Dearman hybrid bus completes trials

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Running on diesel and liquid nitrogen, the Dearman hybrid bus has successfully completed rigorous trials.

Team CV

A revolutionary hybrid bus that runs on both diesel and liquid nitrogen, powered by the UK-developed Dearman engine, has completed rigorous trials, bringing it one-step closer to the road. Expected to accelerate the use of liquid nitrogen for primary power, the hybrid bus – CE Power – has turned out to be the world’s first commercial vehicle of its kind to be powered by liquid nitrogen. Built by engineers at Horiba Mira as part of an Innovate UK consortium, the bus utilises alternative propulsion to address urban air pollution challenges and features a high-efficiency, zero emission Dearman engine, powered by liquid nitrogen, alongside a conventional diesel engine. The hybrid system enables the bus to reduce noxious tail-pipe emissions, improving local air quality. With the Innovate UK consortium comprising of leading leading industry, academic and local and national governmental organisations like Dearman, Air Products, Cenex, Coventry University, Horiba Mira, Manufacturing Technology Centre, Productiv Ltd, and TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), the CE Power uses a hybrid propulsion system to reduce emissions during acceleration.

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As part of a bus’ drive cycle, acceleration traditionally has a heavy impact on the diesel engine as it moves away from standstill. The engine can produce vast amounts of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions, which are harmful. As the Dearman engine produces none of these harmful emissions, it will enable the bus to continue to frequently stop to unload and pull away from a bus stop without expelling the same level of damaging pollutants. Whilst driving at 20 mph or below, the liquid nitrogen, stored in a low pressure insulated cylinder is warmed up to the point of boiling, at which time it creates enough pressure to drive the multi-cylinder Dearman engine. Once the bus reaches 20 mph, the diesel engine will kick in. It is at this speed that the bus requires less effort from the engine to operate.

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Completed at Horiba Mira’s engineering facilities and Proving Ground in Nuneaton, UK, recently, the trials included components and full system testing along with an engineered drive cycle to simulate a standard bus route with a variety of stops. Expressed Martin Watkinson, Technical Lead on the project at Horiba Mira, “The hybrid nature of CE Power demanded a sleek systems integration process. Our engineers worked to ensure the liquid nitrogen system operated seamlessly and safely with the diesel engine, in addition to carrying out the whole vehicle thermodynamics modelling and the overall vehicle control and testing.” “The completion of trials paves the way for the use of liquid nitrogen more widely in the automotive sector, and takes the UK one step closer to stamping out harmful emissions for good,” he averred.

The Dearman engine at Dearman in Croydon. 20th July 2015.

The Dearman engine at Dearman in Croydon. 20th July 2015.

The benefits of using liquid nitrogen over an electric hybrid bus include a much longer life, local production and easy refuelling. Batteries, which power many of the UK’s electric hybrids, require changing several times over the course of a bus’ lifetime, whereas the liquid nitrogen system will last the lifetime of the bus. Liquid nitrogen can be produced locally without the need for neodymium or lithium, which are both used by motors and batteries, and sourced from overseas. Refuelling liquid nitrogen can take a matter of minutes, and enables the bus to return to the road in a short timeframe. Mentioned David Sanders, Commercial Director at Dearman, “As the UK wrestles with dangerous levels of urban air pollution, a bus that runs on ‘thin air’ represents a significant breakthrough. The Dearman Engine has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of both buses and HGVs, reducing fuel consumption and cutting pollution. Crucially it can provide a cost effective alternative to other emerging zero emission technologies, whose environmental performance if often offset by complexity and cost. This successful trial could be the first step towards rolling out a British innovation to the streets of the UK and around the world.”

Automatic braking as standard

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Volkswagen has made autonomous emergency braking systems standard on its Caddy, Transporter and Crafter vans.

