The project, part of the Army's Military and Commercial Truck Weight Reduction Program, calls for Volvo and program partner TPI Composites, Scottsdale, Ariz., to design, build and test prototype truck sleepers. Funding for the program was secured by Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy. The project was announced Tuesday during a news conference at TPI's Warren, R.I., facility.
Because of their generally lighter weight, the use of composite components can improve truck fuel economy and thus reduce CO2 emissions. TPI's advanced processes yield components that are even lighter and stronger than composite components formed using traditional methods. In addition, composite materials resist corrosion, insulate better and may provide a quieter sleeping environment for resting drivers.
"This project allows Volvo to explore the benefits of advanced materials and manufacturing techniques for military vehicles and commercial freight operations," said Scott Kress, Volvo senior vice president - sales and marketing.
Three sleeper cabs will be produced as part of the project, with the first to be delivered in late 2009. The project is slated to run for 21 months, with Volvo and TPI sharing the $2.5 million funding. Volvo Technology Corp., an advanced research and development unit of the Volvo Group, will coordinate the research for Volvo.
The sleeper cabs will consist of three pieces: a one-piece composite sleeper, a composite roof and Volvo's highly engineered steel cab, modified to attach to the composite sleeper. Testing will include the "cab shaker," in which a full-size cab and sleeper, complete with all interior fittings, is attached to a large hydraulic device. The cab shaker subjects the cab and sleeper to prolonged violent shaking, to test their durability and integrity. The shaker is a standard part of Volvo's product development and testing.
One of the three cabs will also be subjected to the Swedish Impact Test, the most severe truck cab crash test in the world. This procedure has three components, and tests the ability of the cab and sleeper to protect occupants in the event of a rollover and other severe accidents.