. Lighter vehicles would entail a significant reduction in fuel consumption and thus carbon dioxide emissions.
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To date, lightweight technology has mainly been used in Volvo Aero’s aircraft engine components, but engineers at AB Volvo’s research company, Volvo Technology, foresee favorable opportunities in using similar technology to reduce the weight of the cab and chassis in heavy trucks by at least 20% within ten years.

“We are creating the super-light vehicle in a computer environment that simulates how hundreds of thousands of small design alterations can reduce the vehicle’s total weight without affecting other key characteristics in the vehicle, such as crashworthiness or the ability to carry loads,” says Carl Fredrik Hartung, Project Manager at Volvo Technology.

A lighter vehicle, regardless of whether it is a truck or a bus, can be powered by a smaller engine. If the lighter vehicle is equipped with an engine powered by renewable fuel, or hybrid solutions in which the diesel engine is jointly powered with an electric motor, then fuel consumption and thus carbon emissions can be further reduced.

One of the challenges is that a super-light vehicle needs to be manufactured partly with more expensive materials of higher strength, which means that the vehicle must be produced in volumes that are sufficiently large for the cost to be kept down.

“It is important to conduct thorough computer simulations and standardize the manufacturing process so that it will be profitable to manufacture lighter vehicles for commercial use. We have come a long way but a great deal of work remains before the first super-light vehicles hit the road,” says Carl Fredrik Hartung.

A video interview with Carl Fredrik Hartung is available on the Volvo Group´s web site.

June 24, 2009
 
Journalists who would like further information, please contact
Carl Fredrik Hartung, Project Manager, Volvo Technology, tel +46 (0)31- 322 56 95
Anders Vilhelmsson, Press Contact, AB Volvo, tel +46 (0)31-322 38 79.

Image text: The picture illustrates possible sections that can be thickness minimised for reduced weight. In the computer simulations the thicknesses of the sheet metal sections are minimised while keeping the performance of other characteristics, such as crash safety, driver environment and durability, unchanged.