The new Volvo VNL series is the beneficiary of the truck maker's SuperTruck program, applying lessons learned and advanced technology to achieve an up to 7.5% improvement in fuel efficiency. Driver comfort and productivity, active and passive safety systems and enhanced vehicle uptime through over-the-air updates were other high priorities for engineers and designers of the next-generation long-haul tractor. Volvo Trucks North America revealed the VNL series to media in mid-July at its new Volvo Trucks Customer Center in Dublin, VA.
"For 19 years the VNL 670 model was the volume leader in our long-haul segment. Moving forward that 61-inch high roof sleeper is going to be replaced by the new Volvo VNL 760. This now is going to be our high-volume product," said product marketing manager Jason Spence. "Our customers and drivers have told us that this is the truck they want."
The new VNL series is available in four sleeper cab configurations, including an all-new, 70-inch sleeper in the VNL 760 and 740 models that is 9 inches longer and 6 inches wider than the previous VNL 670 truck.
The VNL development team relied on feedback from nearly 2000 driver interviews to offer "the most comfortable, driver-friendly environment we've ever built," he said, and to take another leap from its predecessor originally launched in 1996 and updated in 2002.
SuperTruck influence on efficiency
The most obvious influence Volvo's SuperTruck had on the VNL is the sleek exterior design and the lines of the truck. Swept back headlights include signature Volvo daytime running lights, and a new Volvo grille and hood are not just stylish but aerodynamically functional. Redesigned and repositioned engine air intakes allow for less turbulent intake air delivery. Airflow up and around the cab has also been optimized with new chassis and roof fairings.
"The hood is designed so that the hood air intakes are further forward. That gets cleaner air into the engine, but it also gives a better line for the airflow down the side of the vehicle," Spence said.
The SMC (sheet molding compound) hood was redesigned to save 70 lb (32 kg) compared to the previous design. "We mount it to the rear of the cab support now," said Wade Long, director of product marketing for Volvo Trucks North America. "We had support tubes that supported the hood previously, and now they're attached to a latch that is patented and designed to mount to the cab, reducing vibration."
"You might not notice right away, but the three-piece bumper on this truck is 1.5 inches further forward than the previous VNL 670. That was done for aerodynamics. So our BBC went from 122.5 to 124 for the VNL product," Spence said.
The Volvo team relied upon learnings from the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) work conducted on the SuperTruck, noted Long. "If you look at SuperTruck and this [new VNL] headlamp, they're very similar—almost identical," he said. "And we used those designs to help understand less gaps and airflow across the grille. This grille is designed in a new honeycomb pattern—the taper and angles for airflow in and out of the vehicle are supported by the SuperTruck program."
The new VNL sees a 2% improvement in aerodynamic drag compared to the previous model, which equates to a 1% improvement in fuel economy.
A side note on the new LED headlamps, supplied by ZKW—Volvo claims to be the first OEM to redirect air to defrost the headlights.
"The headlamps are the most innovative in the trucking industry; they're intelligent," said Spence. "LEDs produce heat—in freezing conditions they also serve to defrost and defog the lamps themselves. There's a fan that draws heat out of the lamp in normal [warmer] conditions, but once freezing conditions occur, that fan stops or reverses flow to keep more heat inside the lamp."
D13 TC waste heat recovery = 6.5% FE improvement
Powertrain is the other area most impacted by SuperTruck developments. Introduced with the 2016 VNL and greenhouse gas (GHG) 2017 engines were the common-rail fuel system and the patented wave pistons that help burn fuel more efficiently.
"One of the biggest improvements to the VNL is the introduction of the new D13 Turbo Compound engine," development of which was furthered in the SuperTruck program, Long noted.
The D13 TC engine, which will be available in 2018, utilizes a mechanical waste heat recovery system to capture wasted energy from the engine's exhaust. The result is an additional 50 hp (37 kW) fed back to the crankshaft and an improvement in fuel efficiency of up to 6.5% when compared with previous GHG14 D13 engine models.
“Turbo Compound...uses a turbine to convert energy from the exhaust gases into additional torque on the crankshaft improving engine efficiency,” said John Moore, Volvo Trucks product marketing manager – powertrain. “This robust system is completely mechanical and adds no additional routine maintenance to the engine.”
Customers are able to pair the D13TC with Volvo’s XE—eXceptional Efficiency—powertrain packages. XE packages rely on Volvo’s fully integrated I-Shift automated manual transmission to downspeed the engine, enabling a cruise rpm up to 300 rpm less than the average truck.
