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Volvo Trucks unveils new e-axle for extended range

Sept. 19, 2022
The new fully electric rear axle, presented at the IAA fair in Hannover, Germany, allows for more batteries to be placed on the truck by integrating the electric motors and the transmission into the rear axle.

Volvo Trucks unveiled a completely new, fully electric rear axle at the IAA transport show in Hannover, Germany. Freeing up space for more batteries, the new e-axle means even longer range for Volvo’s battery electric trucks. The company has a wide array of battery-electric trucks, with six different models in serial production, including the VNR Electric in North America. Depending on the model, the range is up to 440 km (273 miles) in one charge.

The new e-axle allows even more batteries on the truck by integrating the electric motors and the transmission into the rear axle. More batteries mean longer range, which creates opportunities for long distance transports to also be electrified. On the fuel cell electric trucks, which have ranges closer to diesel trucks and are expected to be introduced in the second half of this decade, the additional space may come in handy for installing other components.

“This is a breakthrough for electric trucks and a clear signal that there will be a huge demand for public fast-chargers for heavy trucks in the near future, not the least along highways,” said Jessica Sandström, SVP Global Product Management at Volvo Trucks.

See also: E-axles available for the medium- and heavy-duty markets

Volvo Trucks will start serial production of cabover engine trucks with the new e-axle in a few years from now and it will complement the current line-up of battery electric trucks.

“We will continue with our versatile battery electric trucks that are already in production. They can currently cover a wide range of transport assignments. In a few years, we will add this new rear e-axle for customers covering longer routes than today,” Sandström continued.

Volvo Trucks has a three-path strategy to reach zero emissions: battery electric, fuel cell electric, and combustion engines that run on renewable fuels like biogas, HVO, or even green hydrogen.

“Different technical solutions are needed to tackle climate change, since the availability of energy and fuel infrastructure differs between countries and regions and also between different transport assignments,” Sandström concluded.

Maintenance benefits of e-axles

Aside from extending range of battery electric trucks, e-axles offer another major benefit for adoptive fleets: less maintenance.

Preventive maintenance items such as oil changes, fuel injector replacements, diesel exhaust fluid, and cleaning of the diesel particulate filter (a maintenance bane of many a diesel technician) are eliminated. Some OEs are claiming certain products can be virtually maintenance-free under the right conditions, but for most, there are at least a few infrequent lube changes in terms of preventive maintenance. According to the OEs, any PMs for the e-axle are more than offset by the elimination of the aftertreatment system in diesel trucks.

See also: E-axles shift maintenance focus

With fewer moving parts present in an e-axle architecture, there’s also less of an emphasis on lubricating them. Electrified transmissions will have fewer mechanical components and will require longer drain intervals compared to conventional transmissions. It is important to note electric powertrains and e-axles may require special lubrication fluids. OEMS are currently developing fluids for the evolving hardware of this space.

When it comes to the lubrication of the electric powertrain, and specifically the transmission, some OEs have simplified the process by designing a system that runs the axle lube through the transmission.

One thing that will not disappear with e-axle maintenance is the use of diagnostic software. Fleets need not expect any specialty tooling or equipment, beyond up-to-date diagnostic software, to service EV transmissions. Utilizing diagnostic software will remain standard practice when servicing electric powertrains and e-axles. A familiar process will still exist with diagnostics, as plugging in a diagnostic tool will flash fault codes and indicate which areas are problematic or need to be serviced.

One consideration fleets and service professionals must keep in mind are the high voltages associated with electrified vehicles, as well as e-axles. Proper safety training and personal protective equipment must be paramount. It may differ from OE to OE, but e-axle transmissions may or may not have direct connections to the high voltages present in the vehicle. Check with the OEM prior to vehicle servicing.

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Fleet Maintenance staff