October 11, 2023

Volvo’s SuperTruck 2 adopts European rigid chassis design


Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) appears to have adopted a European rigid chassis design for its SuperTruck 2 design exercise in improved freight efficiency.

That’s not something likely to find its way into long-haul heavy-duty Class 8 production in the U.S. But the SuperTruck 2 program, jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the truck maker, is all about reach over reality.

“Partnering with the DOE for the SuperTruck program provides an exciting opportunity to push the technology envelope to see what’s technically possible for heavy-duty transportation and which solutions can be scaled into production. But equally important, which solutions don’t work for scaled production,” Peter Voorhoeve, VTNA president, said in a news release.

Volvo is the latest of the four major truck OEMs to show off its SuperTruck 2 project. Daimler Truck North America and Navistar revealed their designs earlier. Volvo will show its SuperTruck 2 in its display at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition in Austin, Texas from Oct. 14-17. Peterbilt displayed its SuperTruck 2 project at the ATA meeting last year in San Diego.

The challenge: 100% freight efficiency improvement

The DOE challenged OEMs to achieve a 100% freight efficiency improvement over the baselines submitted before SuperTruck 1 efforts began in 2009. Volvo said it completed its project despite debilitating supply chain challenges its engineering team faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

SuperTruck 2’s goal was to accelerate the development of cost-effective advanced efficiency technologies not currently available in the market. At 134%, Volvo exceeded its internal stretch goal of 120% freight efficiency improvement based on ton mile per gallon. That measures the weight of a truck’s freight multiplied by the transporation distance of the freight.

Volvo Trucks focused on advanced aerodynamics in its SuperTruck 2 project. (Photo: Volvo Trucks North America)

Advanced aerodynamics took the design lead. Volvo started with a wedge-shaped cab from front to back including a raked and wraparound windshield. Volvo designed the front end around a downsized cooling package and a fully aerodynamic trailer with gap fairing, skirts and boat tail with an adjustable ride height. 

A streamlined camera monitoring system replaced traditional 50-inch hood- and cab-mounted mirrors, reducing drag by more than 4%.  

Volvo’s SuperTruck 2 goes beyond trailer skirts and a boat tail

Overall, the tractor-trailer combination smoothly displaces air with minimal resistance, resulting in 50% lower drag than Volvo Trucks’ 2009 baseline. SuperTruck 2 is roughly a 20% improvement over the aerodynamic drag in Volvo’s SuperTruck 1, which made the most of trailer skirts and the boat tail in a modified VNL 670.

This time, the new cab design and starting from the body in white was responsible for the aero gains. Body in white refers to the stage in manufacturing before the frame painting and before integration of the motor, chassis sub-assemblies or trim into the structure.

Engineers used several weight-reduction strategies to reduce curb weight to 27,000 pounds for the combined truck and the trailer. A key was using a European-style 4×2 rigid chassis configuration, which uses fewer axles for the same payload. The shorter cab design is paired with a lightweight aluminum chassis and drive axle system with a single composite driveshaft.

“This is the most aerodynamic and efficient truck Volvo has built to date, and we achieved a freight efficiency that demonstrates the potential for technology innovations to be developed commercially,” Voorhoeve said. “ Our engineers have already begun implementing some of the learnings from SuperTruck 2 into our future truck models.”

Navistar puts up strong mpg in SuperTruck 2 project

Freightliner SuperTruck 2 looks for life after research

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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