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Volvo FH with I-Save breaks Commercial Motor fuel test record
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In 2019, leading British truck magazine Commercial Motor subjected the Volvo FH with I-Save to its notorious Fuel Test to see if it could deliver on its promised fuel savings. The final result not only exceeded all expectations but also smashed the test’s previous record.

The Fuel Test route has been modified over time in line with new technology and includes different terrains, road types and demanding situations to see how they impact performance.

“We were always confident that the Volvo FH with I-Save would perform well, but even we were delighted at how well it did,” says Martin Tomlinson, Head of Media, Truck Demonstration & Driver Development at Volvo Trucks UK & Ireland. 

For a number of years, Commercial Motor has become well-known for its vigorous road tests where different truck models are pushed to their limits, including its demanding Fuel Test for 44-tonne trucks. The route, which has been modified over time in line with new technology, has been designed to include different terrains, road types and demanding situations to see how they impact performance. 

 

Will Shier, Editor, Commercial Motor magazine and Martin Tomlinson, Head of Media, Truck Demonstration & Driver Development at Volvo Trucks UK & Ireland in the truck cab

At key points along the way, time, distance and fuel levels are recorded, so that the level of fuel consumption for different situations can be calculated. After the launch of the Volvo FH with I-Save, with its bold claims of being able to reduce fuel costs by up to seven per cent in long-haul applications, Commercial Motor was eager to see how it would perform.

The two-day test started in the English Midlands and travelled north through the Lake District National Park before making an overnight stop just over the Scottish border. It then headed back south via the notorious Kiln Pit and Castleside hills – the most demanding parts of the test and where the Volvo FH with I-Save really distinguished itself. 

“Castleside is really brutal, the worst part of the test, and the turbo compound came in very handy,” claims Will Shiers, Editor of Commercial Motor. “When we did the test with the Volvo FH with I-Save, we just let the truck and its technology do its own thing.”

While Castleside was where the impact of the turbo compound engine was most evident, Martin Tomlinson stresses that it would have helped save fuel throughout the test. “The turbo compound adds 300 Nm of extra torque so hill climbs are much easier, but it still works on the motorway as well, for all those smaller climbs that we sometimes don’t even notice.”

The I-See predictive cruise control system, another feature of the I-Save package, also played an important role. “By constantly reading the road ahead and using map data, I-See knows what’s coming,” adds Martin Tomlinson. “It could then tell the truck what gear it should be in and what speed it should go.”

On the route back home, test trucks always make a fuel stop at Barnsdale Bar on the A1 motorway. It was during this final fuel stop that the testing team got its first indication that the Volvo FH with I-Save had achieved something special. As Commercial Motor wrote: “…we always take on 200 litres of fuel…this time, we were told the Volvo demo driver couldn’t get more than 190 litres in – something that has never happened before.”

On completion the Volvo FH with I-Save not only set a new record for the test, it achieved a level of fuel consumption that was unprecedented. As written in the article, “…at the final fill back in Warwickshire the calculations were done. And then they were redone a few times because frankly, the result was verging on unbelievable…Not only did our FH pass the previous 8.65mpg (miles per gallon) record, it broke the 9.0mpg barrier. In fact, the final figure of 9.49mpg (29.8 liters/100 km) didn’t just match Volvo’s claims, it exceeded them by a healthy margin.”

An aerial view of a road cutting through the countryside in northern England

THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR FUEL TEST

Volvo Trucks has broken the Commercial Motor Fuel Test record three times:

1978: the Volvo F10 becomes the first truck to reach 8mpg (miles per gallon) while hauling 32 tonnes
1994: the Volvo FH12 420 achieves 8.39mph with 38 tonnes 
2019: the Volvo FH 460 I-Save with Turbo Compound becomes the first truck to surpass 9mpg and achieves 9.49mpg with 44 tonnes 

The test truck
A Volvo FH 460 with I-Save 6x2, with Globetrotter sleeper cab, connected to a fully loaded trailer at 44 tonnes GCW.

The test route
760.5 km including 494.3 km of motorway, 121.1 km of severe gradient and 145.1 km of country roads. 

Fuel economy
Overall: 29.8 litres per 100km
Motorways: 28.5 litres
Steep hills: 41.7 litres
Country roads: 26.8 litres

Average speed
Overall: 75.6 km/h
Motorway: 77.7 km/h
Steep hills: 70.5 km/h
Country roads: 73.2 km/h