No easy mission

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Designed for heavy duty operations, the 560 hp Astra HD 9 86.56 8×6 with a GVW of 60-tonnes can replace a dumper in opencast mines.

Story by: Gianenrico Griffini

The Astra HD9 86.56 8×6 is by no means a conventional off-road truck. Premiering at the Bauma fair in Munich, Germany, which is dedicated to construction vehicles and machines, and mining equipment, the Astra HD9 86.56 is among the top models in the portfolio of the Italian truck manufacturer. The Astra brand belongs to the CNH industrial Group, and has been designed for heavy-duty missions in extreme working environments typical of the mining-extractive sector in which it can replace a rigid dumper. The opportunity to test it presented itself recently in a quarry in Northern Italy near Piacenza. Equipped

with a Cursor 13 Euro 6 12.8-litre six-cylinder in-line engine that produces 560 hp at 1,900 rpm, and a peak torque of 2,500 Nm at 1,000 rpm, the Astra HD9 86.56 looks remarkable.

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Retarder and engine brake to slow down safely

Like all Iveco heavy-duty (and medium-duty too) engines, the Cursor 13 Euro 6 engine uses a Hi-SCR system for pollutants after-treatment, that does not require an exhaust gas recirculation circuit (EGR). With the Hi-SCR solution there is no need of active regeneration for the diesel particulate filter (DPF), a feature that increases the energy efficiency of the engine and lowers its fuel consumption. The Cursor 13 is equipped with Iveco Super Engine Brake, which is capable of a maximum braking power of 463 kW at 1,900 rpm. The engine, which uses an electronically-controlled variable geometry turbocharger (EVGT), is coupled to a ZF Astronic 16AS 2631 TO 16-speed (plus two reverse gears) automated transmission. The transmission, controlled by an off-road software, has two operational modes, namely fully automatic or manual (sequential).

The powertrain of the Astra HD9 86.56 8×6 rigid tipper is coupled to a Steyr VG2700 disengageble transfer case, which allows a distribution ratio of the drive torque (front and rear) of 1: 2.6. Apart from the Super Engine Brake, the HD9 86.56 8×6 is equipped with an hydraulic retarder (Intarder), integrated to Astronic automated transmission. Both the Intarder and the engine brake are actuated by a 5-stage multi-function lever (which is also used for setting up the cruising speed), located on the right side of the steering column. The first two stages activate the Super Engine Brake, whilst the remaining three also involve the hydraulic retarder. Maximum braking torque is thus provided.

Weighing 24,100 kg, the HD9 86.56 is equipped with a 24 cu. m. Cantoni tipper (specially developed for Astra). The superstructure is made of high strength steel, which has a thickness of 12 mm at the bottom. The side walls are 8 mm thick. A hydraulic gull-wing tail opening design, the superstructure (tipper body) is fitted with an oversized cab guard. The oversized cab guard is designed for mining site operations. Reaching a maximum tilting angle of 58-degrees, the tipper body is equipped with an electronic weighing system, which shows the relevant data on a control display placed in front of the driver’s seat.

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Heavy duty components

The structure of the HD9 86.56 and all the mechanical components have been engineered for heavy-duty tasks. The first drive axle is a double reduction Kessler unit with a loading capacity of 20-tonnes. The third and the fourth axle are also a Kessler (double reduction) unit. They each have a loading capacity of 20-tonnes. The 10 mm C-section chassis side members, spaced by 820 mm, are made of high yield steel with 6 mm reinforcing internal C-profiles. The HD9 front suspension – first and second axle – feature parabolic springs. They are supplemented by hydraulic shock absorbers and two stabilisers (one for each axle). Those of the tandem (cantilever type) have five parabolic leaves (40 mm x 100 mm) swiveling on a central pin.

The braking system of the Astra HD9 86.56 8×6 heavy-duty tipper is drum brake based. There are drum brakes on all axles with the possibility of excluding the anti-lock device (ABS) at speeds below 15 km per hour. The use of 325/95 R24 tyres has the tipper having a high ground clearance. This is crucial to the smooth functioning of the truck as it will spend much of its life travelling over uneven terrain with deep potholes and large stones. Despite the heavy-duty design of the truck, driver comfort has been increased thanks to the correct calibration of the cab suspension and the redesigned interior. The two not only ensure driver ergonomy they also help to retain high level of functionality required by extreme off-road missions.