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With the potential to reduce the number and severity of accidents, Volkswagen has made autonomous braking systems standard on its Caddy, Transporter and Crafter vans. Proven to have cut third party injury insurance claims by 45 per cent, autonomous emergency braking for van drivers and fleet operators means lower costs, and less downtime, courtesy fewer crashes. Using radar, which is built into the front end of the van, the system, named Volkswagen ‘Front Assist’, recognises critical distances to the vehicle in front. To ensure safe stopping in dangerous situations, the system first warns the driver with audible and visual signals of a vehicle in front, driving slowly or suddenly braking, and of an associated risk of collision. It simultaneously prepares the van for emergency braking by applying the brake pads and alerting the brake assistant. If the driver fails to react to the warning, a one-off short jolt of the brake in the second stage indicates the looming danger of a collision. The brake assistant’s responsiveness is further increased, and if the driver steps on the brakes, full braking power is made available immediately. If the driver does not brake strongly enough, the ‘Front Assist’ increases the braking pressure to the required level, so that the vehicle comes to a stop before reaching the obstacle.

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Front Asist’ also includes the City Emergency Braking function. This function provides assistance at speeds below 18 mph. If a driver fails to see or react to an obstacle, the system automatically applies the brakes and ensures that the speed of any collision is reduced. It even prevents the vehicle from running into the obstacle. Looked upon as the most significant development in vehicle safety since the seat belt, autonomous emergency braking systems are said to have the potential to save more than 1,000 lives and 120,000 casualties over the next 10 years. Said Sarah Cox, Head of Marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, the move aligns with the company’s endeavour to produce safe and reliable vans. “Technology is advancing, and we are continually seeing more and better ways to keep drivers safe on the road,” she mentioned. Peter Shaw, Chief Executive at Thatcham Research, said, “Volkswagen are the first manufacturer to fit AEB as standard on all its vans in the UK. With a year on year rise in deaths and serious injuries involving vans, this technology can help to avoid such happenings.” He drew attention to a 2015 study by Euro NCAP and Australasian NCAP, which showed autonomous braking leads to a 38 per cent reduction in real-world rear-end crashes.

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Efficient off-peak deliveries

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Off-peak deliveries trial at Stockholm using ‘silent’ trucks resulted in a significant uptake in efficiency.

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A trial at Stockholm, Sweden, brought to the fore two distinct benefits of off-peak deliveries _ operational efficiency and environmental benefits. In many European cities, including Stockholm and London, deliveries are prohibited at night to reduce the noise impact in residential areas. For the off-peak, or out-of-hours deliveries trial, carried out by Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, two trucks were adapted for the tasks such that they were given nocturnal exemptions. Both the trucks that participated in the trial were fitted with noise-reduction equipment, such as silent roll cages, and noise sensor technology. Volvo supplied a diesel-electric hybrid FE truck, fitted with a device that enabled it to automatically switch from diesel power to electric power when entering a restricted urban zone, keeping noise and emissions to a minimum. The ‘silent’ truck was used by supermarket chain Lidl to deliver to three city centre stores between 22:00 and 06:00 hrs. It was observed that the Volvo FE hybrid ‘silent’ truck was able to complete three drops, significantly elevating efficiency.

Off-Peak i Stockholms innerstad med El-hybrid. Lars Åke Olsson kör Volvos El-hybrid, nattetid. Sergelstorg Foto : Rickard Kilström 2014-09-04

Before the ‘silent’ truck came around, Lidl operated at peak morning times. It needed three conventional trucks to serve its city centre stores. Off-peak deliveries carried out by one ‘silent’ truck ensured that there was no need for two other trucks to operate. The two other trucks could be simply removed from the road, elevating efficiency. In addition, the ‘silent’ truck was also able to travel over 30 per cent faster than the trucks that operated during the rush hour. Said Anna Pernestål Brenden, a researcher at KTH’s Integrated Transport Research Laboratory, that morning commuters are spared having to share the road with three heavy duty trucks. With one truck doing the work of three, there is a big jump in efficiency. The second truck used for the trial was a biogas-fuelled Scania R480. It was used to transport fresh goods to a number of city centre hotels and restaurants for temperature-controlled distributor Martin and Servera. The truck’s driving speed was 59 per cent higher than in the afternoon peak. Off-peak deliveries meant routes could be planned more efficiently and did not have to factor in congestion.

With one of the main reasons of conducting the trial being the effect of the noise of the vehicle on residents during off-peak hours, the trial had the drivers follow special rules to ensure the quietest of night-time deliveries. The trucks would not have a reversing alarm, and there would be no talking on the mobile phone outside the vehicles. It was observed that trucks unloading within city centre environments were not noticeable to residents. Only those in one quieter, outer suburb experienced minimal noise disruption. Averred Brenden, that the noise people complained about was of unloading the truck, and not of driving it.

