The IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, which takes place every two years, opened its doors this week to an array of concept vehicles highlighting autonomy, alternative propulsion, sustainability and the road to an emissions-free future.
One of the key facts of the industry was highlighted by Mercedes-Benz Truck and Bus boss, Wolfgang Bernhard, who pointed out that cities are now home to 75% of the world’s population and highlighted the logistical problem that brings for operators.
“We are pioneering e-mobility, connectivity and autonomous driving,” he said. Promising a “new kind of vehicle” Bernhard introduced the eTruck – the world’s first fully-electric heavy-duty distribution truck, which could be on sale as early as 2020. Offering a 12.8-tonne payload and a two-hour charging time, the eTruck is claiming a range of 200 miles from its lithium-ion battery.
“The starting point was our customer base and their expectations from future trucks. They want a vehicle that offers zero emissions and that is what we are proposing. The price tag will be higher than a conventional truck, but we are working on reducing that, plus the lower operating costs will help counter the extra initial costs,” said Sven Ennerst, head of project engineering for the concept.
Iveco Concept Z
One stand-out vision of trucking’s future was Iveco’s Concept Z Truck. The company has positoned itself as an alternative fuels leader, with its Concept Z powered by a combination of liquefied natural gas and bio-methane, giving it zero-emissions capability. Iveco also claims a zero accident rate is possible, thanks to new collision avoidance technology through its autonomous systems.
“We won’t get rid of the driver and the cab, but the role of the driver is set to change. They will still be expected to drive sometimes, but the cab will become more like an office,” commented Pierre Lahutte, Iveco brand president.
Iveco revealed that the Concept Z Truck has 29 patents, all relating to technologies that will be seen on Iveco trucks in the next few years.
Bosch Vision X
It wasn’t just the manufacturers getting in on the concept act. Supplier Bosch presented its Vision X truck, the company’s take on what driving a truck might be like in the next decade.
Bosch says it sees the role of the driver changing as more autonomy is adopted in heavy-duty transport operations. “The driver will take on the role of the logistics manager in the future. When the truck is in autonomous mode, they will be able to undertake other tasks such as reporting damaged trailers, processing orders or booking anything from coffee to meals to parking at service station,” explained Markus Heyn, Bosch board member.
When the driver gets into the cab, a cockpit camera checks his face and verifies he is able and qualified to drive. The truck will offer automatic docking capability and displays on the windscreen will provide a wealth of information for the driver about his load, journey and vehicle,” he added.
Built-in sensors ensure that full automation mode can be enabled, allowing the vehicle to join convoys, or platoons – the screen displaying how long the truck can be part of a road chain and also what the fuel costs will be. The driver is then able to confirm whether or not to join the convoy.
Keeping up with trending technologies, Volvo celebrated 15 years of I-Shift. The Swedish firm’s CEO, Claus Nielsen, revealed that the technology was now installed in 92% of Volvo trucks around the world and 95% of those sold in Europe. He also highlighted the I-Shift dual clutch transmission as an integral part of the 2,400bhp Iron Knight record-breaking truck.
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Volvo was one of the many manufacturers and suppliers highlighting the advantages and potential benefits of connectivity between fleet vehicles and between individual trucks and workshops. “We have 300,000 connected trucks already on the roads around the world and we see an extension of the communication between the truck and the workshop, which leads to increased uptime. We believe that these figures could continue to rise because fewer workshop visits will be required as drivers will be able to download and install software updates themselves, while on the move,” said Nielsen.
Cummins brings Britain to Germany
Flying the flag for the UK, engine builder Cummins brought a bit of British heritage to Germany along with some new technology on its stand. The heavy-duty engine manufacturer, whose technologies featured on more than half the trucks and buses on display at the IAA, showed the cleanest old bus operating in Europe. The 1962 Routemaster 1005 has undergone a Cummins re-power and now has a B4.5 Euro 6 diesel under the bonnet, with 150bhp.
Meanwhile, designed for more modern vehicles around the world, the company introduced its next-generation X-Series engines, which meet Euro 6 and equivalent standards. The 15- and 12-litre units feature power outputs from 350bhp to 605bhp.
Mercedes-Benz Vision Van
It wasn’t all about the heavy end of the spectrum in Hannover, though, with a number of developments in the van industry also in focus.
As well as its eTruck, Mercedes-Benz presented an LCV concept in the form of the Vision Van. The electric-powered model featured a stremalined cab design, a range of up to 270km and roof-mounted drones to aid urban distribution.
The van, christened adVANce, merges a number of technologies for last-mile delivery operations, thus setting the standard of performance requirements and solutions for future vans.
More zero-emissions electric propulsion came courtesy of Volkswagen, which unveiled its eCrafter Concept along with the promise that a production version would be in the hands of customers as early as next year. Equipped with a 100kW motor (providing 290Nm of torque) and a 312-cell battery pack, the van can carry up to 1.7-tonnes over 125 miles between charges.
Away from pure electric power, Hyundai thrust its new H350 into the spotlight with a concept model powered by the same fuel cell technology as seen in its iX35 SUV, the first commercially available fuel cell car.
Nissan to the rescue with Navara
Nissan also showed a concept ‘rescue’ version of its Navara pick-up. Called the ENGuard, the electric-powered truck comes complete with a camera-equipped drone to help in search and rescue operations.
Finally, two new vans were revealed for the first time. MAN took the wraps of Volkswagen Crafter-based TGE, which will offer three power trains, ranging from 101bhp to 174bhp, and will cover the 3-5.5-tonne range. Two wheelbases, three roof heights, and three vehicle lengths will be available when production starts in Poland next year. The second all-new model was the British-built Nissan Nv300, the new mid-size panel van derived from the Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Trafic, which will be constructed at GM’s LCV plant at Luton.