British motorsport and advanced engineering group Prodrive says it will partner with Swedish newcomer Volta Trucks to develop a “revolutionary” 16-tonne electric heavy goods vehicle (HGV), designed to not only meet zero emissions standards but to also help keep vulnerable road users safer in crowded urban environments.
In a move which speaks highly of the advanced nature of electric vehicles, Volta Trucks’ design is focused less on being a ‘revolutionary’ electric truck and more on being a ‘revolutionary’ safe truck which just happens to also be electric.
Prodrive will therefore be responsible for overall engineering and program delivery, including cab, chassis, and electrical architecture.
Prodrive boasts a significant history of electric vehicle (EV) engineering, dating back to 2001 with the conversion of a front-wheel drive Saab into a hybrid demonstrator, driven by an electric rear-axle.
Prodrive will help develop the design into a drivable demonstrator vehicle by the middle of 2020 and the two companies are hoping to provide driving demonstrations in late-2020.
Parallel with their demonstrator schedule, the two companies are hoping to implement a program to manufacturer a fleet of prototypes for field trials in London and Paris as soon as 2021.
The primary focus of the Volta Trucks concept HGV is based around the desire to create a safer HGV. Quoting the London Mayor’s office in their press release, the two companies explained that 23% of pedestrian and 58% of cyclist deaths in London involved HGVs – despite the fact HGVs only make up 4% of road miles in London.
Subsequently, Volta Trucks is seeking to design an HGV which positions the driver low down, centrally, and forward of the front axle, giving the driver an uninterrupted vision at street level through 220 degrees.
Specifically, Volta Trucks concept places the driver in the centre of the cab at eye level with pedestrians and uses extensive cabin glazing combined with cameras instead of traditional rear-view mirrors to eliminate dangerous blind spots. Passenger seating is therefore arranged behind the driver on either side.
The new design also integrates bus-style doors on both sides with a slide/swing action to minimise intrusion into the path of pedestrians or cyclists while allowing the driver to easily access the central driving position.
“Trucks face two major issues in an urban environment; not only are diesel engines rapidly becoming unacceptable, but the category is disproportionately represented in accidents involving death and injuries among pedestrians and cyclists,” explains Steve Price, the project leader at Prodrive.
“Our client Volta Trucks has taken the design opportunity provided by the switch to electrification to re-imagine the layout of a conventional truck and address emissions and safety concerns simultaneously.”
“With a successful record of producing demonstrator and fleet trial vehicles, coupled with many years’ experience working with EV powertrains, we felt Prodrive was a natural partner; big enough to assemble a multi-skilled team quickly, yet small enough to retain the agility needed when introducing new technology,” added Carl-Magnus Norden, Founder and CEO, Volta Trucks.
“Its independence from established suppliers is also a valuable asset in ensuring all engineering decisions are completely impartial.”
Volta Trucks’ concept HGV integrates traditional design elements for the rear of the truck and the tail lift arrangement to maintain compatibility with existing loading bays, which in turn means the demonstrator vehicle can be created by combining an existing donor rear chassis ladder frame with the new cab and frontal arrangement.
Volta Trucks and Prodrive hope the truck will include an electric range of 160 kilometres (100 miles) at a top speed of 80 kph (50 mph) and a gradeability sufficient to briskly negotiate the on-off ramps and slip roads typical of urban elevated routes.