Volvo Trucks North America on Tuesday rolled out its redesigned Volvo VNL, the first update to the company's flagship on-highway long-haul truck since 2017.
Volvo Trucks North America President Peter Voorhoeve, calling the debut of his company's next-generation VNL "a quantum leap forward," noted that design sketching on the truck started "with a blank sheet of paper," adding that the resulting retooled aerodynamics and engineering achieve a fuel efficiency improvement of up to 10% over prior generation models. "This is our most innovative, fuel efficient and safest truck ever," he said.
"We changed about 90% of it," Director of Product Marketing Johan Agebrand noted of the current-generation VNL to the coming generation.
The up to 10% fuel economy uptick is a blend of 7% improvement from aero and 3% from powertrain improvement.
The new VNL will be the platform Volvo uses to usher in all its upcoming technologies, including battery-electric powertrains, fuel cell and renewable fuel and hydrogen internal combustion engines. The first 24-volt electrical infrastructure in the North American trucking industry and active safety features that are introduced in this new generation of Volvo trucks will be the standard for the future commercialization of fully autonomous trucks.
Because the electrical system is 24 volts, Agebrand said engineers were able to use smaller and lighter components. The 24-volt system was also needed to support redundant systems and autonomous systems.
The all-new Volvo VNL is packaged into four exterior and interior trim levels — Core, Edge, Edge Black and Ultimate — and six cab configurations: VNL 300 Day Cab; VNL 440 42-inch Mid-Roof Sleeper; VNL 640 62-inch Mid-Roof Sleeper; VNL 660 62-inch Full-Height Sleeper; VNL 840 74-inch Mid-Roof Sleeper; and VNL 860 74-inch Full-Height Sleeper.
Power and aero
Inspired by Volvo's SuperTruck 2 but yet still a "simplistic design," according Volvo's Global Design Director Jonathan Disley, the NextGen VNL features a streamlined and angular, wedge-shaped cab design and a curved and bonded windshield: key factors in achieving up to 10% improvement in fuel efficiency. Additional aerodynamic gains were created from the integration of tighter clearances around turbulent air areas like wheel openings, the bumper and the hood, chassis fairings and promoting a tighter trailer gap.
The latest generation D13 engine – available in four horsepower ratings, ranging from 405-500hp and three torque ratings from 1,750-1,950 lb-ft – is equipped with an optimized I-Shift transmission, which features up to 30% faster shift speeds. The Turbo Compounding 13-liter will continue to be the standard engine on the new VNL.
Safety and tech
A variety of new and improved proprietary active and passive safety features are included on the new VNL, including Volvo Active Driver Assist Plus with Pilot Assist, which provides active lane centering. Volvo Active Driver Assist Plus is powered by Volvo Dynamic Steering, which improves maneuvering at all speeds, including more controlled backing, increases stability at all road speeds, and adapts and corrects for crosswinds, highway crowning, soft shoulders, or emergency situations like tire failure. The new pedestrian detection feature alerts the driver when a pedestrian or bicyclist may be in their path or blind spots and will activate frontal automatic emergency braking for objects directly in the path of travel.
Passive safety systems offered in the new Volvo VNL include the new windshield and its panoramic view, improving visibility for drivers, bolstering safety and reducing wind noise in the cab. The cab of the new Volvo VNL is designed according to Volvo Trucks’ leading crash test standards and will offer a side-curtain airbag, with options for driver-only or driver and passenger airbags, a North American industry first. Cabs are constructed of high-strength steel to deflect the energy of a crash to reduce the chance of injury. Additionally, Volvo Trucks’ splayed frame rails allow the powertrain to drop down below the cab to protect the driver in the event of a head-on collision.
E-Call, an innovative new safety feature, connects the driver to emergency services where cellular connectivity is available and provides precise location details. This occurs automatically in the event of a rollover crash or airbag deployment.
A 24-month Volvo Connect subscription, an all-in-one fleet management portal that includes vehicle data insights, diagnostics, remote programming, fuel economy reports, safety reports and location services, comes standard with all new Volvo trucks.
With the new Volvo MyTruck app, drivers can see estimated remaining fuel range, DEF levels and coolant levels, as well as receiving notifications about potential issues such as light malfunctions, low washer fluid levels and other important items so they can address them at rest breaks or in their pre-trip inspection.
Nicole Portello, Volvo Trucks' senior vice president and chief digital officer, said the MyTruck app also allows drivers to schedule specific days and times to start the climate control to have the cabin climate reach a preferred temperature before arriving to their truck to start the workday.
Speaking of the cab...
Safety isn't the only thing that's important in a cab design. It has to be comfortable, too, for the people spending upwards of 60 hours per week in the driver's seat.
The new VNL features newly introduced or dramatically improved amenities, including an optional folding bunk to allow easy access to the dinette space, a singular multi-functional control panel in the back of the cab, upgraded insulation for climate control and noise reduction, a larger refrigerator and enough power options to support any device.
A new, optional air suspension system, GRAS (Global Rear Air Suspension), improves ride quality with dual leveling rods that reduce roll and pitch angles, improve lateral stability and minimize road shocks, maintaining a constant ride height. The GRAS and the Volvo Smart Suspension software work in tandem with Volvo's Dynamic Steering system to provide precise steering control and reduce driver fatigue regardless of load, terrain, road condition and varying engine torque levels. GRAS with Volvo Smart Suspension provides three settings to adjust the suspension for different loading and unloading conditions.
The new Volvo VNL also features a new ultra-quiet, proprietary, integrated Volvo Parking Cooler -- a climate-control option that utilizes the onboard 24-volt battery system to power the cab’s HVAC when parked, reducing emissions, engine wear and fuel costs.