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

2016 10 12 Volvo Arendal
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.

Story by:

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.

Story by:

Team CV

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.

Story by:

Team CV

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.

Mercedes-Benz eTruck trials begin

Kleinserie 2017: vollelektrischer Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck im Kundeneinsatz. Technische Daten: Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck, Exterieur, Silver Arrow metallic, dreiachsiger Verteiler-Lkw, 2 x 125 kW, 2 x 500 Nm, 3 Module Lithium-Ionen-Batterien, Gesamtkapazität: 212 kWh, elektrisch angetriebene Hinterachse, Reichweite: bis zu 200 km, zul. Gesamtgewicht: 25 t, Zuladung 12,8 t, schwerer Verteilerverkehr, flüsterleise und emissionsfrei, Testflotte ; Small series 2017: all-electric Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck for customer trial. Technical Data: Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck, Exterior, silver arrow metallic, three-axle short-radius distribution truck, 2 x 125 kW, 2 x 500 Nm, 3 modules of lithium-ion batteries, total capacity: 212 kWh, electrically driven rear axle, operating range: up to 200 km, permissible gross vehicle weight: 25 t, heavy-duty truck, zero emissions, quiet as a whisper and with a payload of 12.8 t, test fleet.;

The Urban eTruck has begun trials in Germany in an area of short-radius distribution.

Story by:

Team CV

The world’s first all-electric heavy-duty truck is set to go into limited production later this year. The trails of this truck have begun in the German market before being rolled out to cities across Europe. First shown at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover last September as the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck, the trails are in the area of short-radius distribution. It was on the sidelines of the Hannover show that Daimler sources claimed that the etruck would go into production sooner than later. Daimler has committed to putting the etruck into small scale production, with a build number initially in double figures. To be aimed at customers from different sectors in Germany and throughout Europe, the Urban eTruck has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 25-tonnes, and is claimed to have a range of up to 200 miles depending on the load and operational conditions. According to Stefan Buchner, Head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks worldwide, the company is currently talking to around 20 potential customers from the waste, foodstuffs and logistics sectors. “Following the world premiere in September 2016 at the International Commercial Vehicle Show the customer reaction was outstanding. With the small series, we are now rapidly taking the next step towards production. By 2020 we want to be on the market with the series generation,” he said.

With a payload of 12.8-tonnes, the Urban eTrucks will be deployed in real-life transport situations claim Daimler Sources. They point out that Daimler is looking at getting a customer feedback on how the etruck performs; on the measure of the performance of the etruck in a real-time working environment. The parameters that will be closely managed as well as observed will be the charging time, battery life, range and system configurations. Interestingly, the demo trucks, say Daimler sources, will be equipped with reefer, box and platform bodies. The etrucks will be handed over to customers along with a special charger which takes into account the increased demands on a truck. Customers would use them for a period of 12 months. During this period, Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ road testing department will support them. Said Buchner, “When it comes to future technological issues, 2017 will be our year of implementation. We are step-by-step developing the vehicles and systems to achieve market maturity.”

Volkswagen eload UP

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Volkswagen eload UP makes an important platform as one of the smallest electric vans ever created.

Story by:

Team CV

Volkswagen unveiled a box-wagon designed as an electric vehicle in 2013. Designed primarily as a zero-emission vehicle for urban transport, the eload UP, based on the UP, aimed at crowded European city streets that demand a more compact delivery van over those that are found in US where there are broader boulevards and ample parking during the day as well as at night. Measuring 3540 mm in length, the eload UP, measuring 1645 mm in width and 1477 mm in height, is growing its presence in Europe. Set to make an appearance in the UK, the eload UP requires a fairly small parking space. Aimed at service technicians, mobile service providers, and at courier and pizza delivery among other express delivery services, the EV stands out not just for its panel van cargo conversion, but also for its electric powertrain. The powertrain has been borrowed from the passenger-spec eUp!

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Based on the four-door eUP, the eload UP commercial van allows cargo to be loaded from the rear as well as from the side doors. Capable of swallowing up to 1,400-litre (49 cu. ft.) and 306 kg (675 pounds) of load – enhanced by the fold-up passenger seat next to the driver, the eload UP is powered by an electric motor, which produces 60 kW (82 hp) of peak power, and a maximum torque of 210 Nm. The electrics of the van are supported by a 18.7 kWh lithium-ion battery under the floor. With a maximum range of 100 miles or a shade under 160 kms, the eload UP, in the metal, looks the part. A full set of side windows and proper opening rear doors make the van tough to distinguish from the standard five-door UP city car. There’s a badge on the back for those who would look for a way to distinguish it from the UP city car. For those who would take the trouble of gazing through the darkened rear glass, a mesh bulkhead presents itself behind the front seats.

