Volvo tests new hybrid refuse truck in London image

After a year and a half of preliminary field testing with excellent results, Volvo Trucks is now launching an upgrade of the world’s first hybrid refuse truck. The upgraded vehicle is now being released with new components and software to be tested by Veolia Environmental Services in central London.

“Up to 30 per cent lower fuel consumption, low emissions and a low noise level make this hybrid a very attractive choice. That’s why we’re keen to test and develop the technology in partnership with Volvo Trucks, with whom we have developed a very strong working relationship,” comments Rob Stubbs, fleet director at Veolia, London and the UK’s leading waste management provider.

The company has ordered the new refuse truck.

Same concept, new components
The new truck is an upgraded version of the trucks field-tested in Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden over the past eighteen months. Like these trucks, the new refuse truck is what is known as a parallel hybrid. This means it has two separate energy sources, one for diesel and one for electricity, which can be used either separately or together. The benefit of this is that each energy source can be used where it is most fuel-efficient: the electric motor at low revs and the diesel engine at high revs.

“The basic concept is the same, but all the components and software have been updated,” explains Fredrik Bohlin, Business Manager – Hybrids at Volvo Trucks. “Development is extremely fast and the technology in our latest test vehicle is much closer to a production-ready solution.”

The new refuse truck has electric power steering, completely new control systems and refined battery management strategies to optimise the battery performance. Loading and refuse compaction are completely electrically powered by means of a plug-in compactor that is charged via the mains electricity grid. The battery is also new, with improved reliability and a longer lifespan.

According to Fredrik Bohlin, a small-scale series production of the hybrids will start in 2012 at the earliest, which is somewhat later than the original plan. The delay is related to the global financial crisis that has affected both Volvo’s product development and customers’ investment capacity.

Experience leads to optimised solutions
The field tests currently underway have given Volvo Trucks’ engineers important experience, which will be used when developing the new refuse truck. Making two energy sources work together has proved to be a complex balancing act.

“For example, if you want to minimise fuel consumption, you can maximise the use of the electrical power unit. However, this reduces battery life. So to achieve an optimal solution, many different properties must be weighed against each other,” explains Fredrik Bohlin. “It’s all about satisfying high demands for performance, lifespan, fuel consumption and ease of operation.”