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At the steering wheel

The HD9 86.56 ZF Astronic automated gearbox does a good job in off-road operations. This is due to the fast (and higher revs) gearchanging, managed by the off-road transmission software. The automated gearbox, however, requires some special precautions, especially on the most demanding terrain. When tackling the most demanding terrain, it is better to use the gearbox in manual mode, pressing two times the D (Drive) button on the dashboard. The right speed can be selected using – with an upward and downward movement – the multi-function lever on the right side of the steering column. Once this operation is done, the engine is in a position to provide high torque at low revs (from 1,000 rpm). The same predictive driving style is needed to engage in advance the differential locks, using the knobs on the console close to the driver’s seat. The Intarder-enhanced engine brake provides a powerful braking action, even when the truck is fully loaded. A pleasant surprise is the comfort level of the cab, due to the good suspension setting. Remarkable is the steering angle. It does not seem to have been heavily affected by the 8×6 chassis architecture.

CV has been appointed an associate member of the International Truck of the Year (ItoY). Being a part of this association gives the magazine exclusive articles, specially written for CV by IToY jury members.

Fuel consumption and emission standards

A comparison between trucks made across tightening Euro emission standards has revealed startling results.

Story by: Team CV

Mercedes-Benz Actros - 20 years of fuel savings; September 2016

Mercedes-Benz Actros

The BSVI emission standard in India is three years away. It is comparable to the Euro6 emission standard, that came into force in Europe in 2014. As the Indian commercial vehicle industry warms up to the enforcement of BSIV emission standard pan-India by April 2017, and BSVI by mid-2020, a comparison of trucks in Europe has revealed how they have performed in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions as they progressed through the Euro emission standards. A comparative test drive certified by the test organisation Dekra in August 2016 saw three Mercedes-Benz trucks from 1996, 2003 and 2016 respectively being put through their paces on the demanding and universally recognised test circuit of the commercial vehicle magazine ‘Lastauto Omnibus’ in Germany.

The test circuit, a long distance route from Stuttgart to Hamburg and then to Stuttgart, has been used by Mercedes-Benz to carry out in-house test drives. ‘Lastauto Omnibus’ carried out an independent and exhaustive test drive under the watchful eye of Dekra. Dekra took part in this three-generation truck comparison as an independent test organisation. The test verification was particularly appropriate because the positive development in the fuel consumption of heavy trucks is currently under constant scrutiny by politicians. The test was structured to measure the on-road fuel consumption and mileage according to the test manager Frank Zeitzen. They included test vehicles that have been identically prepared as far as possible, and with highly experienced truck test journalists at the wheel. The test drivers took turns behind the wheel after each test round, and the semitrailers were changed every day. Doing this ensured the trailers being towed were used the same number of times by each tractor (prime mover). This would eliminate any difference in the rolling characteristics.

Mercedes-Benz Actros - 20 years of fuel savings; September 2016

Mercedes-Benz Actros Mercedes-Benz Actros - 20 years of fuel savings; September 2016

