We talked with the designer of Geely’s smart semi-truck, Herve Bertrand, about creating a true sense of home in a vehicle.
This month, Geely’s commercial vehicle brand Farizon unveiled its first , smart semi-truck, Homtruck. Named after the original aspiration of its creators, the idea was to make a semi-truck feel like home, and in doing so meet both the living and working needs of its driver.
Semi-truck drivers around the world spend a large amount of time in their vehicles, sometimes more than they spend in their actual home. In China, over 50% of drivers spend 10 hours a day on the road and take less than 4 days off each month. Truckers are the backbone of many economies distributing resources to all corners of the world.
Leading the design of Homtruck and envisioning this ‘home on the road’ concept is Herve Bertrand, Vice President of Design for Geely New Energy Commercial Vehicle Group. Before joining Geely, Herve had gained decades of experience working on commercial trucks for renowned truck makers such as AB Volvo, Renault, and Mack. Since joining Geely, Herve and his team have worked on the Homtruck for the past four years.
Who did your team design Homtruck for?
At Geely Commercial Vehicles, we are focused on people such as drivers, fleet owners, and those integrated into the transportation ecosystem. We’ve analysed the drivers behavious and their journeys as well as a new generation of tech-driven fleet owners seeking greater efficiencies while attracting a new generation of drivers.
Drivers in China spend so much time on the road. Overtime and fatigue is their norm, which can result in chronic medical conditions down the line. With Homtruck, we’ve introduced the concept of ‘home’ into the cockpit to help treat the fatigue and stress that builds up in drivers over time. But ultimately a semi-truck is still a means to create value for the driver and fleet owners. With green and smart technologies, we’ve increased efficiencies while improving sustainability in the Homtruck.
Today the big players in the transportation industry are likely to be tech companies or tech retail such as Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, JD.com, etc. Older drivers are leaving as a result of chronic health issues and bad working conditions while new younger drivers are demanding a better work-life balance. We’ve designed a truck that’s not only attractive to these drivers, but can also be easily integrated into different companies’ tech ecosystems, improving their logistic efficiency and user experience.
How much of the design is aesthetic versus functional?
We have incorporated a number of stylistic elements together with modern technologies which work well for both form and function. The exterior, while looking sleek and futuristic, also offers an unparalleled wide view for the driver and an ultra-low drag co-efficient of just 0.351cd. Using adaptive lights, hidden sensors, and cameras, not only have we improved the vehicle’s fluidity, we’ve also enhanced its capabilities for predictive driving. Homtruck robust sensor suite help the drivers see farther and on-board computers predict actions around the vehicle such as vehicles in neighbouring lanes merging into Homtrucks lane, a speeding vehicle trying to overtake Homtruck from behind, or a bicycle rider crossing the street. Early warning of potential dangers are shown to the driver on the digital instrument panels, giving them a second pair of eyes and supporting safe driving.
What about the trailer, does it need to be specially designed to achieve an ultra-low drag co-efficient?
We’ve designed the Homtruck to work with all standard trailers. While the concept model utilizes a custom-designed trailer, using a standard one wouldn’t affect the aerodynamics of the vehicle very much. It’s also not too difficult to add panel skirts or rear tails to any existing trailer to reduce drag.
How was design used to create a home for the drivers?
In the Homtruck, we’ve included a variety of amenities never before seen on a commercial truck, all with the drivers in mind. Inside the cabin, we’ve created separate driving and living spaces which help improve the health and wellbeing of the drivers. We use sustainable natural materials to create a healthy serene eco-friendly environment which helps reduce driver stress.
How has Geely been able to fit all those previously announced features such as bathroom, bed, washer, and kitchen in the Homtruck?
While it may look larger than normal, Homtruck adheres to the global standards on semi-truck cabin sizes. The secret in fitting everything in the available space is in the packaging. To maximize the utilization of available space, we had to be creative in our design and packaging. Features like beds or tea tables can fold away when not in use. Storage such as refrigerators are hidden away in previously unused space such as under the central console.
In addition, the utilization of electric and methanol fuel power saves space in the engine compartment compared to traditional large displacement diesel powertrains. The extra space allows us to fit the exterior washer and dryer as well as a small kitchen.
What are the chances that these features will actually be included in the production version?
Nearly all concepts announced by Geely brands have become production models retaining most of their announced features. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first smart, green semi-truck. Homtruck will be that truck. Better, smarter, more sustainable.