New Volvo FH Series Raises the Bar in Truck Engineering
September 29, 2012
Launching the new FH series at September’s IAA international Motor Show in Hannover, Germany, Volvo Trucks President Claes Nilsson (pictured) hailed the new design as “an outstanding long-haul truck, with technology way ahead of its competitors.”
Supporting Nilsson’s claim is a formidable list of innovations that do indeed set the FH apart from traditional designs. One of the most significant of these is the introduction of the world’s first independent front suspension on a heavy truck (see separate story ZF and Volvo both Launch Independent Front Suspension for Trucks) while innovation in the driveline takes in not only low-emission engines complying with the stringent upcoming Euro VI regulations, but also a new series of transmissions incorporating dual clutch operation and a novel cruise control system that memorizes terrain to optimize transmission and engine settings to lower fuel consumption.
The new driveline is known as I-Torque and is central in reducing the overall fuel consumption of the new-generation trucks by as much as 10 percent. The philosophy of I-Torque is to keep engine rpm low while maintaining high levels of torque – more than 2800 Nm in initial D13 versions. “Lower revs means fewer fuel injection pulses and combustions – and less friction,” says Mats Franzén, head of engine strategy at Volvo Trucks. “I-Torque operates in the rev range where this D13 engine is at its most efficient, between 900 and 1200 revs per minute.”
Charged with keeping the engine in this most efficient speed range is the new I-Shift 2 version of Volvo’s automated powershift transmission, complete with a dual clutch system to ensure that there is no torque interruption during gearchanges – a crucial precondition to maintaining vehicle momentum up hills, especially when laden.
This, says I-Torque Product Manager Astrid Drewsen, delivers faster acceleration, excellent driveability, lower noise levels and reduced fuel usage.
Superimposed on the driveline is I-See, key to a large proportion of the overall fuel consumption saving. I-See is a forward looking cruise control that memorizes the contours of the terrain on the truck’s routes, noting the gradients and the GPS locations of all the topographical features. The next time the vehicle travels the same route the cruise control is able to look forward to the features of the road ahead and tailor the engine and transmission strategy for the most efficient use of the fuel.
Together with other smaller improvements, the combination of I-Torque and I-See can cut fuel consumption by up to 10 percent. “This means a saving of 4100 liters of fuel annually for the average truck,” says Mats Franzén. “We work continuously to cut consumption, drop by drop. But reducing it by 10 percent like this in one single move – that’s nothing short of a revolution.”
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