Urban Truck Design for Ecology and Safety

| Transport

Volta driving position and camera enhanced visibility help to keep vulnerable road users safe

The Volta urban HGV takes a radical approach to both body and powertrain design to meet future standards in ecology and safety.

Volta Trucks and powertrain specialist, Prodrive, are collaborating on the design of a 16-tonne electric HGV designed to meet zero emissions requirements and also help to keep vulnerable road users safer in crowded urban environments.

The design concept positions the driver low down, centrally and forward of the front axle to give uninterrupted vision at street level through 220 degrees. Prodrive is helping to develop the design into a drivable demonstrator by early summer 2020.

Addressing the Urban Safety Challenge

HGVs are at the centre of a road safety challenge in London 23% of pedestrian and 58% of cyclist deaths involved a Heavy Goods Vehicle, despite HGVs making up only 4% of road miles in London.

By positioning the driver in the centre of the cab at eye level with pedestrians, using extensive cabin glazing and replacing conventional rear-view mirrors with cameras, dangerous blind spots are eliminated. Passenger seating is arranged behind the driver, on either side.

According to Steve Price of Prodrive, 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. “Volta Trucks has taken the design opportunity provided by the switch to electrification to re-engineer the layout of a conventional truck and address emissions and safety concerns simultaneously.”

Urban Air Quality

Designed for use in cities, the truck will have a range of 100 miles, a top speed of 50 mph and a gradeability sufficient to briskly negotiate the on-off ramps and slip roads typical of urban elevated routes. To maximise payload, the new cab will be a composite-clad spaceframe structure, the composite panels using natural rather than carbon fibres.

Such is the pressure to improve urban air quality as quickly as possible, that Volta’s target is to show the finished prototype vehicle in mid-2020 and make it available for driving demonstrations later in the year. In parallel with the demonstrator schedule is a program to manufacture a fleet of prototypes for field trials in London and Paris with interested parties during 2021.

Prodrive’s role is overall engineering responsibility for the vehicle and program delivery, including cab, chassis and electrical architecture.

During the manufacture of the prototype batch, Prodrive will gradually hand over build responsibility to the confirmed production supplier, but will retain engineering responsibility and oversee ongoing development. The target manufacturing volume is 2000 units per year.

Prodrive’s main speciality is the drivetrain and the company began its work on electric vehicles in 2001 with the conversion of a front-wheel-drive Saab into a hybrid demonstrator with the rear axle electrically driven. More recently, the company led the fast-track development program for Ford’s plug-in hybrid version of the Ford Transit Custom and built a fleet of 20 vans which were used in a successful 12-month trial with customers in London.

According to Carl-Magnus Norden of Volta Trucks, Prodrive has the experience with electric powertrains to be the natural parter to help turn the challenging concept design into production reality in such a short timeframe.

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