Looking compact enough to spell a doubt if the eload UP will satisfy the last mile connectivity needs of mushrooming ecommerce companies, all it takes is to lift the boot hatch. The load space looks bigger than one would imagine, or even estimate. Call it clever packaging, but the loading space of the eload UP seems bigger than it actually is. The eload UP offers 1000-litre carrying capacity with the passenger seat in place. As mentioned above, folding the passenger seat next to the driver enhances the carrying capacity to 1,400-litres. The payload capacity of 306 kg is comparable to other car derived vans found in Europe, like the Ford Fiesta and Mini Clubvan. Quite an achievement it is, and especially when one considers the fact that the eload UP is still a city car underneath, and has a battery pack placed beneath its floor. After much exploration, the only down-side one comes to think of regarding the loading area is the narrow opening and a high loading lip. Bulky items of teasing shapes can be difficult to load. What works to the advantage at this stage are the side doors, which open.

The cabin of the eload UP is exceedingly similar to that of the UP. Clean and modern in its appearance, the interior flaunts a strong air of quality. There is a premium feel to the interior; right from the metallic door release catches, the glossy car-coloured trim to a sporty leather steering wheel. If the interior reminds of the Polo or the bigger Golf, the eload UP moves away from the kerb side in silence. It surges ahead the way electric cars are known to. Capable of clocking zero to 62 mph (100 kmph) in 12.4 seconds, and achieving a top speed of 81 mph (130 kmph approx.), the eload UP feels quick and nippy. With 210 Nm of torque available instantly, the electric van is easy to drive and easy to manoeuvre. All that the EV calls for is to turn the key and switch it on. Select drive and the eload UP is ready to go. The weight of the batteries is felt, but a brilliantly tight turning circle has the eload UP making easy progress through crowded roads and lanes.

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Exhibiting good stability, the eload UP’s range can be maximised by turning on engine braking. Engine braking can be set between one and three levels, and has an effect on the performance of the van. Depending on the level chosen, the van drops speed the moment the throttle is released. Kinetic energy is recaptured to charge the battery. Eco or Eco+modes can be selected too. They reign back performance and disable some electrical systems to increase the travel range. With 80 per cent of the battery capacity capable of being charged in just 30 minutes at a fast charging station, the eload UP takes eight hours to charge fully when plugged into a normal domestic power supply.

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Eberspaecher PTC solution

Claimed to be used in the Volkswagen eGolf and eload UP, the PTC solution from Eberspaecher involves high voltage heaters. Supplied by Eberspaecher catem, a leading supplier of electric heating systems, the PTC solution helps the electric car keep warm without the heat from the engine. In an electric vehicle like the eload UP there is no internal combustion that is capable of generating heat. The second generation PTC coolant heater from Herxheim-based PTC specialist combines intelligent output control. According to Andreas Schwarzer, General Manager, Eberspaecher catem, the heating system in an electric vehicle is a key range factor. With their installed volume of about one-litre, and weighing two-kgs, the PTC high-voltage heaters meet all the requirements of future-proof components.

With the integrated electronics, the PTC solution ensures an energy efficient heat management besides heating. The physical properties of the PTC ceramics guarantee safety in a high-voltage environment. They heat up only to the predetermined temperature. Once it has been reached, the PTC automatically reduces the current consumption. Eberspaecher catem also offers production solutions for thermal conditioning of the sensitive battery pack.

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Kamaz wins Dakar Rally 2017

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Like the earlier edition, the 2017 Dakar Rally proved to be a test of endurance, patience and, experience.

Story by: Team CV

Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev of the Kamaz-Master truck team claimed his second Dakar rally title on January 14, 2017. Nikolaev completed the final stage between Rio Cuarto and Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a 19-minute lead over his nearest rival to repeat his Dakar success of 2013. Second place was taken by another Russian Kamaz-Master driver, Dmitry Sotnikov, who left defending champion Gerard de Rooy of the Netherlands and his Iveco in the third spot. The Russians were a dominant force in the Dakar truck category with Kamaz bringing home 14 titles since 1996.

In what would be a fierce competition, Martin Kolomy of the Czech Republic surprised the trucks field in the opening stage of 2017 Dakar rally with a first place finish in exactly 30 minutes. Martin Van den Brink and Ales Loprais were placed thirty seconds behind the leader, whilst the title holder Gerard de Rooy (piloting an Iveco Dakar truck) managed to limit the damage to 42 seconds with his left rear wheel catching fire in the last kilometre! Winner of the 2016 title, Gerard De Rooy, started first. He started ahead of the Kamaz driven by Airat Mardeev and the Iveco of Federico Villagra. An announcement by Mark Coma, Dakar Sporting Director, before the start of the event, that the route of the 2017 Dakar preserves rally-raid traditions, held true through out the event as the truck teams fought it out. Coma mentioned that the physical challenge will push the competitors into the world of extreme endurance as they cover seven selective sections over 400 kms with one of them stretching to more than 500 kms. “The rally will be held over six days at more than 3,000 m above sea level. The level of difficulty will increase just until the rest day, then a second increase in power will be necessary, to reach one’s ideal level for the ‘Super Belén’. Nothing will be decided until the very last special stage at Río Cuarto,” he added.