Mercedes-Benz Actros

Mercedes-Benz Actros - 20 years of fuel savings; September 2016

Mercedes-Benz Actros 

Attention to detail

The semitrailers were identically loaded and had the same tyres. For the three-generation comparison, three box semitrailers were loaded to an identical 32-tonnes. They were fitted with the same tyres. To reflect the progress made in rolling characteristics, the basic Mercedes-Benz SK 1844 truck from 1996 was shod with the then popular Michelin XZA/XDA tyres of size 295/80-22.5. The second test truck, the Actros 1846 (from 2003) was fitted with tyres from the Michelin Multiway family, in size 315/70-22.5. The latest Actros 1845 Euro VI truck was fitted with factory-fresh Michelin tyres in size 315/70-22.5. Where the mileage of the test vehicles is concerned, the new Actros Euro VI truck was at a slight disadvantage. With just over 8000 km on the clock, it was not yet quite run-in. The best fuel economy thanks to minimised resistances within major assemblies is normally to be expected after around 50000 km. The Actros 1846 Euro3 (from 2003) used in the test was thoroughly run-in at 55000 km. The 20 year-old, Euro2 Mercedes-Benz SK 1844 had an odometer reading of 610,000 km. The cruising speed and overshoot, and undershoot times for downhill and uphill gradients were defined and monitored by the recording personnel. Conventional cruise control was used to ensure a consistent cruising speed for the two older trucks. In the latest Actros this was taken care of by the Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) system. Six measuring rounds of 256 km were absolved on the test circuit. The test drivers changed vehicles after each measuring run, and the 32-tonne trailers were also exchanged in accordance with the assigned driver. Every evening the vehicles were refuelled under precise, temperature-compensated conditions.

Attention to detail

The highly precise test preparation and execution proved to be of much practical relevance. Especially when one would consider that the test would be held on a comparatively demanding circuit when compared to the classic Stuttgart-Hamburg-Stuttgart test route used by Mercedes-Benz to measure trip consumption. The test procedure banked upon what the participants would call as the ‘Vecto’. By ‘Vecto’ they meant ‘Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool’. Major input data was measured and subsequently processed using a calculation tool officially provided by the European Commission. The test course to be used was defined by the representative of European long-distance operations in a very involved process. For example, the aerodynamic drag of every single cab variant of a truck model was measured on the road by independent test organisations. The same applied to the rolling resistance of tyres. Tyre manufacturers were called to demonstrate the rolling characteristics of their product lines. For example, different sizes, substructures and tread patterns. Where the powertrain consisting of the engine, transmission and drive axles were concerned, the manufacturer was called upon. The same was the case with the cab.

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Mercedes-Benz Actros - 20 years of fuel savings; September 2016

Mercedes-Benz Actros – 20 years of fuel savings; September 2016

The outcome

At the end of the test, it was revealed that despite drastically more stringent emission standards for nitrogen oxides and particulates, the fuel consumption of heavy trucks has gone down by 22 per cent over the last 20 years. The model 1844, certified according to Euro2 standard valid in 1996, was allowed to emit seven grams of NOx per kilowatt hour (kWh) while staying within the limiting value of 0.15 g/kWh for particulate matter. The number and size of the soot and other particles was not prescribed. The Actros 1846 (of 2003) was certified according to emission standard Euro3, with five grams of NOx per kilowatt hour (kWh) and 0.10 g/kWh of particulate mass. The latest-generation EuroVI Mercedes-Benz Actros 1845 betters the older Euro3 truck by 94.3 per cent (NOx, present limit 0.4 g/kWh) and 96 per cent (0.01 g/kWh) for particulate mass. The current measuring conditions are far more stringent. Daimler sources claim that the (22 per cent) reduction in fuel consumption has resulted in savings of more than 50 million tonnes of CO2 by Mercedes-Benz trucks in Europe since 1996. They draw attention to how the calculation is done, and on what parameters. They add, sales of around one million Mercedes-Benz trucks in the segment of long-distance transport in Europe between 1996 and today, as well as a conservative estimate for the annual mileage of 75000 km per vehicle, and a service life of eight years led to this estimation. The current fuel consumption per 100 km measured during the certified Dekra test run for the years 1996, 2003 and 2016 is extrapolated on a linear basis for the other years.

Against a background of drastically reduced emission levels in the ‘traditional’ pollutant categories, the actual on-the-road consumption for the test covering 1536 km on a demanding topography with a test weight of 40 tonnes turned out the following results: The 20 year-old Mercedes-Benz SK (model 1844) reached a figure of 40.8-litre per 100 km. The Actros 1846 Euro3 truck consumed 37.4-litre per 100 km, and the Euro6 Mercedes-Benz Actros 1845 consumed a meagre 31.9-litre per 100 km. All this, over an identical route and distance. Interestingly, the exhaust emission reduction from Euro2 in 1996 to the current Euro6 has been a drastic 96 per cent.

