Volvo Trucks unveiled the new VNL heavy truck for over-the-road operations by boxing it up like a toy and letting a three year old boy open it up for a Guinness World Record. The unboxing may have been a slick publicity stunt, but the tech under the hood of this big machine is no gimmick.
In a promotional video (below) for the unveiling of the new VNL series of commercial heavy-duty semi-trucks, Volvo let three-year-old truck fanatic Joel Jovine unbox the tractor-trailer. This set a new Guinness World Record for the largest item ever unboxed, as witnessed by Guinness World Records adjudicator Michael Empric.
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Under the hood of the the new Volvo VNL is a new piston technology that improves fuel burn and thus power delivery and efficiency in a simple, novel way. This is called a "wave piston" and is a simple change to the piston head in order to improve fuel-air mixing within the combustion chamber.
In normal diesel engine design, fuel and air injectors are located at or near the top of the cylinder. Fuel is sprayed towards the sides of the piston as air is compressed during the piston's upward travel. The pressure ignites the fuel and the resulting flames swirl along the combustion chamber walls at up to 50 meters per second.
As flames spread along the piston bowl (top of the piston), they collide with one another at an angle of about 180 degrees. Those colliding flames compete for oxygen, pulling it from around the chamber's walls, under-utilizing the oxygen at the center of the cylinder.
With Volvo's new "wave piston" design, the cylinder's bowl-shaped head is changed to include "waves" along the edge that disrupt the usual travel of the flames, stirring them so that the oxygen at the center of the chamber is more utilized, improving burn efficiency. This translates to better power output on each stroke for the same amount of fuel and air, meaning greater efficiency overall. The video below illustrates how this new wave piston head works.
That higher efficiency might only be in low, single-digit percentage points over hundreds of miles of vehicle travel, but in a big rig pulling heavy loads, small improvements add up. Quickly. The new wave piston head design is featured in both the D11 and D13 diesel engines offered in the new Volvo VNL series.
Also standard on those engines is a mechanical waste heat recovery system that captures wasted energy from the engine's exhaust. This results in a 6.5 percent fuel efficiency gain.
Another suite of technologies offered in the VNL is Volvo Active Driver Assist. Standard in the VNL and Volvo's VNR series, this is a set of Bendix Wingman Fusion camera- and radar-based collision mitigation systems. Integrated into the truck's driver information display in the instrument cluster, the system alerts the driver to a potential forward collision with warning lights and a visual flashing light on the windscreen. If the driver does not take action quickly enough, the system engages mitigation by braking to slow the truck.
The radar and camera systems on the Volvo trucks detects metallic objects large enough to be slower moving vehicles or large stationary objects. Warnings can be made up to three seconds before an imminent impact. The system also integrates a lane-departure warning system, which works in a way similar to that found on passenger vehicles by utilizing the cameras to detect road markings and lane divisions.
The detection range of the Active Driver Assist systems on the VNL includes bumper and visor-mounted radar that "sees" 22 degrees wide and 500 feet away from the truck (looking forward). It has the ability to accurately judge distance, moving speeds, and angle of the object(s) ahead. A camera positioned on the windscreen has a viewing angle wider than 42 degrees and helps determine the object's size and lane position.
The Volvo VNL also has an option for a driver's infotainment screen. This 7-inch touchscreen includes navigation and an exterior backing camera. Premium audio is integrated into that system, including Bluetooth connectivity and Apple CarPlay. Apps can be downloaded for use and a dash-top storage tray for phones and other smart devices has USB and 12 V plugs included.
Steering-mounted controls, like those found in many of today's automobiles, have been added to the Volov VNL to allow the driver to control information and infotainment screens with hands on the wheel. Various other driver comfort features such as a fully adjustable steering column and seat are also standard in the VNL.
The new Volvo VNL will replace the outgoing VNL models introduced in 2015.
Source: Volvo TrucksView gallery - 8 images