Volvo reckons it can reduce the weight of the cab and chassis in heavy trucks by some 20 per cent within a decade – which would lead to “significant” reductions in fuel consumption.
To date, lightweight technology has mainly been used in Volvo Aero’s aircraft engine components, and engineers at AB Volvo’s research company, Volvo Technology, are hoping to use similar technology to reduce the weight of the trucks.
Carl Fredrik Hartung, project manager at Volvo Technology, said: “We are creating the super-light vehicle in a computer program that simulates how hundreds of thousands of small construction alterations can reduce the vehicle’s total weight without affecting other key characteristics in the vehicle, such as crashworthiness or the ability to bear loads.”
The lighter trucks would still have the same load capacity, but could be powered by a smaller engine. Volvo says that 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 must be constructed partly with more expensive materials that are highly durable, which means that the vehicle must be manufactured in volumes that are sufficiently large for the cost to be kept down.
“It is important to conduct thorough computer simulations and standardise 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,” said Hartung.