Volvo Group Brings Electrification & Autonomy To Industry

Credit to Author: Steve Hanley| Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2019 17:25:05 +0000

Published on August 23rd, 2019 | by Steve Hanley

August 23rd, 2019 by  

Volvo Group is a major manufacturer of trucks, buses, and construction equipment. It is comprised of 12 brands manufactured in 18 countries by 100,000 employees. Its products are sold in 190 markets around the world and include marine and industrial engines.

Image: Volvo Group

While we often hear about how EVs can lower carbon emissions and autonomous cars will revolutionize urban transportation, we hear much less about bringing those benefits to other parts of the transportation sector, particularly construction equipment. Volvo Group is a leader at introducing those new technologies to its industrial partners.

In June, Volvo Group announced that it is partnering with NVIDIA to bring autonomous driving systems to public transport, freight transport, refuse and recycling collection, construction, mining, forestry and more.

One of the products that marries both technologies is the company’s HX2 autonomous, battery-electric load carrier. This second generation concept machine is part of an electric site research project that aims to transform the quarry and aggregates industry.

The purpose of that project is to electrify the movable machinery in a quarry – from excavation to primary crushing and transport to secondary crushing — and integrate them with new work methods and site management systems to create a complete site solution. Other prototype machines that make-up the electric site system include a prototype electric hybrid wheel loader and a grid-connected excavator. Other new technology includes machine and fleet control systems and logistic solutions for electric machines in quarries.

Image: Volvo Group

A testing program at Skanska’s Vikan Kross quarry near Gothenburg, Sweden has shown better results than expected — a 98% reduction in carbon emissions, a 70% reduction in energy cost, a 40% reduction in operator cost, and an projected reduction in total costs of operation of 25%. Volvo Group’s vision is creating work sites that are ten times more efficient, with zero accidents, zero unplanned stops, and zero emissions.

The Volvo ECR 25 electric excavator is now being used by a French construction company at a site near Paris. With its zero exhaust emissions and almost silent operation, the Volvo ECR25 Electric is perfect for such environments.

“It’s exciting for us to see this machine at a client’s construction site,” says Elodie Guyot, electric compact excavator project manager for Volvo Construction Equipment. “It’s in a very quiet and peaceful area where residents want that quietness and peacefulness to be respected so it’s crucial to have a machine that meets this need.”

For machine operator Alexandre Birot, the advantages of the electric excavator are very personal.  “When we talk to the guy in the trench we don’t have to yell, we talk normally and he can hear everything. With a traditional excavator we first have to turn the engine off for him to be able to hear. What’s more, when we spend the whole day in the trench, usually he would inhale a lot of fumes but now there’s no exhaust gas for him to inhale. If there were only electric machines in the company that would be amazing.”

The Volvo ECR25 Electric replaces the normal internal combustion engine with a 48 volt lithium-ion battery and an electric motor that powers the hydraulics. The battery stores enough energy to power the machine for 8 hours in typical applications such as digging trenches for utilities. An onboard charger enables overnight charging using a regular household outlet. A fast charging option will also be available.

Image: Volvo Group

Volvo Construction Equipment is partnering with Telia and Ericsson to test Sweden’s first 5G network for industrial use at the company’s Eskilstuna R&D facility. With its shorter lag time, the 5G network will make it possible to control construction machinery remotely and create added value for customers.

“Automation has several levels and having 5G is an important technical support to enable us to drive development in this area. These trials in Eskilstuna will include the remote control of a conventional wheel loader but also further tests of the HX2 concept load carrier,” says Melker Jernberg, president of Volvo CE.

“We can see that the industry’s interest in 5G is considerable. Automation of the entire flow will mean new ways of working and greater gains from efficiency. But to connect business-critical machines and vehicles requires a solution that is able to handle the massive amounts of data with guaranteed connection. That is what 5G can give us. And we are proud to lead the 5G-development in Sweden together with our partners,” says Anders Olsson, CEO of Telia Sweden.

“With extremely short response times, high capacity, and a high level of accessibility to the mobile network, commercial and standardized 5G technology can be used for applications such as remote control of heavy machinery in real time. This opens up new opportunities for greater efficiency, cutting costs and reducing risk in hazardous environments. 5G enables us to create a safer, more efficient and sustainable society. In cooperation with Telia and Volvo CE, we are now putting theory into practice in Eskilstuna. The 5G technology is ready for the world to switch on,” says Magnus Frodigh, Head of Research at Ericsson.

“We are testing locally in Eskilstuna, but we operate globally. Connected machines and autonomous solutions are the future. They can give our customers more efficient production, logistics, greater flexibility and safer work. By minimizing the potential safety risks and downtime associated with sectors such as mining, we can get closer to our goal of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero unplanned stops. It will be exciting to see how far 5G can take us on that journey,” Melker says.

Image: Volvo Group

The company is also verifying the capability of a remotely controlled front end loader deep underground in a mine in Sweden. “Volvo CE’s mission statement for the project was to prove that the technology we’re developing internally is applicable in a customer environment,” says Erik Uhlin, leader of advanced engineering for the company. “We wanted to highlight that industrial applications in mobile networks aren’t just something out of science fiction – they’re real.”

Image: Volvo Group

Online sales are creating an explosion of demand for package delivery services. Volvo Group is at the forefront of research and development that will lead to autonomous electric trucks to meet that demand. It is working on autonomous electric tractors for port operations, local and long distance freight hauling, as well as last mile delivery trucks.

Today, more than 35 million packages are delivered worldwide every day and the industry is growing as much as 28% annually. By 2040, delivery services will have to travel another 78 billion miles each year to handle goods ordered online, the company says.

Autonomous trucks can operate 24 hours a day, which will improve delivery times while increasing efficiency and driving down operating costs by up to 45%. From automating short, routine trips like the loading and unloading of containers on cargo ships and managing port operations, to driving autonomously on the highway, Volvo’s new generation of vehicles will dramatically streamline the shipping industry, the company says.

Decarbonizing the transportation sector is vital to lowering world carbon emissions. At Volvo Group, its electric excavators and trucks may not be as sexy as a Tesla Model 3 but they may be more important when is comes to lowering total emissions.

Note: All images used in this story were provided by Volvo Group and used with permission. 

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. His motto is, “Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away!” You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.