Volvo Trucks recognized the individuals responsible for creating its innovative “I-See” technology during a ceremony yesterday at AB Volvo’s Annual General Meeting in Sweden.

The I-See system is said to reduce fuel consumption by commercial vehicles by up to 5% by using kinetic energy to lessen the power load on the engine. This system uses the kinetic energy to aid in truck propulsion, explained Anders Eriksson, who headed up Volvo’s development group for this “autopilot” system.

That “kinetic energy” is the mechanical work needed to reduce an object’s speed to zero, he said, meaning that when an object in motion is slowed down, its kinetic energy gets transformed into some other form of energy.  Thus, when a truck hits the brakes, its kinetic energy is converted into heat, Eriksson notes.

Eriksson along with Johan Bjernetun, Henrik Andersson and Johan Axelsson were honored by Olof Persson, president and CEO.

What Volvo’s I-See system aims to do, then, is harness the kinetic energy produced by a truck’s brakes to help “push” the vehicle up hills, then use that same energy on downhill gradients for acceleration – all without tapping the engine.  Ericksson said Volvo’s tests so far show that using kinetic energy in this manner can reduce fuel consumption by 5%.

Thus, for a truck in normal operation in Europe covering about 86,992 mi. annually, fuel savings should total a little over 264 gallons per year, he says.

“If kinetic energy can be exploited to a greater extent, it may help cut fuel consumption,” Ericksson points out.  “This will benefit both the environment and the industry’s economy, something that is very important today as fuel costs are becoming an increasingly heavy burden on many haulage firms.”

This is how it works:  the “I-See” controller gets linked to the transmission’s tilt sensor, obtaining information about the road topography digitally and then making gear changes accordingly.

Basically, I-See carries out six different operations to tap into a truck’s kinetic energy.  For instance, I-See accelerates up hills, remains in a high gear for as long as possible and then “freewheels” on descents to exploit the truck’s weight as a propulsion motor.

It also requires use of the cruise control, and Volvo’s data indicates that on average European truck drivers use cruise control about half the time, Ericksson said.

“I-See works best in undulating terrain,” he noted.  “With moderately long and steep slopes, I-See ensures that you can freewheel for long distances without using the engine – and it is this freewheeling capability that makes the system special, for when the truck rolls freely, virtually no fuel is used.”

But in order to successfully freewheel, a whole lot of data is required, he stressed.  “It imposes high demands on precision,” Ericksson says.  “For instance, you have to know whether your speed will drop or increase over the next stretch of road.  A gradient of just a few percent can be the decisive factor.”

Other factors that make a difference are air resistance and the truck’s weight.  All told the system has to keep track of and process a lot of information, he added.