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SuperTruck, the Sequel

PowerTorque’s European Correspondent, Will Shiers, crosses the Atlantic to bring us a glimpse into the future with Volvo’s SuperTruck, the Sequel.

Film sequels are rarely as good as the originals, one of the few exceptions to the rule being The Godfather: Part II. But does the same logic apply to energy-efficient concept trucks? That’s the question that I set out to find the answer to on a recent visit to Volvo Trucks’ North American HQ in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Volvo’s original SuperTruck was the trucking equivalent of a box office smash, so when the United States Department of Energy (DOE) challenged the truck maker and its partners to improve on the original, the pressure was on.

Before I delve into SuperTruck 2’s story and plot, let’s rewind the clock to 2011, and view the trailer for the original SuperTruck.

What is SuperTruck?

SuperTruck 1 was a five-year challenge set by the DOE to various truck manufacturers to improve the freight efficiency of a class 8 truck (a vehicle with a GVW exceeding 14,969kg) on a ton-mile per gallon, by 50 per cent.

Using a 2009 VNL 670 as the baseline, Volvo set about doing just that. It took a complete vehicle approach, and together with some partners, got to work on the prime mover, trailer and powertrain. Improved aerodynamics, the use of lightweight materials, and a turbo compound engine all helped it to smash its ambitious targets. The finished truck achieved an 88 per cent improvement in freight efficiency, and 70 per cent better fuel efficiency.

What is SuperTruck 2?

In late 2016, the DOE set a new challenge.

“With SuperTruck 2, they raised the bar,” explains Eric Bond, project manager and principal investigator for Volvo SuperTruck 2. By this he means that they introduced far more stringent targets, and stipulated that SuperTruck 2 had to utilise commercially viable technology.

“And instead of a 50 per cent improvement in freight efficiency, this time they requested a 100 per cent improvement in vehicle ton-miles per gallon, when compared with a best-in-class 2009 truck,” he explains. However, Volvo took that one step further and set an internal goal of a 120 per cent improvement.

Fast-forward to October 2023, and the truck maker unveiled SuperTruck 2 to the world.

“This has been a chance for engineers to pursue technologies and ideas beyond the boundaries of what they’d normally have the opportunity to work on,” explains Bond. “The team took a lot of the learnings from SuperTruck 1 and were able to apply them to SuperTruck 2.”

Let’s find out what the cast did, and more importantly, whether SuperTruck 2 has been a box office hit.

I’m struggling to think of decent threequels – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Die Hard with a Vengeance and Toy Story 3 perhaps?


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