CV tech at CES 2017

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CV technologies at CES 2017 reflected on the future of autonomous and automated driving.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

Held at Las Vegas, US, the CES 2017 fair saw the display of commercial vehicle technologies that will further the case of automonous and automated driving. The 2017 edition, held between January 05 and January 08, 2017, brought to the fore the latest in technologies. Technologies that will set the tone for the future. As a launchpad for new innovation and technology, the CV technologies that shone at the show were the Mercedes-Benz ‘Vision Van’, Volkswagen ‘I.D. Electric Concept’, and Honda ‘New Electric Urban Vehicle (NEUV)’.

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The NEUV from Honda is an urban electric vehicle designed for ‘ride sharing’ with enough storage space at the rear. Capable of moving people, and cargo, the NEUV, according to Honda is an automated electric commuter vehicle equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered ‘emotion engine’. The ‘emotion engine’ of the NEUV was developed by Cocoro SB, a Japanese AI specialist. Said to be capable of judging the emotions of the driver, and accordingly changing the ‘behaviour’, the ‘emotion engine’ also takes into account the driver’s past decisions to recommend new choices. The process is called as Automated Network Assistant (ANA). The incorporation of AI in NEUV, claimed a Honda source, helped the company to harness the power of artificial intelligence, robotics and big data. It also helped them to create new possibilities for human interaction with an electric car. Exploring the idea of how to create new value for its owner by functioning as an automated ride-sharing vehicle, picking up and dropping off commuters at local destinations, even in the absence of the owner, the NEUV has a touch panel, which the driver and passenger can use. There’s an electric skateboard for ‘last mile’ transit. The header-less windshield improves visibility.

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At CES 2017, Volkswagen spoke about an I.D. electric microbus concept that builds upon the concept of a highly automated electric car shown at the 2016 Paris Motor Show. The microbus concept can cover a distance of 400 to 600 kms on a single charge. Combining digitally connected world with an electric drive, the concept highlights the idea of an unique identity. Whoever drives the vehicle gets a Volkswagen identity. Therefore the name I.D. The identity is an individual profile, which enables the owner to save his or her personal seat and air conditioning settings, favourite radio stations and songs, sound system settings, exterior sounds, configuration of the navigation system, and type of ambient lighting. It can also save the contact details of the driver’s friends and business associates. This profile is then available for secure access via the cloud, enabling the I.D. to recognise the legitimate user by their smartphone, using a digital key. As of current, the I.D. Electric microbus has a car for company. Both are based on what the Volkswagen engineers term as an all-new Modular Electric Drive (MEB) platform. Expected to go into production by 2020, the electric microbus, designed to connect with the legendary Transporter Kombi, accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds. An all-wheel drive, the concept can fast charge up to 150 kW.

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The Mercedes Benz ‘Vision van’ comes with a fully automated cargo loading system. Automated racks organise the packages for the driver. The system loads all parcels at the same time and organises them to show the deliverer the exact load configuration. It ensures that the right package is made available, and at the right time this depends on the delivery destination. Heightening the futuristic appeal are the two drones atop the van. While human intervention is needed to drop-off something at the doorstep conventionally, the drones in the latter are said to be capable of delivering packages, weighing up to four pounds within a six-mile radius, and at speeds of up to 60 kmph. Their flying height range is between 50 m and 200 m. The van concept features telematics unit that collects and processes data concerning the delivery status. The data is sent to the distribution manager, increasing accuracy. Such systems, according to Daimler sources, allow drivers to deliver multiple packages at once, increasing efficiency in an urban environment especially. The van is equipped with a 75 kW electric drive. Depending on the intended application, it can travel between 80 and 270 km on a single charge. Designed with an aim to boost the efficiency of delivery by up to 50 per cent, the ‘Vision Van’ is part of a five-year, Euro 500 million revamp of Mercedes-Benz’s commercial vehicle division. Going forward, the new feature set is said to hold the capability of being scaled up to public transit, such that it makes public transit. Capable of paving way for individual transport of passengers on similar lines during peak and off-peak hours via modern day ride-sharing concepts, the ‘vision van’ is truly a reflection of the future.

