Volvo CE unveiled prototypes of furistic concepts, at the recently held Xploration Forum in Sweden to drive sustainability and change in industry.
Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) showcased a range of futuristic concepts and innovations during the impressive Xploration Forum organised at their Customer Service Center at Eskilstuna, Sweden, on September 14, 2016, to the media from 28 countries. The innovative concepts, from electro mobility to intelligent machines and total site solutions, were introduced with an intention of informing their prerogatives, to the global industry stakeholders.
Innovative technologies by Volvo CE will change the way construction equipment offered by the company, will deliver production efficiency, on site equipment management, fuel conservation, operational safety and compliance to pollution issues, at affordable costs.
Innovations for a sustainable future
Martin Weissburg, Member of the Executive Board and President of Volvo CE, kicked off the event with his opening remarks, ¨In line with the Volvo Group´s vision to be the most desired and successful transport solution provider in the world, Volvo CE is committed to contributing to sustainable development.¨ He further commented, ¨At Volvo CE, we are developing technologies connected to electro mobility, intelligent machines and total site solutions that will benefit our customers and the environment by contributing to increased machine performance, productivity, efficiency, safety and sustainability. Our future products and services will play an important part in building a sustainable society.¨
¨Volvo CE is at the forefront of technological development,¨ continued Weissburg, ¨Each year, the Volvo Group invests billions of Swedish Kronor in research and development to drive the evolution of new innovations. We organise events such as the Xploration Forum because we want to share our exciting projects and concepts with the world. Although this technology may be years away from - or may never enter - production, it will undoubtedly influence our future offering and has the potential to transform the construction industry as we know it. The progress our engineers are making is exciting.¨
Technology premise:Triple Zero, 10x
Dave Ross, Vice President of Advanced Technology & Verification, Volvo CE explained, ¨The Xploration Forum, which builds on the Innovation Forum Volvo CE held in 2013, was designed to underscore the company´s position as the innovation pioneer of the construction equipment industry. We´ve set ourselves four key technology challenges that we call Triple Zero and 10x: zero emissions, zero accidents, zero unplanned stops and 10x higher efficiency.¨ Weissburg explained, ¨We believe that our clear focus on electromobility, intelligent machines and total site solutions will help us achieve these ambitious goals and pave the way for a sustainable construction industry.¨
Zero emissions: Zero emission machines will help make customers´ businesses more environmentally sustainable.
Zero accidents: With pioneering safety innovations, machines could instinctively avoid accidents - generating a completely safe working environment.
Zero unplanned stops: A world without machine breakdowns, where machines predict and plan their own maintenance - making unplanned stops a thing of the past. 10x higher efficiency: The electrification of construction equipment and site optimisation will dramatically reduce energy consumption.
Volvo Concept Lab
The innovations shown at the Xploration Forum were presented under the umbrella of ´Volvo Concept Lab´ - a new Volvo Group initiative. From now on, Volvo-branded companies within the Volvo Group will showcase their research and development projects under this technology communication platform. ¨At the Volvo Group, we want to show our customers, journalists, government representatives and members of the public the exciting projects we are working on,¨ said Weissburg. He added, ¨Volvo Concept Lab will showcase ideas, innovations and collaborations that could potentially lead to future products and solutions - exactly like those Volvo CE presented at the Xploration Forum.¨
The electrification of construction equipment represents ´future of industry.´ Volvo CE gave customers, the international press, government representatives and academics an exclusive look at the electric hybrid machine, which can deliver up to a 50 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency. On top of this, the LX1 also offers a significant reduction in emissions and noise pollution compared to its conventional counterparts. The LX1 is a series hybrid that incorporates a driveline that consists of electric drive motors mounted at the wheels, electric hydraulics, an energy storage system, a significantly smaller diesel engine and new machine architecture. It is this combination that enables the substantial gain in fuel efficiency. The prototype - which has 98 per cent new parts and a fundamentally new machine design - is capable of doing the work of a wheel loader that´s one size larger. This is a machine with the potential to improve fuel efficiency by up to 50 per cent, demonstrations of a prototype autonomous wheel loader and articulated hauler working together, and an electric site solution that showcased the new concept HX1 autonomous, battery-electric, load carrier. The electric site project aims to transform the quarry and aggregates industry by reducing carbon emissions by up to 95 per cent and total cost of ownership by up to 25 per cent. At this stage, the LX1 is part of a research project and it is not commercially available.
