Volvo speeds development of heavy vehicle hybrid technology

If rising fuel costs are increasing your anxiety level, take heart: Fuel-efficient hybrid construction equipment might arrive on your local dealer’s lot sooner than you think.

The Volvo Group gave an overview in March of the hybrid electric technology it is developing for heavy vehicles, and Leif Johansson, president and chief executive of AB Volvo, says the company sees opportunities to accelerate developments in commercially viable hybrid power systems. Volvo’s parallel hybrid technology would provide the most fuel efficiency for vehicles that accelerate and brake frequently – making it a good match for construction machines in addition to city buses and garbage trucks.

While the company has outlined how the technology works, it is reticent to say exactly when vehicles equipped with it will be available. “It can be ready anytime between a few months to a few years in trucks or buses,” says Beatrice Cardon, director, external communications for Volvo CE. “For construction equipment, it is too early to say.”

When the technology does appear in construction machines, wheel loaders may be the first to showcase it since they offer the best potential for fuel savings – up to 50 percent, Cardon says. Volvo is predicting an average 35 percent reduction in fuel consumption among all vehicles using the technology.

A key part of Volvo’s hybrid system is called I-SAM – for integrated starter, alternator motor – and is comprised of a combined start motor, drive engine and generator. I-SAM works with an automatic mechanical transmission, an electronic control unit, batteries that are charged by braking and a conventional diesel engine. The electric motor and diesel engine are linked in parallel so they can work together in powering the vehicle. I-SAM starts and accelerates the vehicle, and then the diesel engine takes over at cruising speed, when it becomes the most efficient operating method.

Volvo is also working on a new battery that doubles power output but costs less to manufacture than batteries currently on the market. The company says the Effpower battery will further improve the cost efficiency of electric hybrids.

“We are aware that oil prices for our customers will rise, and therefore, all solutions that reduce fuel consumption are highly attractive,” Johansson says. “The hybrid power system is a long-term and highly interesting solution for efficient and environmentally adapted transport activities.”

For more information about Volvo’s parallel hybrid technology, visit www.volvo.com/group.