Automotive suppliers at CES 2017

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American technology company Nvidia and automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG launched a new, self-driving vehicle system designed for commercial applications. The ZF ProAI system is claimed to make commercial vehicles involved in factory work and agriculture autonomous. According to Nvidia Automotive Vice President, Rob Csongr, ‘artificial intelligence’ is a technology that will spark an industrial revolution. Not just trucks, but the ProAI system is expected to benefit commercial vehicles like forklifts and ‘material-handling vehicles’. “The benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered vehicles are a drop in traffic congestion and fatalities,”he added. At CES 2017, tier suppliers Delphi, Valeo, and Autoliv demonstrated incremental improvements in areas like sensors and software. Delphi showcased a new multilayer graphics display, which is the result of Delphi’s acquisition of New Zealand-based Pure Depth. The technology is expected to go into series production in 2019. With its partner DigiLens, Continental showcased a ‘head-up display’, which projects over a larger area of the windshield than the current crop of projectors are capable of. German transportation technology company IAV Automotive Engineering showcased automated driving technology that is aimed at reducing urban traffic jams and the associated pollution. Esri’s Enterprise GIS platform services on Azure Cloud provide geographic and analytical content that better understands driver behavior, predicts road conditions to improve traffic flow, and shares data from vehicle sensors connected to the ecosystem. These features are claimed to allow ‘smart cities’ to react swiftly to issues like unsafe bumps or dangerous objects on the road. Swiss Re simulated customised insurance coverage using Microsoft’s Azure technology to deliver future connected mobility solutions.

Auman EST is Chinese Truck of the Year 2017

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Auman EST, produced by Beijing Foton Daimler Automotive Co., Ltd. (BFDA), a 50: 50 joint venture between Daimler AG and Foton Motor, has won the Chinese Truck of the Year 2017 award. A jury comprising of transport operators, engineers, and Commercial Vehicle Magazine (China) journalists selected the truck for the title. The selection criteria calls for the truck to be developed and assembled in China by either a domestic manufactuer or a joint-venture company. The truck has to be launched in the previous 12 months, and should have made the greatest contribution to road transport efficiency. The selection was supported by the International Truck of the Year, which is chaired by senior trucking journalist from Italy, Gianenrico Griffini, and made up of 32 commercial vehicle editors and senior journalists representing 32 major trucking magazines in Europe, China, South Africa, India, Japan, Australia, Brazil and Iran. Representating a big leap, the Auman EST is fitted with a spacious cabin that looks premium with the use of high quality materials. Powered by a 12-litre EuroV Mercedes-Benz OM 457 engine or a Foton-Cummins engine, and an automated ZF Traxon transmission, the Auman EST comes with a long list of safety and security equipment including ABS, ASR, ESP, emergency brake assist, lane departure warning system, tyre pressure monitoring, load sensors and theft protection. The title award was presented on the eve of the third Guangzhou International Commercial Vehicle Exhibition on November 17, 2016. Upon winning the title, Zhou Liang, President and CEO of BFDA, expressed, “The Auman EST embodies Daimler Trucks’ advanced technologies and our strong commitment to providing trucks adapted to the specific requirements of Chinese customers.” “This award highlights the success of our German-Sino cooperation between Daimler and Foton,” he added. Yu, the chairwoman of the Chinese Truck of the Year, and Gianenrico Griffini, commented that BDFA, in the form of Auman EST, has introduced an advanced truck that represents the shape of things to come in the Chinese market.

Autonomous trucks: How soon and how much?

Despite many countries rising up to the challenge of autonomous trucks, it is highly unlikely to yield a truly driver-less automobile.

Story by:

Team CV

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Excitement about automonous trucks continues to rise. Especially after Daimler AG put an autonomous truck on the German autobahn last year and followed it up with an autonomous drive over a public road in the USA. More and more countries are rising up to the challenge of autonomous trucks. In his budget speech on March 16, 2016, Chancellor George Osborn announced that government will establish in UK a global centre for excellence in connected and autonomous vehicles; conduct trials of driverless vehicles on the strategic road network by 2017; will consult on sweeping away regulatory barriers within this Parliament to enable autonomous vehicles on England’s major roads; establish a £15 million ‘connected corridor’ from London to Dover to enable vehicles to communicate wirelessly with infrastructure and potentially other vehicles, and carry out trials of truck platooning on the strategic road network.