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Electric buses profit from new charging methods

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New charging methods including opportunity charging strategies are making electric buses attractive.

Team CV

Electric buses are still in their infancy. They are however inevitable. Supported by technology, they are progressing at a serious rate. Even the technology to charge bus batteries is changing. Operators are coming to have more than one method to charge their vehicles. The new methods do away with ‘overnight charging’, which has traditionally been the technique. The traditional ‘plugged in’ charging method is known to require several hours of charging to hit the road with a fully charged battery. Something that is difficult to repeat each day. An alternative method of opportunity charging – a rapid and intense blast of power at strategic points along the route is turning out to be promising. It is also showing the potential to have a longer range as well.

At Auto Expo 2016, JBM Solaris displayed a 9 m electric bus called the Ecolife. The bus flaunted a pantograph apart from the option of plug-in charging system. Equipped with fast charging Lithium batteries, the bus, according to Dr. Andreas Strecker, CEO, Solaris Bus & Coach S.A., is capable of running 150-200 kms in 10 to 15 hours of city bus operation. The pantograph rapid charging technology, said Strecker, was developed in association with ABB. Working such that the pantograph ‘plugs-in’ at every stop the bus takes, the technology, according to Daan Nap, Global Sales Director for electric bus charging, at ABB, there is much difference between the traditional method of charging and what his company is offering. “On an average [a bus] might drive 100 or 200 miles a day, so you take a very big battery, charge the bus overnight, drive around all day, and at night, you charge it again. Such overnight charging means quite big batteries of 200 or 300kWh for example, and a charging process that happens at probably 50kW or 80kW over four, five or six hours.” “Bigger batteries add to the weight of the bus, and compromise its efficiency, said Daan. He averred, “People say that the battery is big and heavy. It takes up a lot of space, and has an effect on passenger carrying capacity as well as the travel range.”

In case of the traditional method of charging, weight and range turn out to be a limiting factor for bus application. The pantograph method provides a good opportunity for an operator who is looking at covering 300 to 400 miles a day. Mentioned Nap, “The vehicle (in case of opportunity charging) is the same, and employs a smaller battery since there’s a charging system at the end point of each route. That’s at the point where, normally, the bus is empty, and the passengers have got out. Also, there’s a break of five or 10 minutes.” “The charging is done at higher power – at a level of around 300 or 450kW. The batteries on the bus charge quickly. In a span of three to six minutes. The bus can run the route again – one, two, three or four times. By doing so, the size of the battery can be reduced, and also the weight and cost. The bus can carry more passengers,” Nap explained. Interestingly, opportunity charged buses typically lend themselves to longer routes that are out of the reach of overnight charge vehicles. According to Adrian Felton, City Mobility Manager, Volvo Buses, electric hybrid opportunity charge buses make sense on routes that involve a mixture of inner and outer city driving. “Say the route is 20-30 km long; electric hybrid opportunity charge buses are ideally suited,” he adds. There’s an efficient hybrid vehicle running for 20 km. It could be zone-managed so that the two km of initial running is done in pure electric mode. The other five km could be used by the bus in the city centre, improving the quality of air.

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A big advantage of opportunity charging is the ability to geo-fence or zone-manage. It is possible to set up a vehicle, and to agree upon specific areas of operation with the operators or authorities. Fully automatic, this is perhaps one of the first stages that will aid the move up to autonomous operations. Zone management is done through GPS. There are three types of zones, and the vehicle can operate with zero emissions. It can also be set to operate in a silent mode by shutting down some of the ancillaries like AC. Even safety zones in a specific area can be drawn to reduce the vehicle’s speed. Opportunity charging, interestingly, suits short-cycle, repetitive routes. The best use case for opportunity charging, according to Matt Horton, Chief Commercial Officer, Proterra, is under situations like airports where the buses follow the same route for hours. These are usually short routes, he stated. For en-route charging, dense urban areas, downtown or airport-style circulator routes tend to be make a lot of sense. Volvo’s opportunity charging system for example uses an overhead mast to power up the bus from the top down. The vehicle pulls over under the mast, and there is a marker on the roadside. There is quite a lot of leeway in the rails and the charging mast so that it doesn’t have to be within millimetres. The vehicle locates the mast, and positions itself. The driver applies the handbrake. A message on the dash lights up, saying ‘ready to charge’. The charger comes down, and tops up the battery. Once complete, the indication says ‘fully charged’. The driver releases the parking brake, and the charger disconnects automatically. Until the pantograph has fully retracted, the vehicle does not move away.

