The power behind Volvo Trucks’ electrification
Lerato Matebese spoke with product manager Anna Thorden in Sweden
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 eye-opening 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 cross-section 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 top-up 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.