After the first stage in Paraguay that comprised of 39 km only, and against the clock, the competitors got down to grinding their teeth in the first big portion of the Dakar 2017 rally. Stage 2 marked the arrival of the rally into Argentina. The rally, made up of bikes, quads, cars, SSVs, and not just trucks, ran over 800 km of treacherous terrain, including a 275 km special in the region of Chaco. In the special, it was patience that counted the most as the participants faced the dust. It was the kind of dust that turned into mud if it rained. The going was not easy by any means. The route leading to San Miguel de Tucuman could allow Peter Versluis, behind the wheel of a MAN truck, to increase his haul of victories if the provisional results at CP1 were to be believed. Already a winner of four stage victories, Peter Versluis was by no means a novice. The route leading to San Miguel de Tucuman could allow him to increase his haul of victories too. The MAN truck driver led Dmitry Sotnikov and Artur Ardavichus after 120 km of the special. Twenty-three seconds ahead of Sotnikov, Peter Versluis continued to lead the stage. Kolomy was placed second, and Martin Van den Brink was placed third – less than 40 seconds behind. The last few kilometres were decisive. Having come fourth in Stage 1, Maritn Van den Brink, driving a Renault truck, moved up several gears after 200 km to lead the scene. He set the pace in Stage 2, building a lead over three-minutes.

Martin Van Den Brink scored a superb victory in Stage 2, soaring over the end of the special to win with a gap of two minutes over Dmitry Sotnikov. It was Dmitry Sotnikov that the Dutchman was previously neck-to-neck. Martin Kolomy, who finished eighth on the day’s special driving a Tatra truck, dropped down to third position in the general standings. De Rooy and Versluis were nine and 18 seconds adrift in fourth and fifth place respectively. Siarhei Viazovich came sixth. Villagra, Hans Stacey (MAN), Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) and Artur Ardavichius (MAN) rounded out the top 10. They were separated by less than five minutes. Ton van Genugten, driving an Iveco truck, dropped down the order after losing 13 minutes.

Kamaz driver Eduard Nikolaev won Stage 3. Previous leader, Martin Van den Brink and reigning champion Gerard de Rooy both lost time. The 2013 trucking champion Nikolaev earned a narrow lead over Martin Kolomy and Ton van Genugten in the first part of the stage, and maintained it until the finish. Despite starting the day in the ninth place, the fact that Nikolaev was only one-minute and 23 seconds behind the second placed driver, helped him. It allowed Nikolaev to end up in that very position in the overall standings, just half a minute adrift Kolomy. Federico Villagra was best of the rest. He was now placed third overall, behind Kolomy and Nikolaev. Siarhei Viazovich and Peter Versluis followed the Argentinian. While Kolomy received a penalty of three minutes, thus losing the overall first place to Nikolaev, Stage 3 caught out a couple of big names, including Van den Brink.

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In Stage 4, the competitors encountered altitude. The next few days would see competitors fight it out at an altitude of more than 3,500 m. With rapid acclimatisation necessary, the drivers displayed their skills at crossing dunes at such an altitude. The end of the route (Stage 4) in Bolivia held many surprises. It called for good navigational skills. Airat Mardeev went into an attack mode right at the start of Stage 4. The Kamaz driver snatched the lead right at the beginning of the stage with Gerard de Rooy hot on his tail. De Rooy spent the majority of the 416 km stage, which started in Argentina but finished in Bolivia, less than a minute behind Ayrat Mardeev. Mardeev however had to settle for the second place eventually, half a minute adrift of de Rooy. Close cooperation with Italy-based Petronas Motorpsort saw Iveco Powerstar trucks use special filters to negotiate the Bolivian Andes as the six-cylinder engines unleashed 900 hp of peak power. At the wheel of an Iveco truck, de Rooy led the pack in Stage 4 at an altitude of 4000 m above sea level. The Powerstar engines seemed to lose less power than others. At the end of Stage 4, Mardeev and de Rooy were 14 and 16 minutes behind Sotnikov, the Kamaz driver jumping from sixth to first. Such an improvement was thanks to the five drivers in front losing time. Even Siarhei Viazovich fell more than three hours off the pace at the very beginning of the test. Tatra’s Martin Kolomy and Peter Versluis (MAN) lost an hour and 30 minutes respectively. Eduard Nikolaev and Federico Villagra (Iveco) also dropped behind Sotnikov. The duo however completed the top three with the Argentinian less than two minutes off the pace. So, if Sotnikov, at the wheel of a Kamaz truck finished first at the end of Stage 4, Villagra in an Iveco came second. Nikolaev came third. Anton Shibalov was the third Kamaz driver to come fourth, ahead of De Rooy. Mardeev came fifth.