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In case of longer downtime, the amount of charging infrastructure can be cut down. This is especially true for routes that have evolved over a longer period of down time. With the use of opportunity charging, if there’s an opportunity to park and ride, and the layover time is between five and seven minutes, one piece of charging infrastructure on a longer route may suffice. About seven minutes of layover time means a vehicle can travel to the city centre and back without the need of any infrastructure. For a network spread over a good distance, the need will be to place strategic infrastructure at bus interchanges. Technology is continuing to evolve. Opportunity charging is looking promising, and could provide a promising alternative to overnight charging. The need of the time is to make en-route charging technology and infrastructure cost effective. There is a need for it to be competitive in comparison to the traditional methods of charging. Chargers used in traditional, overnight, charging technologies are rapidly dropping down in prices. Battery prices too have dropped almost 75 per cent in the last four-to-five years. Much transformation is on.

2016 10 12 Volvo Arendal Invigning av ABB laddstation för bussar. Samarbete med Volvo. Foto: Anna Rehnberg

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Invigning av ABB laddstation för bussar. Samarbete med Volvo.
Foto: Anna Rehnberg

Delivery van concept to meet urban challenges

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Ford has developed a delivery van concept that uses drones to deliver over the last 15 m, or from the kerb to the door.

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Team CV

To cut down on traffic congestion, and the resulting loss in productivity in an urban environment, Ford has come up with a concept that combines delivery vans and drones to develop a vision of the future for last mile deliveries. Vans, for more than half a century, have played a key role in deliveries. Drones, at the other end, are a modern phenomenon. The two could however work hand-in-hand to improve mobility in urban areas. Ford’s concept as part of the company’s vision for the ‘City of Tomorrow’ hopes to achieve exactly that. The Autolivery concept, developed by a team of Ford employees for the company’s Last Mile Delivery Challenge, envisages electric self-driving vans used together with drones to pick up and drop off goods and packages in urban areas. The concept was revealed through virtual reality headsets at the recently held Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry in Barcelona, as part of Ford’s vision of the ‘City of Tomorrow’. The concept showed dinner party preparations, with a missing ingredient quickly ordered and delivered in time to add to the recipe.

According to Ken Washington, Vice President, Research and Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company, the concept reflects upon a culture of disruption and innovation. The two elements were designed to arrive at solutions that put people ahead. Their time is saved, and they can find the cities better to live in. Also, it would make it easier to navigate. The Autolivery idea, one of the many submitted by Ford employees to tackle the last mile challenge, paid particular attention to the last 15 meters of delivery distance. It is this distance that is widely considered to be the most challenging when it comes to goods delivery. In their effort to automate the process over this distance, it is turning out to be the most challenging. Many companies continue to work on how to solve the complexity of delivering packages over the last 15 metres, or from the kerb to the door. The pressure to solve this challenge is expected to increase globally in coming years with a rise in local deliveries due to rising online sales.

Stating that the scene the concept depicts is not possible yet, Washingtion said, “Autolivery suggests the direction in which mobility research is heading, and how it could enrich the lives of people in a more sustainable way.” Shanghai-based Ford designers Euishik Bang, James Kuo and Chelsia Lau designed the Autolivery concept. According to Bang, it is all about making life in the city easier. The possibility of harnessing autonomous and electric vehicle technology with drones, to quickly and easily send and deliver parcels, could indeed help life become easier to everyone, he mentioned.

Anti-runaway brakes from Renault

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Anti-runaway automated parking brakes aim at eliminating the risk of uncontrolled vehicle movement.

