Power be­hind Volvo Trucks’ elec­tri­fi­ca­tion

IN­TER­VIEW/ Ler­ato Matebese spoke with prod­uct man­ager Anna Thor­den in Swe­den

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS -

As you will have read in Mo­tor News in July, we at­tended the Volvo Trucks In­no­va­tion Days in Swe­den, which was a rather in­ter­est­ing and eye­open­ing event that show­cased the tech­nol­ogy ad­vance­ments be­ing un­der­taken by the com­pany. While at the event, we also caught up with Anna Thor­den, who is prod­uct man­ager of electromobility at the com­pany.

Hav­ing been with the Volvo Trucks since 1995, Thor­den was pre­vi­ously project man­ager for electromobility projects for both bus and truck prod­ucts and, prior to that, was main­te­nance man­ager for electromobility prod­ucts, so she has an il­lus­tri­ous and ex­pe­ri­enced ca­reer in the field of electromobility and one can eas­ily sur­mise that she en­joys what she does if the en­thu­si­asm and pas­sion she en­thuses about the sub­ject is any­thing to go by.

The com­pany cur­rently has the FL Elec­tric plat­form from which it has spawned a com­muter bus and refuse trucks as some of the ap­pli­ca­tions that the com­pany is cur­rently work­ing on.

Ac­cord­ing to Thor­den, the chal­lenge with the FL Elec­tric plat­form hinged on the pack­ag­ing and weight, which is some­thing that re­mains an is­sue with elec­tric cars, but the prob­lem is even fur­ther com­pounded in trucks and buses as by their na­ture these are big heavy ve­hi­cles, so find­ing the best com­pro­mise between bat­tery ca­pac­ity, weight and pack­ag­ing is some­thing of a tall or­der.

“If we had to re­move the body and show you a cross­sec­tion of the plat­form, you will see that our mo­du­lar power box is lo­cated where a con­ven­tional truck’s en­gine would be.

“But the chal­lenge came when we had to place the bat­ter­ies, which each weigh up to 520kg,” says Thor­den.

No mat­ter how you slice it, that is a lot of weight to be lug­ging around, but what the en­gi­neers man­aged to do is place them on ei­ther side of the ve­hi­cle in or­der to counter-bal­ance. In the mid­dle, where the con­ven­tional gear­box would be, nes­tles an elec­tric mo­tor with 185kW or, for even heav­ier ap­pli­ca­tions, there is the op­tion of two elec­tric mo­tors with a max­i­mum out­put of 370kW, which is es­sen­tially what a Mer­cedes-AMG C63’s V8 en­gine puts out.

Each lithium-ion bat­tery pack has 50kWh en­ergy ca­pac­ity, which gives the 185kW elec­tric mo­tor a 200km range, while she says the 370kW ver­sion is good for 300km, which for com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions is ac­tu­ally quite rea­son­able.

Thor­den says the lower pow­ered ver­sion re­quires a topup charge once a day, while higher-pow­ered mod­els will re­quire only a charge overnight.

She says two types of charg­ers have been devel­oped in con­junc­tion with ABB en­ergy sys­tems. The AC charger pro­vides 22kW of charg­ing power, while the DC fast charger has a max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 150kW and can top up the bat­ter­ies to around 80% in less than hour.

We were given a short pas­sen­ger drive in an elec­tric refuse truck to see how the tech­nol­ogy works and the first thing I no­ticed is the near si­lence of the truck and then there is the lack of vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness one would usu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence in a con­ven­tional diesel pow­ered truck. Then there is the in­stan­ta­neous ac­cel­er­a­tion that is pro­vided by the elec­tric mo­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to Thor­den, the tech­nol­ogy will aid in not only mak­ing the in­ner city and the en­vi­ron­ment cleaner due to no lo­cal ve­hi­cle emis­sions from the elec­tric trucks and busses, but also bring noise pol­lu­tion down con­sid­er­ably, par­tic­u­larly in cities such as Gothen­burg in Swe­den where both the refuse truck and bus have been do­ing some fea­si­bil­ity tests.

Thor­den says the data and in­for­ma­tion gleaned from the ex­er­cise will likely yield the fu­ture of elec­tric trucks and buses, which might not be that far from be­com­ing a global re­al­ity if Thor­den and her team don’t take their foot off the electromobility de­vel­op­ment pedal.

Anna Thor­den, prod­uct man­ager for electromobility, says the tech­nol­ogy ad­vance­ments will re­sult in a cleaner en­vi­ron­ment.

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