Stage 5 took the competitors to the high plains of the Bolivian Andes. The variety of terrains made this stage one of the most gruelling. It included crossing two dunes. To be run in two stages, over 438 kms, Stage 5, because of the extreme weather saw the second half being cancelled. Czech driver Martin Kolomý started the stage with his foot to the floor. Snatching the lead, Kolomy stayed seven seconds ahead of Gerard de Rooy. de Rooy snatched the lead from Martin and pulled away to win by nearly 12 minutes. de Rooy became the fifth different overall leader in as many days, following Kolomy, Martin van den Brink, Eduard Nikolaev and Dmitry Sotnikov. Kolomy fell to third place behind fellow Kamaz driver Nikolaev, who took the second place behind de Rooy. Ayrat Mardeev was the third Kamaz in the top four, ahead of Renault’s Pascal de Baar. Second and fourth place, Federico Villagra and Anton Shibalov dropped to sixth and seventh place respectively, amassing a 50-minute deficit. Hans Stacey was the top MAN truck in the eighth place, narrowly edging out teammate Peter Versluis. Extreme weather saw the cancellation of Stage 6 from Oruro to La Paz. Persistent bad weather conditions forced the race directors to change the course of Stage 7 from La Paz to Uyuni. A new course was designed and a new road book was drafted during the rest day.

Scoring in the top ten in each of the stages since the start, Dimitry Sotnikov put his Kamaz truck into overdrive to win his second stage victory of his career at Dakar in the run up too. Uyuni, with a lead of two minutes and 51 seconds over Iveco driver Ton Van Genugten. Sotnikov climbed up to second place in the general standings, which were still led by Gerard de Rooy. de Rooy did the necessary to maintain his advantage. Stage 8 saw the Dakar leave the high plains for a special including off-track racing, which involved crossing fords. The consequences of the rain over the last few days forced the race officials to change the route of Stage 8. With the special section cut down to 174 km, participants headed to the second part of the special at the border between Bolivia and Argentina via a 176 km link section. The second part was unchanged. Martin Van Den Brink took a 13 seconds lead from title holder Gerard de Rooy. The Dutchman took a 23 seconds lead from the second Iveco truck, driven by Federico Villagra as well. Gerard de Rooy lost more than seven minutes whereas his team-mate Federico Villagra stayed ahead of Nikolaev by 45 seconds. Withstanding pressure from Federico Villagra, Martin Van Den Brink won the stage, his second stage victory, with a lead of 17 seconds. Eduard Nikolaev finished third, 42 seconds behind the winner. Dmitry Sotnikov took the lead in general standings.



A massive landslide caused by thunderstorms saw Stage 9, from Salta to Chilecito, being cancelled. With the road cut off, the vehicles, competitors, assistance and logistics were diverted to an alternative route through San Antonio de los Cobres, extending the distance by about 200 km. Race caravan regrouped at Chilecito. Eduard Nikolaev brilliantly negotiated Stage 10. The Russian led his two Kamaz team-mates Dmitry Sotnikov and Airat Mardeev. Eduard Nikolaev picked up his second stage victory with a lead of seven minutes over his Kamaz team-mate Dmitry Sotnikov, catapulting him to the top of the general standings for the first time. In Stage 11, the competitors confronted the dunes of San Juan. These stretched for over fifty kms. Leading to the retirement of Gerrit Van Werven, this stage sprang many surprises for truck drivers. Eduard Nikolaev continued to lead. He was the first trucker to get a grip on the day’s special. Nikolaev’s team mates, Dmitry Sotnikov and Airat Mardeev, followed him throughout the course. Nikolaev led Federico Villagra by 41 seconds and Airat Mardeev by one-minute and 18 seconds. Nikolaev won Stage 11 in Rio Cuarto, and was given a tough fight by Argentinean Federico Villagra who wanted to achieve a result on his native land. He fell short by 52 seconds!

500 DE ROOY GERARD (nld) TORRALLARDONA MOISES (esp) RODEWALD DAREK (pol) IVECO PETRONAS TEAM DE ROOY IVECO action during the Dakar 2017 Paraguay Bolivia Argentina , Etape 10 - Stage 10, Chilecito - San Juan,  January 12 - Photo Benjamin Cremel / DPPI

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