Trucks, Volvo

First Iteration of the Volvo Heavy Duty Electric Truck

First Iteration of the Volvo Heavy Duty Electric Truck

This first iteration of the Volvo heavy duty electric truck is a relatively small change compared to those which may come along down the track.

Simply put, the Volvo engineers have looked at the current diesel Volvo FH, and removed the engine and associated accessories, then replaced them with all of the equipment required to create an electric driveline.

Those designers were looking at the large space underneath the cabin where the current engine sits and the outside of the chassis between the front wheels and the rear wheels which is normally home for the diesel tanks and emission control systems.

Having driven quite a few electric trucks in test drives in the last couple of years, it has become clear that one of the differentiating elements between trucks, is the way that the software and computers on board control the application of power through the driveline. Without this control the acceleration can be too quick and the driver’s head will smack into the headrest of the driver’s seat.

This system shows its quality in the fact that pressing the accelerator, simply enables the vehicle to move off in a controlled manner, gradually picking up speed until reaching the desired velocity. This truck moves with the smoothness and effortlessness we have come to associate with Volvo in recent years. However, the electric version of the FH does take this to another level.

Image: Prime Creative Media

When travelling on the open highway, it’s simply a matter of sitting in the seat and steering on the route chosen. The electric FH models are all fitted with the Volvo dynamic steering system, which should help drivers get a feel for the dynamics of, what is essentially, a prime mover with more mass over the front axle.

The amount of help and aid the dynamic steering system gives a driver can be controlled, and if the driver chooses they can minimise the system’s input. It is also possible to choose whereabouts on the lane the driver wants the dynamic steering to place the truck.

The system uses the lane keeping video system, which sounds warnings if the truck drifts over white line, and the dynamic steering uses its image data to keep the truck at a particular position in the lane.

The default setting is to sit the truck directly in the middle of the lane. However, most experienced drivers know this is probably not the best place to be in many situations on Australian roads and prefer to shift closer to the fog line and away from the central white line. The driver can sinply adjust the setting and the dynamic steering will endeavour to maintain this position on the road if it can.

Driver tastes differ widely when it comes to steering feel preferences, apart from the three standard settings, it is possible for the driver to customise the setting of the dynamic steering to suit their preferences

There is an app available from Volvo, which would help a driver to make the adjustments necessary and for them to get to know how to drive this particular truck and make other adjustments. The app is specific to the chassis number of the vehicle being driven and includes tips and tricks, help with settings, including small videos which show how particular controls or components can be adjusted and used.

Image: Prime Creative Media

One of the critical things in the system on the electric truck, and this is particularly important when you move into the higher mass trucks, is effective regenerative braking, putting power back into the battery as the truck slows. If the system works correctly the truck can regain a proportion of the power it used to get up to cruising speed, back into the battery.

Ideally, braking should be minimised because the regenerative effect slows the vehicle down enough to mean the service brake is only used to bring the truck to a halt. The speeding up and slowing down in traffic should be controllable simply using regen to wash off speed.

Where there used to be an engine brake stalk, there is now a regen stalk, with three positions, auto, off and on. The on position gives the driver the control to bring the regen on when they think it’s needed, while the auto position engages the regen to suit the road conditions and from monitoring the driver’s behaviour. When the foot touches the brake pedal the regen activates and increases until the point at which the system realised the truck needs more retardation and applies the service brakes.

When the topographical active cruise control is activated, the system uses the trucks knowledge of the terrain to more precisely use the regen brake to maximise recharging and travel over the undulations safely.

 

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