The Volvo Group defines electromobility as ´commercial vehicles and machines that can utilise an electrical motor to propel or to perform the main purpose of the machine´. A hybrid is classified as a machine that uses more than one power source and captures and reuses energy that would otherwise be wasted. It is a prerequisite that the machine has the capability for energy storage to count as a true hybrid. Volvo CE started its journey with electro mobility and hybrid technology in 1998. The company has long-term plans to develop products and services for electro mobility, including electric hybrids and electric sites. ¨Although we believe that there will be a major shift towards electric hybrid technology in the future, our customers, quite rightly, want improved efficiency now. We are delivering this through more conventional technologies and soft offers,¨ said Scott Young, Electro Mobility Program Manager at Volvo CE. He further added, ¨This is because we need to meet customers´ immediate expectations in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO). A large part of TCO is energy cost, but other significant expenses include purchase price and maintenance. These aspects help drive our hybrid development plans. Therefore, before we launch a machine like the LX1, you can expect to see elements of this design incorporated into our products. This supports short and mid-term developments and requirements while the market continues to accept the technology, technology improves and the cost of new technologies decreases.¨
Collaborating with customers: Volvo CE has teamed up with its customer Waste Management - the largest environmental services and recycling company in North America - to field test the LX1. Waste Management, which owns one of the largest fleets of Volvo CE equipment in the world, is currently running a conventional machine to gather baseline data at two of its facilities in California. After the Xploration Forum, the LX1 will be shipped to the company so that it can carry out fuel efficiency and emission reduction tests at these sites.
¨We see Volvo CE as a strategic partner,¨ said John Meese, Senior Director of Heavy Equipment at Waste Management. He added, ¨We have one of the largest fleets of construction equipment in North America and want to use the best available technology to improve our operations and the service we deliver to customers. From the minute we were introduced to the LX1, we knew we wanted to work with Volvo CE to prove the concept in the real-world environments we operate in. We are anticipating excellent results when it comes to reducing the use of fossil fuels and lowering exhaust emissions. An additional benefit is the dramatic reduction in noise pollution.¨
Return on investment (ROI): ¨Although it may be possible to realise fairly high levels of fuel savings and productivity gains in prototype form, when it comes to serial production you have to consider cost and ROI,¨ says Young. ¨Hybrid technologies are still a relatively expensive solution and adoption has been slow. This is because the benefit of current hybrid machines on the market isn´t significantly higher than conventional technologies, so it takes longer to achieve payback on your investment. However, the cost of energy storage systems like lithium ion batteries is steadily decreasing, along with other technology, so that´s starting to make hybrids more attractive financially. There are still opportunities to further optimise conventional technology - and these developments will compete with hybrid technology for some years.
Although having said that, we are currently in a period of exponential technology growth and I believe this industry shift will move at a faster pace than others have in the past,¨ he concludes.
Volvo CE demonstrated its prototype autonomous wheel loader and articulated hauler working together under simulated but actual working conditions. The exclusive demo of Volvo CE prototype autonomous wheel loader and articulated hauler working together impressed the crowds. The prototype wheel loader filled the prototype articulated hauler - before dumping its load and repeating the cycle. In a one-hour comparison, it was found that the autonomous wheel loader could reach the equivalent of 70 per cent of that of a skilled operator´s productivity levels when loading and unloading. This is not just theoretical; the machine has also done æreal work´ for a Volvo CE customer at an asphalt plant in Sweden.
¨The demonstration machines were programmed to work together and carry out a specific set of actions on a pre-defined route,¨ explained Jenny Ellsberg, Director of Emerging Technologies at Volvo CE. ¨The machines can perform the same task over and over again, along a fixed route, for a relatively long period of time. But it´s still early days for this technology; we are working on developing solutions that have the required safety and performance levels that the market will accept.¨
¨There is still a long way to go so there are no plans for industrialisation at this stage,¨ she continues. ¨Currently these prototype machines don´t communicate with each other and machine-to-machine communication technology - where machines ´talk´ to one another and to a central control point - is crucial when it comes to avoiding collisions and facilitating an efficient flow of equipment.¨
The demonstrator machines that were unveiled were standard Volvo products - an L120 wheel loader and an A25F articulated hauler - which have been upgraded with autonomous technology. Once a solution is finalised, this technology could be applied to other products in Volvo CE´s range.
