The SuperTruck project resulted in a culmination of ideas and concepts that will prove to benefit society moving forward. For Keith Brantley, project manager of advanced complete vehicle at Volvo Trucks, it was an opportunity of a lifetime.
What does SuperTruck represent for society as a whole?
“SuperTruck represents sustainability and conservation of fuel while still delivering the goods and services to America by truck. With SuperTruck, I truly believe we introduced the future of trucking while reducing dependence on foreign oil.”
Describe the process of building SuperTruck from the ground up.
“To be honest, just like it sounds — one part at a time. From a 4mm screw to a complete cab assembly built from scratch, we started with a bare frame in April 2014 and by February 2016 we had a running truck. Every part, from the tires on the ground to the solar panel roof was custom designed for the Volvo SuperTruck.”
What ties does the SuperTruck have to existing Volvo products?
“From a vehicle perspective, SuperTruck has strong connections to the model year 2016 aerodynamics package. From an engine perspective, the 2017 powertrain lineup including turbo compounding, wave piston, and the common-rail fuel system were developed and or refined in the SuperTruck program.”
Where was the SuperTruck built?
“SuperTruck was a melting pot of sorts. The complete cab was assembled at our North American headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, as well as most of the brackets and pipes. Parts and components came from all across the United States; from North Carolina, California, Texas and Michigan. The body in white was custom built at our production plant in New River Valley. Cab exterior parts came from California, Michigan and North Carolina.”
"With SuperTruck, I truly believe we introduced the future of trucking while reducing dependence on foreign oil."
project manager, advanced complete vehicle at Volvo Trucks
Explain the on-highway testing/validation process.
“SuperTruck’s highway testing was done using three different cycle tests. SuperTruck ran a flat, rolling hill and a hilly cycle at a cruise speed of 65 mph with a payload of 34,500 pounds. All testing was done using a 2009 reference Volvo truck, which is used to measure the increase in freight efficiency in comparison to the SuperTruck.”
Tell us about the SuperTruck’s results.
“To put it simply, they were extremely positive. Starting in 2010, we had a target from the U.S. Department of Energy of a 50 percent improvement in overall freight efficiency compared to 2009 truck models. We completed the 5-year project with a prototype highway truck capable of 88 percent greater freight efficiency [ton-mpg] than its baseline, surpassing the goal of 50 percent improvement. SuperTruck also exceeded 12 mpg, with some runs eclipsing 13 mpg. We still believe that number can improve, and testing will continue in the search for further improvements that can be transferred to future products.”
What are some of the major learnings that came out of the SuperTruck project?
“I think the main thing was learning how to work with people from various departments to complete the project. To see so many people step away from their daily work and focus on something such as the SuperTruck, and to accomplish what we have; it was amazing to watch. From the technical side, we learned how aerodynamics is a complete system. Every part, from the bumper to the trailer, impacts the complete vehicle results. It’s different from other projects, where you’re trying to build 50,000 trucks a year. We were just trying to build one truck.”
What aspect of the SuperTruck project are you most proud of?
“From a project perspective, I’m most proud of the people involved. Don’t get me wrong, the truck is awesome. The feeling you get with SuperTruck is incredible. It’s more than just the look; it’s about knowing you were involved in building the truck from scratch. But I would definitely say the best part was working with the team involved in the project. Volvo has great people at every location from Greensboro, to New River Valley to Hagerstown. The willingness and effort put forth for the SuperTruck project was unbelievable.”
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