The image of a Daimler engineer reading a magazine behind the wheel of a giant lorry may look amusing and even scary as the truck races down an autobahn, known as a symbol of Germany’s penchant for speed, the question, as more countries join the autonomous vehicles race, and especially that of trucks, is how autonomous will the vehicles actually be? Many may agree to the fact that autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to bring major improvements to journeys, both in terms of convenience as well as safety. The extent of automation, even those that are working on autonomous vehicle programs are of the opinion, or it seems, is not going to yield a truly driverless automobile. Not in the near future, and neither in distant future!

Look at the Daimler’s Highway Pilot autonomous truck trial. The Highway Pilot autonomous control system won approval for trials on public highways in a Freightliner truck in the US state of Nevada. Late last year, the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg approved trials of Mercedes-Benz trucks with the Highway Pilot system on its autobahns. Both, as mentioned earlier, have built a good deal of excitement that giant rigs can actually drive themselves. The reality is, these are one of their kind, and may remain the case. It took a long time to develop such working concepts, and it may take longer than that to create an ecosystem that will accommodate such driverless vehicles. This however should not be a reason to be discouraged; technologies that have gone into these autonomous driving concepts are already found in many modern vehicles. There are some that are closer to production. Almost all of these however work such that they aid the driver, leaving him to make the most important decisions. If Sven Ennerst, Head of Truck Product Engineering at Daimler AG is to be believed, what his company has demonstrated is more or less available even today. Technologies that make a truck to steer itself autonomously. Not quite close, but important, is the mention of Volvo’s dynamic steering technology, which improves maneuverability through a precise electric motor, which is controlled 2000 times per second based on driver input and that of the onboard sensors. Volvo Trucks have been conducting autonomous and connected truck trials. It did an autonomous truck trail in the USA much like what Daimler managed.

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The Highway Pilot system steering the vehicle by itself marks a big achievement, and irrespective of the fact that autonomous vehicles will not be the thing of the near or distant future. It builds a picture around the truck, looking up to 250 metres ahead. It is easy to understand what Ennerst is saying when it expressed that the truck can react and drive by itself. Technologies like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning that would have been used in the Mercedes-Benz autonomous truck, and comprises of radar sensors and stereo cameras, are already being offered in automobiles. So, the technology is there. What is the bone of contention, so to speak, in terms of who is responsible in a likely event of an accident, are the regulations. They have been framed to suit the local needs and designs. It was perhaps because of this that Daimler found it easy to conduct the autonomous truck trial in the USA rather than in Europe. A United Nations committee recently amended the 1968 Vienna Convention on road traffic to provide the basis for legalisation on autonomous driving. A key condition of this amendment is that the system can be deactivated or overruled by the driver at any time. This is central to the design of the Highway Pilot! Ennerst is known to have said that safety, driver activity and fuel economy will make a business case for automonous trucks. With the demand for fuel efficiency on the rise, the fuel economy part of the business case is easy to understand. In the case of safety, the need is to understand how the introduction of systems like active brake assist and proximity control assist has resulted in the reduction of accident rates. The future of an autonomous truck will depend on how these and a host of other systems are successfully integrated.

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Set to create an additional level of safety and reduce the number of accidents, automonous trucks are certain to make fleet operators skeptical. It may not account for a profitable business case when they imagine the driver of the truck sitting back and browsing the internet. Ennerst is known to have stated that they expect the driver to take over many of the traffic planner’s functions. The driver would thus become more of a transport manager. With the need for fewer traffic planners, the operating costs of fleet operators will come down. It would also address driver shortage. Driver’s elevation to a traffic manager will make it attractive for him to work as well as earn more. Reduction in fuel consumption achieved by autonomous trucks, which shift gears on their own, and apply the amount of power to have the engine rotate at an optimal rpm, also makes an attractive attribute for lowering the operating costs. Less use of brakes would also result in less wear and tear of braking system components. Most of all, there will be less traffic jams to contend with.

