Volvo Trucks introduced Adaptive Loading to its North American market during the 2015 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. The heavy-duty truck manufacturer also showed the latest in its XE fuel efficiency lineup.

The Adaptive Loading system includes a new 6x2 liftable forward axle that automatically adjusts to load weight changes and offers 4x2 operation under certain conditions. Key benefits of Adaptive Loading include greater fuel efficiency, improved traction, lower maintenance costs and increased driver productivity. Adaptive Loading is ideal for liquid and dry bulk fleets or general freight operations where the truck goes out loaded and returns empty and for diminishing-load applications.

“As our customers continually strive to reduce operating costs and increase productivity, we must deliver solutions tailored to their specific applications,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America. “For many operations that run empty or lightly loaded much of the time, Adaptive Loading is an innovative way to change the truck’s configuration on the fly for maximum efficiency.

“To further enhance fuel efficiency gains, customers selecting Adaptive Loading can choose one of Volvo’s XE—eXceptional Efficiency—powertrain packages, including XE Adaptive Gearing and XE Economy. XE powertrain packages improve fuel efficiency by lowering engine rpm at a given vehicle speed, a concept Volvo calls “downspeeding.”

Fuel efficiency

Like other 6x2 setups, Adaptive Loading improves fuel efficiency compared with traditional 6x4 configurations, which have two drive axles. The non-driven axle, which is in the forward position of the tandem axles, helps distribute load weight without the internal gearing of a drive axle, lowering weight and reducing internal friction. The reduced weight—more than 300 pounds compared with a 6x4—enables a greater payload.

The liftable forward axle and Volvo’s Electronically Controlled Suspension (ECS) technology offer additional fuel efficiency benefits. Adaptive Loading and Volvo’s current 6x2 option both use ECS to dynamically transfer weight among the two axles. In Adaptive Loading, ECS—based on pre-programmed weight thresholds—automatically lifts the axle in empty or light-load situations to create a 4x2 configuration, which reduces rolling resistance from tires.

Another advantage of operating in a 4x2 configuration is reduced wear and longer life for tires and brakes installed on the lift axle. More consistent loading also offers increased tire life on the steer axle and drive axle.

Adaptive Loading can improve productivity for drivers. By operating the ECS in manual mode on a parked truck, drivers can raise the tractor’s suspension system up to two inches above normal ride height, which can speed trailer drop-and-hook operations and make lifting the trailer’s landing gear easier and safer. This enables drivers to spend more time on the road and less time at shipper and receiver facilities.

Volvo’s technology alleviates any concerns over traction in a 6x2 operation versus a 6x4. ECS preserves traction under lighter loads by transferring more weight to the drive axle. In adverse weather or other special situations, drivers can achieve enhanced traction through special ECS settings and traction support integrated into the chassis. Enhanced traction supports the truck during high-slip situations – better than 6x4 without inter-axle differential lock.

Super direct

Volvo also showcased its latest fuel efficiency improvements, including a new XE powertrain package for linehaul applications. Like Volvo’s other XE packages, XE super direct drive improves fuel efficiency by lowering engine rpms at a given vehicle speed—a concept Volvo calls “downspeeding.” By using a direct drive Volvo I-Shift automated manual transmission, the new package offers additional fuel efficiency benefits compared with conventional direct drive transmissions.

“Volvo Trucks is intensely focused on continual improvement in the key areas that drive our customers’ success, and nothing affects the bottom line more than fuel efficiency,” Nyberg said. “However, we understand that all customers are not the same. In addition to improvements like aerodynamic upgrades that help a wide segment of the industry, we have worked closely with our customers to develop powertrain options and other solutions that benefit specific applications.”

XE super direct drive, which will be available for order mid-year, is designed for linehaul applications that operate in top gear at a gross combination weight rating of 80,000 pounds or less with maximum engine torque of 1,850 lb-ft.

The system incorporates Meritor’s new super-fast 2.28 ratio for its 14X tandem-drive axle and RPL35 driveline. While Meritor’s existing 14X tandem is designed to handle higher torques, Meritor has fortified the design by enlarging the pinion system to accommodate extreme torque levels associated with downspeeding. The 2.28 axle ratio and driveline engineered for downspeeding ensure that torque is transmitted evenly throughout the drivetrain.

A 2.47 rear axle ratio with a direct drive transmission amounts to 1,370 rpm at 65 miles per hour. A 2.28 rear axle ratio equals 1,265 rpm at the same speed. The 105 less rpm between the two equates to an approximate 1.5% improvement in fuel efficiency.

XE super direct drive is the latest option in Volvo’s evolution of XE powertrains optimized for efficiency and performance. Beginning with model year 2016, XE packages feature specific torque profiles based on a variety of factors, such as load profile, cruise speed, terrain, type of roads used, and the customer’s priorities for fuel efficiency versus performance. XE currently is available in high torque, economy, and adaptive gearing packages, depending on application.

Earlier this year, Volvo launched an online tool at www.volvotrucks.us.com/torque to help customers select the best torque package by answering just a few questions about their operation.

Efficiency gains

Volvo also has delivered significant fuel efficiency gains in model year 2016 vehicles through aerodynamic enhancements and changes under the hood. All new VNL models incorporate a new bumper design that flows air below chassis components. The VNL 630 and VNL 670 models also feature flared chassis fairings that provide better airflow around tires to trailer skirts. The VNL 670 also has an updated roof profile that further improves aerodynamics.

Under the hood, an improved cooling fan pulls air through the radiator more efficiently, and an updated fan clutch improves cold startup. An upgraded I-Shift cooler, which has been relocated to the transmission itself, brings transmission oil up to optimal temperature faster for greater efficiency.

The model year 2016 aerodynamic and underhood improvements increase fuel efficiency by up to 3.5%, depending on model.          ♦

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