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. Drivers 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.”