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Scania started platooning truck trials in Sweden in 2012. In 2015, it extended the trails to the Netherlands. In 2015, DAF Trucks also began its EcoTwin project in the Netherlands, run jointly with TNO, a Dutch scientific research organisation. This project would involve platooning of two trucks linked by wi-fi so that the driver of the truck behind does not need to brake, accelerate or steer. Braking, acceleration and steering is taken care of automatically, based on signals from the lead truck. According to Ron Borsboom, DAF Trucks Product Development Director, there’s still quite a lot of development process that needs to be done to ensure that the technology is completely reliable in any situation. It is also important that issues like legislation, liability and acceptance also have to be taken care of properly. In UK, Tructyre Fleet Management is among the eight bodies that were awarded government funding totalling £20 million to research and develop autonomous vehicles recently. The project, ‘Pathway to Autonomous Commercial Vehicles’, run by Tructyre also includes the University of Portsmouth, Satellite Applications Catapult and RL Automotive. The aim of the project is to develop an innovative solution to monitor key information from the vehicle and predict safety risks based on analytics. At the core of the research is a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Proterra Catalyst E2 adds new dimension

Proterra Catalyst E2 has added a new dimension to the concept of electromobility.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

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Electromobility is an area no manufacturer would want to stay away from. It is the need of the time, and is perhaps a gateway to the future. It is not surprising therefore to hear about startups wanting to make a mark in electromobility. There calling, it is clear, is technology. Aiming to eliminate the need for diesel powered buses, a Silicon valley startup Proterra, has developed a 40 ft. long city bus. Building electric buses, Proterra started its journey in 2004 at Golden in Colorado with the development of EcoRide BE35, a 11 m long composite body, fast-charge, electric bus that seats 38 people including the driver, and has a passenger capacity of 60. Shifting its base to Burlingame, California, under the leadership of Ryan Popple, formerly the CEO of Tesla, Proterra launched the Catalyst, a 12 m long fast-charge, 100 per cent electric bus, in 2014 to replace the EcoRide BE35. One of the world’s most efficient transit buses, the Proterra, made from low weight composite materials, is found with operators like King County Metro in Washington.

Building upon the legacy created by the BE35, a battery electric bus to complete federally mandated Altoona testing, and later the Catalyst, the Catalyst E2 (E2 stands for efficient energy) is a 12 m long city bus. Debuting recently at the American Public Transport Association (APTA) annual meeting at Los Angeles, the Proterra E2, under test conditions at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds, proved to be capable of covering roughly 350 miles (over 550 kms) in one juice. The carbon-reinforced composite body of Catalyst E2 resists impact and avoids corrosion. It also lasts long against a conventional transit vehicle according to company sources. Staying on the road for 18 hours at a stretch, Catalyst E2, with the capacity to transfer 77 passengers, employs an advanced electric drivetrain. The drivetrain is supported by regenerative braking system that helps to recapture over 90 per cent of the bus’ kinetic energy. Aiming to cater to longer routes, the Catalyst E2 is all set to carry forward the legacy of the Catalyst FC and XR series. The two are giving tough competition to traditional buses on short and medium range routes.

Since there is no need for creating charging infrastructure extensively, Proterra’s electric buses look like perfect candidates for increased electromobility, including the new Catalyst E2. The Proterra buses that are already operational, are largely plying along defined routes. They can therefore be charged fully when parked overnight. In the case of the Proterra E2, the in-house developed twin-battery pack can store up to 660 kWh. The twin-battery pack can be fully charged in three to five hours using industry standard J1772 CCS plug-in chargers. Having sold over 312 vehicles to 35 different commercial transit, municipal and university agencies, Proterra sources claim that over 540 thousand gallons of diesel has been saved. They claim further that the Proterra buses have completed 2.5 million revenue miles, and eliminated over 10 million pounds of carbon emissions. Set to hit the streets next year, the Proterra E2’s journey will be dictated by rising customer demand. Made at the company’s manufacturing facility at Greenville, South Carolina, the 12 m long bus will contribute to the company’s ambition of doubling production. The Greenville plant has two lines. Funded through FTA grants as well as venture capital funding according to industry sources, Proterra, which is claimed to have raised more than USD 130 million in private equity funding, has registered a sales growth of 220 per cent in 2016 as compared to 2015 sales.

