Product development

Chapter in PDF

Development focusing on more efficient products

The Volvo Group’s future success depends on its ability to continue to deliver innovative solutions and develop technologies that can be converted into financially viable products and services.

The year 2013 was intense in terms of product launches, particularly in the truck business. It involved the Group’s most extensive product renewal to date, with a brand new series of Volvo trucks, a complete, new product program from Renault Trucks, a brand new range of heavy-duty trucks for emerging markets with the UD Quester and, at the end of the year, the Eicher Pro Series was launched featuring eleven new trucks and buses. All of these new products were developed with a focus on fuel efficiency and customer profitability.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges faced by mankind. Research shows that transport is responsible for approximately 14% of the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of commercial vehicles, the Volvo Group works to reduce CO2 emissions from the use of its products.

Three areas of focus
The Group’s product development is driven by the cost of and availability of fuel, as well as legislation in the environmental area. Therefore, the Volvo Group focuses its research and development on the development of energy-efficient drivelines, electromobility and vehicles that can be operated on renewable and alternative fuels.

The Volvo Group also participates in public and private partnerships to develop sustainable and efficient transport systems, such as the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT).

Three areas of focus

  • Energy-efficient drivelines
  • Electromobility
  • Vehicles that can be operated on renewable fuels.

Energy-efficient drivelines
The Volvo Group has a life-cycle perspective and considers the environmental impact from its products, from them being developed all the way to them being phased out and recycled. Since more than 90% of the environmental impact results from the use of the products, the Group's main focus is on reducing fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and other exhaust emissions. The basic principle is that each new product shall have less impact on the environment than the product it replaces.

The Volvo Group estimates the fuel-saving potential for a standard truck will be about 15% in 2025 compared with fuel consumption in 2010. New technology can lead to even more significant savings. For instance, the use of a hybrid driveline may improve fuel consumption by up to 39% in certain bus operations. If all buses were changed to plug-in hybrids, total energy consumption would be reduced by as much as 60%.

Hybrid technology is one of the most promising and competitive new technologies for commercial vehicles. Because of its potential for saving fuel, hybrid technology means lower operating costs for customers while at the same time significantly reducing the environmental impact. The most appropriate vehicles for hybrid drivelines are those operating in continuous stop-go conditions, such as city buses and refuse or distribution trucks.

The Volvo Group’s I-SAM concept consists of an electric motor and a diesel engine working in parallel, whereby each of them can be used where they are most effective. Production of the Volvo Hybrid city bus and the Volvo Hybrid double-decker started in 2010. Significant fuel savings make these hybrid buses a commercially viable option.

During the year, Volvo Buses strengthened its model program with a new articulated bus that uses hybrid technology. The Volvo 7900 Hybrid Articulated has a capacity of up to 154 passengers, which is more than any other hybrid bus on the market, and a fuel consumption that is up to 30% lower than current diesel models. As of 2014, all single-decker, low-floor buses in Volvo Buses’ model program in Europe are hybrid buses. The hybrid program includes Volvo 7900 Hybrid (4x2), Volvo 7900 Hybrid Articulated and Volvo B5LH Double Decker. Furthermore, Volvo Buses commenced field studies with plug-in hybrids that indicate that fuel consumption can be lowered by 80% and total energy consumption by slightly more than 60%. The field study in Gothenburg started in May 2013 and includes three plug-in hybrid buses, whose batteries are charged at the end stations, which means that a large part of the route can be powered by electricity.

Sunwin Bus, the Volvo Group’s Chinese joint venture, together with SAIC Motor, has delivered 787 full electric buses in total. Volvo Buses and SAIC Motors also have a joint venture for developing driveline systems for electric and hybrid buses.

The Volvo Group has offered two models of hybrid trucks in selected European markets since 2011: the Volvo FE Hybrid and the Renault Premium Hybrys-Tech. Customers have given very positive feedback on these trucks. The technology has met their high expectations on both reliability and performance, reaching the expected fuel savings of up to 30%. However, total sales volumes have been low due to the relatively high additional investment for customers. While hybrid trucks deliver on the environmental dimension of sustainability, the business case is currently unsustainable. The decision not to develop new versions for Euro 6 was announced at the end of 2013. The Volvo Group believes in hybrid technology long-term and will continue to invest in research and development for more commercially viable applications. Should demand for hybrid trucks pick up substantially in the future, the Group will be in a strong position to reintroduce the technology.

A perfect solution for distribution and refuse applications is Renault Trucks’ fully electric Maxity Electric, which does not emit any exhaust fumes and is very quiet. The distribution model of Maxity Electric has been on the market for just over three years. In 2013, the offering was expanded to include a smaller refuse truck adapted for collecting household garbage.

Renewable and alternative fuels
Carbon dioxide-neutral transport means that vehicles are powered by fuel produced from renewable raw materials such as biomass. Reducing dependency on fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas by increasing the use of renewable fuels makes business and environmental sense. The Volvo Group’s research on renewable fuels is mainly focused on Methane Diesel and DME (dimethyl ether).

DME is energy efficient and has a low environmental impact. Estimates show that by replacing conventional diesel with BioDME, carbon dioxide emissions could be cut by 95%.

In June, Volvo Trucks announced that the company will become the first manufacturer to commercialize DME in North America.

In November, Volvo Trucks announced that, in spring 2014, it would introduce two Euro 6 engines of 240 hp and 320 hp powered using pure RME (rapeseed methyl ester). The engines will be available in the new Volvo FE and Volvo FL models.

Safety has been a guiding star for the Volvo Group since 1927. The ultimate goal is zero accidents with the Group’s products. To work towards this goal, systems that prevent accidents from happening in the first place and reducing the consequences if an accident does occur, are continuously developed.

The Volvo Group’s future product development focuses on active safety features and passive safety features, such as vehicle stability, visibility support, lane keeping support and body protection in the cab.

Approximately 90% of all traffic accidents are caused by human factors. One of the most common causes of accidents is the lack of driver attention to the road. Finding ways of reducing the risk of accidents caused by fatigue or inattention can have a large impact. Today’s driver assistance systems include, for example, warning systems and driver awareness support. In most cases the driver is simply warned when something is wrong.

City Mobility Program
The Volvo Group’s City Mobility Program brings together key stakeholders in cities to implement sustainable and integrated innovative pilot projects. The program includes new technologies for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions, developed by the Volvo Group, such as hybrid and electric vehicles. The City Mobility Program is being deployed in several cities around the world, such as Gothenburg, Stockholm, Hamburg and Luxembourg. During the year, Montréal became the first city in North America to take part in the Volvo City Mobility Program.