Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Road Haulage Operators Can Save Money Using New Truck 'Autopilot'

Volvo Says Latest Innovation Will Trim 5% Off Fuel Bills
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – In an attempt to find ever more ingenious ways to reduce the fuel consumption of their trucks Volvo have come up with a new innovation they have christened ‘I-See’, which exploits kinetic energy and operates like an autopilot and takes over gear changing and utilises gradients to save fuel. Volvo say the system will cut road haulage operators bills by saving 5% when it is used to “push” the vehicle up hills whilst on downhill gradients the same energy is used for acceleration.

Kinetic energy is the mechanical work needed to reduce an object’s speed to zero. When an object in motion is slowed down, its kinetic energy has to be transformed into some other form of energy. When a vehicle brakes, its kinetic energy is converted into heat. Many manufacturers in the automotive world are now examining solutions for harnessing kinetic energy instead of releasing it as surplus heat. I-See, which will be available from next year, carries out six different operations to utilise the kinetic energy to the very maximum. For instance, I-See accelerates up hills, remains in a high gear for as long as possible and freewheels on descents to exploit the truck’s weight as a propulsion motor.

I-See is linked to the transmission’s tilt sensor and obtains information about the topography digitally. The fact that the system is not dependent on maps makes it more dependable since it always obtains the very latest information. I-See can recall about 4000 gradients, corresponding to a distance of 5000 kilometres. When the truck rolls freely, virtually no fuel is used but in order to freewheel, a whole lot of data is required. Anders Eriksson, who was responsible for the development of I-See explains:

“If kinetic energy can be exploited to a greater extent, it may help cut fuel consumption. This will benefit both the environment and the industry’s economy, something that is very important today as fuel costs are becoming an increasingly heavy burden on many haulage firms. I-See reduces brake and tyre wear, for instance and that naturally benefits the environment.

“I-See works best in undulating terrain. With moderately long and steep slopes, I-See ensures that you can freewheel for long distances without using the engine. It is this freewheeling capability that makes the system special. It imposes high demands on precision, for instance, you have to know whether your speed will drop or increase over the next stretch of road, a gradient of just a few per cent can be the decisive factor.”

Other factors that make a difference are air resistance and the truck’s weight. All told the system has to keep track of and process a lot of information. Volvo says many truck drivers who test I-See will recognise the driving style it adopts. Hayder Wokil, product manager Volvo Trucks commented:

“I-See imitates the driving style of good drivers. They utilise the vehicle’s kinetic energy, accelerate in time and avoid unnecessary gear changing but unlike a driver, I-See never gets tired – it’s like an autopilot. I-See is linked to the truck’s cruise control, taking over and handling gear changes, throttle and brakes on gradients, ensuring they all operate in the most fuel-efficient way possible. I-See freewheels as much as possible so on certain stretches of road no fuel is used at all.

“In this way fuel consumption can be cut by up to 5%. This figure is based on the results of simulations and tests on public roads. I-See requires use of the cruise control, and we know that on average drivers use cruise control about half the time. For a truck in normal operation, covering 140,000 kilometres a year, the saving will be about 1000 litres of fuel annually. This makes a big difference to the haulage firm’s profitability.”

A clear explanation of the system is included in a short video featuring Anders Eriksson (pictured working) viewable HERE.