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Renault Trucks has introduced anti-runaway Automated Parking Brake (Anti-RAPB) to eliminate the risk of uncontrolled vehicle movements caused by human error when a truck is idling or static. The Anti-RAPB was developed by Renault Trucks’ engineering team at Lyon in close partnership with a major fleet operator. The safety back-up device is available as a software and wiring update on all range T, C and K trucks from Renault with electronic parking brakes. In the event of the driver’s door being opened at speeds of up to 3 kmph (1.8 mph), the device activates the parking brake automatically. According to Nigel Butler, Commercial Director, Renault Trucks, “Anti-RAPB is a great example of how we at Renault Trucks, are using technology to help prevent avoidable accidents.” “Despite advances in technology, vehicle runaway situations remain common as drivers tend to get distracted when the truck is idling and simply forget to activate the park brake when they leave the vehicle to uncouple the trailer or sign a document,” he mentioned. With a slight incline enough for a 44-tonne truck to start rolling, run-away trucks continues to be serious problem.

Preventing problem before it arises

Runaway trucks can result from poorly maintained braking system or vehicle. It can also result due to the driver failing to judge the distance or make a judgement error. The Anti-RAPB that Renault Trucks has unveiled is claimed to help reduce the consequence of human error, preventing the problem before it arises. The solution is to create a ‘fail-safe’ mechanism, which can operate in two scenarios at speed below 3kph. In each case of the Renault T, C and K, the electronic park brake utilises the extensive functionality of the vehicle’s electronics systems to make the Anti-RAPB innovation possible. The system’s status is communicated to the driver through the dashboard ‘tell-tale’ messages. A typical scenario under which the Anti-RAPB works is when the truck is in neutral, and the parking brake is not applied. The driver’s door is open too. The ‘door open’ buzzer will sound momentarily, followed by the application of the parking brake. A message, ‘Park Brake Applied’ will follow. Upon closing the door and selecting drive, the parking brake will auto release when pulling away.

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Application scenarios

Another application scenario is when the vehicle is in gear, the park brake is not applied and the driver’s door is opened. The door open buzzer will activate, followed by the application of the parking brake, with the message ‘Door open. Select Neutral position before leaving vehicle’. If this message is ignored, when the door is closed the parking brake will not auto release when pulling away, so the driver must either select neutral and return to drive or manually release the parking brake. Said Butler, “Safety is of utmost importance to us, and we are committed to developing technology that provides safer environments for drivers, their colleagues working on sites or in yards as well as other road users. This device will provide a critical safety intervention in the event of an emergency, with the added interlock of speed ensuring that no action is taken if doors open above 3 kmph. Addressing the risk of runaways will also bring the additional benefit of minimising downtime and reducing repair and insurance costs caused by these incidents.”

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Renault has been developing this technology for a number of years, and following requests from operators. Concerns over accidental deployment at higher speeds however meant that the launch was delayed because of the adequate safeguards that needed to be built in.

Train energy to power electric buses

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A project is on to utilise energy created and stored by regenerative braking from trains to power electric buses.

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Dutch company Hedgehog Applications will soon undertake a pilot project in Apeldoorn. A large battery will be used to store energy regenerated by braking electric trains. This energy will be used to recharge electric buses and cars. Energy created and stored by regenerative braking from trains will thus be used to charge electric buses in the Netherlands. In what is being looked upon as a experiment that would open the doors to new avenues of powering electric vehicles, especially in the domain of public transport, the pilot project will initially include four electric buses. Conducted in partnership with Dutch rail operator ProRail, the pilot project according to Hedgehog sources, will also look at the use of stored energy to power railway signalling and control systems in an unlikely event of a power cut. One such power cut hit Amsterdam’s transport network in January.

What makes the project interesting is the application of technology to achieve the end result. Regenerative braking is in widespread use. It captures energy that is otherwise wasted. In the case of railways, energy is wasted when there is no accelerating train nearby to accept energy from a slowing train. Onboard energy storage can be used instead, but Hedgehog plans to use batteries at the stations as they offer a much higher capacity than compact on-board systems. The electronics can also be simpler and cheaper than energy recovery systems which are designed to feed regenerated power back to the supply grid, and the system can operate independent of train operators. According to Arjan Heinen, Director, Hedgehog Applications B.V. – ‎Hedgehog Applications, the amounts of energy that can be recovered might be small on the scale of the overall power usage of a national railway network, but are potentially well-matched to the scale of small electric urban bus services. “Buses and trains are brothers and sisters” adds Heinen. “They are ideal partners, and we can’t throw away energy,” he explains.