Over-the-road tractor trailers are often characterized as big, lumbering, low-tech beasts, employing decades-old technology to get the job done. But Volvo is out to shatter that stereotype with its new FH series trucks. Featuring a suite of electronic driving and efficiency aids, the trucks aim to redefine customers’ expectations in the heavy-truck market.
The new FH features an independent front suspension, something commonplace on passenger cars and light trucks, but nearly unheard of in the heavy truck sector. To highlight the FH’s smooth and controlled ride, it featured tightrope walker Faith Dickey walking on a rope between two Volvo FH trucks at 50 mph. The video can be seen on YouTube.
But the independent front suspension is not the only technologically advanced feature on the truck. The new FH is the first to offer a dual-clutch automated transmission in the heavy-duty market, dubbed I-Shift 2. Unlike other heavy truck automated transmissions, which noticeably cut fuel and torque between shifts, mimicking the feel of a gear change in a manual transmission, I-Shift’s gear changes are immediate, with no interruption in torque delivery. And speaking of torque, the FH is equipped with Volvo’s 16-liter, I-6 turbodiesel I-Torque engine producing up to 750 hp and a staggering 2618 lb-ft of torque.
To further enhance fuel economy, the FH is equipped with I-See, an autopilot program that operates the transmission, accelerator and brakes on uphill and downhill grades, “recording” regularly driven routes and anticipating grade changes to optimize fuel economy. Volvo engineers claim I-See results in up to a 5-percent improvement in overall fuel effici
ency. When combined with the new I-Torque engine, fuel economy gains of up to 10 percent over its predecessor are possible.
Just as important as these technological advancements are improvements in driver comfort, which take the form of a new cab design. The driver’s seat on the new FH has improved lumbar and lateral support, and increased fore-aft travel. The steering wheel also has 20 degrees more tilt adjustment and features controls for the navigation and Bluetooth phone controls integrated into the wheel. On the sleeper-cab versions, the bed has been widened to 32 inches and sports new mattress material. Finally, the new FH has an integrated parking cooler climate control system that allows the driver to stay comfortable through the night without having to leave the engine running. The smart system calculates available battery power for its duty cycle, guaranteeing the truck will start the next morning.
As sweet as the FH is, for now, it will be a Europe-only model, as cabover models are generally favored by European markets, with the U.S. market dominated by conventional engine-forward configurations. But Volvo is an established player in the U.S. heavy truck market, so it’s possible many of the futuristic features showcased on the FH might make their way to Volvo’s US offerings.