The VNL series comes standard with the 13-L Volvo D13 engine offering up to 500 hp (373 kW) and 1850 lb·ft (2510 N·m). Daycab and VNL 400 models can spec the 11-L Volvo D11 as an option, delivering up to 425 hp (317 kW) and 1550 lb·ft (2100 N·m), combined with an up to 2.5% fuel efficiency improvement compared with the previous D11 engine. The 15-L Cummins X15 is also available.
The entire VNL series comes standard with Volvo's I-Shift automated manual transmission. Volvo proprietary engines and the I-Shift AMT are monitored by standard Volvo Remote Diagnostics, a factory-installed telematics system that proactively monitors and diagnoses critical engine, transmission and aftertreatment trouble codes. The same hardware also allows customers to perform powertrain software and parameter updates over-the-air with Remote Programming, which helps improve uptime and vehicle efficiency.
If an issue is detected, Volvo Action Service (VAS) agents will assess the severity and provide the vehicle’s designated contact with actionable information to determine whether to keep operating the truck or take it for immediate service.
"75% of the trucks running on the highways do not have the latest software updates needed to prevent certain fault codes from happening. That radically will impact the performance of the powertrain," said Ash Makki, product marketing manager. "They end up ignoring the software updates."
Operator comfort boosts productivity
The new Volvo VNL features an all-new dashboard that puts often-used controls within the driver's reach. Centered in the gauge cluster is a configurable, 5-inch color driver information display that provides trip and diagnostic data. An optional infotainment system is available, featuring a 7-inch color touchscreen, navigation and an exterior backup camera.
A premium audio system is integrated with the infotainment system, which also features Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. Additional apps also can be downloaded to the infotainment system. A dash-top tray features 12-volt power and USB connectivity.
A new "smart" steering wheel incorporates controls for 21 of the most-used functions for driver convenience and safety. The steering wheel is attached to Volvo's Perfect Position air-assisted, infinitely adjustable steering column, which enables drivers not only to tilt and telescope the steering column, but also tilt the steering wheel relative to the steering column.
Moving the buttons to the steering wheel created space for additional storage compartments. A removable cover in the floor provides easy access to the engine without having to remove the seats.
A variety of seating options are available on the new Volvo VNL series. An increase in seat travel fore and aft, as well as up and down, improves driving ergonomics. Premium features like seat heating and ventilation are also available.
All VNL sleepers feature curved cabinets that open toward the back to maximize space, as well as an integrated, reclining bunk, which Volvo claims is a trucking industry first in North America. LED interior lighting reduces power consumption and provides softer lighting.
For the first time in North America, Volvo's Globetrotter trim levels will be available on the VNL 760 and VNL 860 sleeper models. Globetrotter trim levels include a full aerodynamic package, polished wheels, high-end seating, as well as a refrigerator, inverter and parking cooler package.
ADAS, stronger structure improve safety
Volvo Active Driver Assist by Bendix, which is now standard on all Volvo VNL models, is a camera and radar-based system that combines forward collision mitigation warnings and active braking, even with stationary vehicles. The system’s camera is powered by the Mobileye System-on-Chip EyeQ processor with state-of-the-art vision algorithms.
The system features an industry-first head-up windshield display if a driver approaches too closely to an object in front of them. Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology, an electronic stability control system, is also standard on all VNL models.
"We have found that Volvo Active Driver Assist can reduce front-end collisions by 80%," said Rob Simpson, director of brand and marketing development.
Like all Volvo models, the new VNL series cab is built with high-strength steel (HSS) and exceeds both the Volvo Swedish Cab Safety Test and ECE R-29 rollover requirements. The industry's only standard driver's side airbag is now joined by an integrated, seat-mounted rollover airbag on the driver's side, Simpson said.
"We beefed up back here [rear of cab]. This was done for the 70-inch sleeper but was applied to the other models as well," Simpson said. "We stiffened up the supports to make it much stronger. That's for rear impact but also rollover protection. Also, the door is virtually the same as the old door but it has new internal structure and support to protect the driver in a side collision. We just beefed up these targeted areas that combine to a much more rigid structure."
The new Volvo VNL series was designed and engineered at Volvo Trucks' North American technology center in Greensboro, NC, and will be built at its New River Valley assembly plant in Dublin starting in September.