¨Autonomous machines will increase safety in hazardous working environments and eliminate the possibility of accidents caused by human error,¨ said Ellsberg. ¨They will also perform repetitive tasks more efficiently and precisely than a human operator and, because machines will be operated in the most efficient way, customers will benefit from improved performance, productivity, fuel efficiency and durability. In future, you could also potentially have one operator for three or four machines, increasing productivity and further decreasing costs. Looking ahead, I imagine that autonomous machines will be smaller and more robust. There will be no need for a cab or suspension - much like the HX1 concept which Volvo CE unveiled as part of its electric site research project at the Xploration Forum.¨
Volvo CE has been working on autonomous machine research for more than a decade. Its focus on futuristic technology such as autonomous machines is fuelling the development of mid-term innovations at the company. Technology such as semi-automated or automated functions will support more immediate developments years before it´s possible to realise the ultimate goal. There are already cases of automated and assist-functionalities on the market today. For example, earlier this year, Volvo CE launched Volvo Co-Pilot, a system that offers a range of intelligent machine services - Load Assist, Dig Assist, Compact Assist and Pave Assist - to help operators deliver higher quality outcomes, in less time and with less effort. ¨We are starting to see systems that are less dependent on operator skills, ones that support operators with guidance or control primary functions,¨ said Ellsberg. ¨In future, we will see increased machine autonomy and the operator will act more in a supervisory capacity. This will provide less stressful, more interesting work for operators, with perhaps several machines being controlled remotely by one operator. Of course some tasks are so complicated that you really need to feel what you´re doing, and in those cases we will still need operators controlling the machines from inside,¨ she concludes.
Volvo CE is working on an electric site research project that aims to transform the quarry and aggregates industry by reducing carbon emissions by up to 95 per cent and total cost of ownership by up to 25 per cent. The project aims to electrify a transport stage in a quarry - from excavation to primary crushing and transport to secondary crushing. It involves developing new machines, work methods and site management systems. As well as a fleet of HX1s, other prototype machines that make-up the electric site system includes a hybrid wheel loader and a grid-connected excavator. New technology encompasses machine and fleet control systems and logistics solutions for electric machines in quarries.
¨This research project is a step towards transforming the quarry and aggregates industry,¨ said Johan Sjöberg, Technical Specialist in site automation at Volvo CE. ¨By using electricity instead of diesel to power construction equipment in a quarry we have the potential to deliver significant reductions in fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, environmental impact and cost-per-tonne. The electrification of construction equipment will produce cleaner, quieter and more efficient machines - this represents the future of our industry.¨
Electrifying innovation: Volvo CE has teamed up with its customer Skanska Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency and two Swedish universities - Linköping University and MSlardalen University - to collaborate on the SEK203 million projects. All of the partners were at the Xploration Forum to present the concept to Volvo CE´s customers, the international press, government representatives and academics. Volvo CE is coordinating the project and is in charge of developing the machines and systems. Skanska Sweden is providing logistical solutions, application relevance and job site knowledge. The Swedish Energy Agency - a government agency for national energy policy issues - is helping to fund the project and the universities are carrying out research. Three PhD students are looking at energy management for electric vehicles, safe and robust software controls and energy-optimised work cycle control. The project started in October 2015 and is due to be completed in late 2018. Volvo CE is currently developing and testing the technologies, concept and prototypes in-house. Skanska Sweden will incorporate the demonstration machines into its operations and test the electric site concept at a quarry in western Sweden, for 10 weeks at the end of 2018. After this, Volvo CE will examine the project results to see if the concept is viable for the industry. Currently this work is just a research project, with no plans for industrialisation at this stage.
The initiative is jointly funded: Volvo CE has invested SEK129 million, the Swedish Energy Agency has provided SEK65 million (it awarded SEK59 million to Volvo CE, SEK5 million to Linköping University and SEK1 million to MSlardalen University) and Skanska Sweden has contributed SEK9 million.
¨This type of cooperation between Volvo CE, its customers, governments and academia allows us to invest in new technologies and explore solutions that are both relevant for our customer base and address future challenges,¨ said Erik Uhlin, Advanced engineering technical project leader at Volvo CE. ¨Each year, Volvo invests a substantial amount of money in emerging technologies, advanced engineering and product development. But without vital public funding and support from partners it would not be possible for research projects like this to go ahead.¨
The event concluded with a grand finale consisting of coordinated display of the biggest and the smallest Volvo equipment in each category in conjunction with the concept prototypes culminating in an impressive set up of a wooden bell assembled purely by the displayed equipment.