Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) has announced 16 MSEK (about U.S. $1.7 million) of investments at its Eskilstuna, Sweden, site, including an arena for customer demonstrations of electric and autonomous machines, a new R&D test track and an energy recovery system for the factory.
As part of its long-term strategy to stay competitive, meet customer needs and address sustainability goals, Volvo CE is making several significant investments at the Eskilstuna site, the first of which is an additional home for its prototype vehicles.
Volvo CE will add an extra 12 hectares to its existing 45-hectare demo ground at the Customer Center, specifically for testing of its electric and autonomous machines but also for demonstrating current machine offerings. The 8 MSEK investment in the innovation arena will enable Volvo CE to show the prototype machines to customers in a realistic and challenging environment in complete safety, supported by 5G technology and with charging infrastructure installed on site. The first phase of constructing the nearly 2 km gravel road, which runs in both open and closed forest terrain, is scheduled to begin in the near future.
As Volvo CE transitions to more fossil-free alternatives, the existing fleet of combustion engine machines at the Eskilstuna Customer Center will be running on hydro-treated vegetable oils (HVO). An alternative to diesel, HVO is made from vegetable and animal fats (typically rapeseed oil or abattoir waste) and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent depending on the raw material. No special modifications to the engines are required.
“Our new innovation arena is a big statement to customers and the industry about our commitment to building tomorrow,” said Carl Slotte, president of Volvo CE sales region EMEA. “Meanwhile, we show with our switch to HVO that we are also taking small steps to drive sustainability, not just in the future but also in the here and now.”
Volvo CE is also investing in an electromobility and automation test track for research and development. The 3 MSEK track currently hosts the HX2 electric and autonomous load carriers that in autumn 2018 were tested in a quarry outside of Gothenburg, Sweden. The HX2 models are now being optimized to be ready for the first commercial pilot, due to start before the end of 2019.
In March this year, telecommunications company Ericsson installed a 5G mast at the Technology Center for Volvo CE to test remote-controlled machines with extremely short response times. Launched in partnership with operator Telia, this was Sweden’s first 5G network for industrial use.
Other recent developments at the Technology Center include the opening of four new test rigs at the beginning of 2017, three of which are dedicated to the early stages of software development for electric machines.
At its axle and transmission factory, Volvo CE’s focus is on reducing energy consumption to support the company’s overall sustainability goals. The two greatest sources of energy consumption at the plant are the ‘hardening center’, where machine parts are heated to a high temperature and then cooled to ensure a strong surface and a long life, and the ‘paint shop’, where components are heated so the paint dries.
The company has invested 5 MSEK in an energy recovery system that will conserve around 60 percent of the heat generated in the hardening center and transfer it to paint shop. It is estimated that the system will decrease overall energy consumption in the factory by 4 percent.
Work began on installing the energy recovery system in the middle of April and will be completed by the beginning of September. Meanwhile, Volvo CE will continue to investigate new processes for the painting process to further reduce energy consumption.
“We have assembled an enthusiastic team with responsibility for tackling energy consumption at the factory,” said Anders Bergstrand, General Manager of the Eskilstuna factory. “This latest investment is just part of our sustainability journey.”