In the European market, Volvo tweaks engine offering. It has tweaked its Euro 6 engines and FH cab aerodynamics in what it describes as, “…yet another step on the path to efficient transportation.”
It goes on to say changes to its Euro 6 ‘C’ D13 engine (fitted in FH and FM) represent, “A perfect example of how several small advances together can result in a big improvement.” The two most significant updates under the shed are the adoption of a higher compression ratio on the 420 and 460hp versions of the D13 six-pot and a new optimised turbocharger on 500 and 540 hp D13 variants.
It’s also put the FH back into a wind tunnel to find new ways to improve its cab’s aerodynamics. As a result it’s fine-tuned the front bumper spoiler, top cab air deflector panels, mudguards and mud flaps as well as the wheel arches, a key source of aerodynamic loss according to Volvo. By reducing the gap between the wheel arch and steer axle tyre, the Swedes have reduced those aerodynamic ‘leakage’ losses and lowered the amount of turbulence around the wheel.
Likewise, by optimising the shape of the FH’s front bumper spoiler the air stream is now deflected away from the underside of the truck, a notorious area for creating turbulence and drag, to around the side of the truck where it can be better controlled. However, by making the lower part of the bumper of a softer material neither ground clearance or approach angles have been compromised. Similarly the air flow between the back of the FH cab and the front of the trailer has been improved through the use of flexible elements in the corners of the top cab deflector.
An indication of just how far truck designers and aerodynamicists are going in order to save fuel is the fact that the latest FH now has optimised mudguards. According to the company, “By applying variant matching of the mudguards and mud flaps according to the size of the wheels, greater aerodynamic efficiency is achieved without the protective function being impaired.”
Once again the savings aren’t massive, but when you add the improved FH cab aerodynamics to the latest Euro 6 C D13 engine tweaks, Volvo reckons you can make a fuel saving of up to three percent on regional and long-haul work. When you consider all the low-hanging fruit (like eco-driver training, improved routing and scheduling with telematics, low-rolling resistance tyres and improved trailer and bodywork aerodynamics) has already been picked off the fuel-savings tree, an extra three percent off your fuel bill represents a significant saving, especially to a fleet running more than 10 trucks.
There’s another reason too, at least in the UK, why every little fuel-saving matters. According to the latest survey of the UK’s Top 100 road transport operators from leading UK industry newspaper, Motor Transport, in 2015 the average return on sales for those hundred players, which includes major European and global logistics companies, was a modest 3.17 percent. The good news is that it’s up on the previous year’s 2.61 percent. So when the chairman says, “We need to make more profit from our business,” it’s hardly surprising those little incremental savings at the pump created by the manufacturers start to look increasingly attractive….and that hard-pressed European hauliers are grabbing them with both hands.