Getting drivers to change their behavioral patterns is quite difficult, but the fuel economy payoff can be huge. Consumer Reports has been informing passenger car drivers about the consequences of hitting the gas pedal, and now the Volvo Group is participating in a project to improve commercial truck driver behavior.
Volvo Group (think Volvo Trucks and not cars) participated for over three years in eCoMove, a European Union research project that wrapped up in November. Volvo Group focused on researching methods to help drivers move the car as efficiently as possible.
A dashboard screen (pictured) was the key part used to educate drivers about the consequences of their driving style, giving feedback if the driver was accelerating too hard or if the vehicle was in the wrong gear. The next step in the training was to incorporate map and GPS data. Drivers are given advance information about what's coming up, including things like a roundabout or a slower speed limit. The dashboard screen informs drivers when it's time to ease off the accelerator or apply brakes. All this is especially important, Volvo said, when driving a heavy-duty truck, which needs a lot more distance than a car to slow down or stop. The third stage is a bit more future-tech: wireless communication with traffic lights that tells drivers how much time is left until the light turns red or green. That educates the driver on what speed to maintain to avoid stopping at the traffic signal.
Volvo Group's testing has been performed by professional drivers on the road and through a simulator. The results have been positive – fuel consumption can be lowered 10 to 15 percent, Vernet said. For companies using big rigs to haul stuff around, this can bring substantial financial savings and contribute to a better environment.
A driver who has mastered eco-driving can substantially reduce fuel consumption and thereby reduce carbon emissions. The Volvo Group has conducted research on a system, whereby technology aids the driver in driving in an even more environmentally economical manner.
The Volvo Group works consistently to improve the fuel efficiency of the company's diesel engines. Since diesel technology is an old and well-developed technology, the improvements made by the Group result in individual percentage-point gains.
However, drivers can achieve significantly larger improvements through their driving approach. Eco-driving courses are successful. Driver's learn to operate the vehicle in a more environmentally efficient manner and can often achieve fuel savings in excess of 10 percent. A common problem however is that many drivers fall back into old driving routines after a period.
For the past three years, the Volvo Group has participated in eCoMove, a European Union research project, in collaboration with a long list of different companies. One of the areas under eCoMove that the Volvo Group has conducted research into was methods of consistently aiding drivers to drive as fuel efficiently as possible.
"The project includes a dashboard screen that provides the driver with information about appropriate behavior," says Guillaume Vernet, Project Manager at Intelligent Transport Systems at the Volvo Group in Lyon, France.
Eco-driving includes elements such as avoiding hard acceleration and maximizing utilization of engine braking.
"The control system in the truck or coach senses if the driver is accelerating too hard, if the driver's foot moves too quickly from the accelerator to the brake or if the vehicle is in too low a gear. This information is displayed on the screen for the driver as a reminder of what eco-driving is all about."
The next step is to incorporate map data and GPS. While drivers can plan for eventualities they can see in front of them, in heavy vehicles, it is advantageous with substantially better forward planning than that.
"By incorporating map data and GPS, the driver can be provided advance information of such items as an upcoming roundabout or a lowering of the speed limit from 90 to 70 km/h," says Guillaume Vernet. "The screen informs the driver that it is time to ease off the accelerator and engage engine braking."
The third stage included in the research project is wireless communication with traffic lights that signal the time remaining until the lights change to red or green. The driver thus knows what speed to maintain to avoid stopping at the traffic light.
"The highest consumption of fuel is through acceleration from stationary."
The Volvo Group has used professional drivers when testing the new tool, both in a simulator and on the road, and the response has been extremely positive.
"It is difficult to provide a general figure about how much fuel can be saved from this technology," says Guillaume Vernet. "But, in areas with frequent changes in speed, fuel consumption is about 10-15 percent lower."
"For haulage companies, this can represent substantial financial savings over a year and a considerable boost toward a better environment."
eCoMove is a 3-year integrated project (April 2010 - November 2013), co-funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme of Research and Technological Development. This project has created integrated cooperative solutions for road transport to help drivers, freight and road operators save unnecessary kilometres driven (optimised routing); save fuel (eco-driving support); and manage traffic more efficiently (optimised network management).
The Volvo Group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of trucks, buses, construction equipment and marine and industrial engines. The Group also provides complete solutions for financing and service. The Volvo Group, which employs about 115,000 people, has production facilities in 19 countries and sells its products in more than 190 markets. In 2012 the Volvo Group's sales amounted to about SEK 304 billion. The Volvo Group is a publicly-held company headquartered in Göteborg, Sweden. Volvo shares are listed on OMX Nordic Exchange Stockholm. For more information, please visit www.volvogroup.com or www.volvogroup.mobi if you are using your mobile phone.