Battery powered trucks set to be a reality

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Moving beyond hybrid truck technology, battery powered trucks are set to be a reality.

Story by: Team CV

Electric trucks are set to be a reality sooner than later. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles may represent only four per cent of the vehicles in The USA, the fact is, they account for about 20 per cent of the transportation fuel consumed. As emission standards become more stringent, advanced vehicle technologies — similar to those that are used in the current hybrid and electric cars— have the potential of finding a way into a truck. Offering an ability to dramatically reduce fuel consumption, cut fuel costs for businesses, improve air quality and public health, and cut fuel consumption by less than half in the next 20 years, electrically powered trucks have the potential to change the way trucking as an industry is currently perceived. The fact that the technology is moving beyond hybrid is an interesting development in itself. Hybrid electric technology combined a conventional internal combustion engine with an electric motor, batteries, and a braking-energy capture (known as regenerative braking) system to reduce fuel consumption by 20 to 35 percent. Battery powered trucks have the potential to save much more.

Over the several hybrid models offered by manufacturers, and which would account for thousands of hybrid systems in application ranging from public-transit buses to package- and beverage-delivery trucks, battery powered electric trucks are beginning to make a mark. Having no internal combustion engine, battery powered electric trucks are propelled by an electric motor powered by onboard batteries. The range varies depending upon the load and the battery capacity. On an average, battery powered trucks can do 50 and 100 miles per charge in the USA. Examples include urban delivery trucks, which travel short and well-defined routes, are less constrained by battery range and make ideal candidates for full electrification. Companies such as AT&T, Frito-Lay, and Staples have all added electric delivery trucks to their fleets in the USA. While Yard hostlers, which move cargo containers at ports and warehouse complexes, is also said to represent an excellent opportunity for all-electric technologies, the fact is, the biggest constraint, the range of travel, is set to change.

Freedom Trucking of Minneapolis, Minnesota is claimed to have been working to develop a battery powered electric truck that can haul an 80,000 pounds load 400 miles on a single battery charge. It is said to have been working closely with Oakridge Global Energy Solutions of Melbourne, Florida, for several years to find a battery that is up to the task. Oakridge Global Energy Solutions made the announcement recently. In its release, Oakridge announced that the development of a fully electric interstate truck propulsion system will enable interstate trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds to travel more than 400 miles. The company claimed that Freedom Trucking can begin to utilise its revolutionary fully-electric tech through a proprietary logistical system, powered by specially designed Oakridge battery systems to move product from Chicago to Minneapolis on a daily basis.

Using fully electric trucks to move this cargo, it is claimed, will save each truck in excess of USD 0.60 per mile over traditional diesel fuel according to an initial analysis for Freedom Trucking by the US Department of Transportation, which will completely revolutionise the economics of the interstate trucking business in the USA, by saving on fuel costs, maintenance costs, and weight. Oakridge Executive Chairman and CEO, Steve Barber, is known to have expressed that the custom battery design for Freedom Trucking is an absolute game changer. He is known to have said that they would continue their mission to onshore manufacturing back to the US, and that this revolutionary technology would reduce carbon emissions, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and bring manufacturing back to the USA.

Industry sources claim that Freedom Trucking has been working on the design of the propulsion system with Ohio State University scientists and others for the past five years. The product, hampered by poor quality Chinese batteries, is now ready for full scale production in 2016 with high quality, ‘US-made’ Oakridge battery systems. If the sources are to be believed, Oakridge has the talent and technology to overcome obstacles in designing state-of-the-art high performance custom battery systems. The development of new custom battery systems have greatly expanded the effective range of the electric truck, making it a practical reality for immediate application to the interstate trucking business. It is also safe, has low maintenance by virtue of the more robust chemistry and the battery management systems Oakridge has designed.