HANNOVER UNVEILS THE TRUCK OF THE FUTURE
Trucks without drivers, silent vehicles, fuel consumption cut to the bone and new players in the trailer axle sector: with the Euro 6 in the past, IAA looks at ultra-technology
With the wave of innovations that preceded the Euro 6 era behind us now, the 2014 edition of the IAA in Hannover, the most important European exhibition dedicated to heavy duty vehicles, will be remembered as the one in which the manufacturers have tried to imagine the trucks of the future. Trucks communicating with smartphones, self-driving vehicles, futuristic aerodynamics, new technical solutions dedicated to the reduction of operating costs: all things that were unthinkable a few years ago, but are about to become reality. So here's a rundown of the main news seen in Hannover.
Truck of the year 2015: Renault’s Trucks T takes first place
The truck of the year is the newcomer in the Euro 6 era, that is, the Renault Trucks T. A jury of 25 specialized European journalists, headed by Italian journalist Gianenrico Griffini, has awarded the new Renault Trucks flagship because it "combines the successful characteristics of the previous models with the latest technological innovations in the commercial vehicle’s sector. This has led to one of the most remarkable debuts on the market of recent years. "Receiving the award, Bruno Blin, CEO of Renault Trucks said: "I am delighted and honored to receive this award and I would like to share it with all my colleagues at Renault Trucks as well as with our network of sales and service around the world. This award makes us extremely proud and we are sure it will instill pride in all those who will purchase and drive our trucks. "The Renault T preceded the Daf CF and the Mercedes-Benz Atego: Renault Trucks breaks a fasting that lasted 24 years, when the AE (ancestor of the Magnum, just recently replaced by the new T) won the truck of the year award back in 1991.
The silent DAF
The new Daf XF did not win any prize, yet is proving to be one of the best-selling long distance trucks in Europe. At the Hannover show, however, the Dutch manufacturer has decided to focus on another market segment: medium range trucks. The Daf CF Quiet Truck is equipped with a button that, once activated, lowers the maximum engine speed, decreases the torque and anticipates the gear changes. In this way, the noise level drops below the threshold of 72 dB, a result that earned this 4x2 truck (soon in 6x2 configuration) the Dutch Piek certification for noise reduction in city traffic both for trucks and semi-trailers equipped with a refrigerator.
Mercedes-Benz, the self-driving truck!
In Hannover, Mercedes-Benz unveiled its Future Truck 2025. It is "only" a prototype, but with an idea revolutionary enough to make your hands tremble: the first self-driving truck! "Transport efficiency will increase, traffic will become safer for all road users, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions will fall further," we read in a Mercedes-Benz statement. The German manufacturer has linked the already existing electronic systems to a number of advanced sensors to produce the Highway Pilot system, already tested this summer on Germany’s A14 near Magdeburg, at a maximum speed of 80 km / h and in standard traffic conditions.
And that’s not all: the Future Truck stands out for its futuristic features, where cameras replace mirrors (an innovation just launched also by Continental) and the surface of the body is illuminated by invisible LED lights, replacing traditional headlights. Furthermore, a striking orange trail on the body replaces the indicators. When the vehicle is driven by the "automatic pilot", the lights are white. When the driver - who doesn’t disappear altogether, for the safety of all – takes control, they turn blue. In this futuristic workstation, the driver communicates when driving by means of a portable tablet that is inserted in the center console.
Through this computer, the driver can write documents, plan the next destinations, accept new orders and organize his next break. The computer screen can be configured as desired and allows the driver to call up all the necessary travel data. During long distance travelling in automatic mode, the tablet becomes the main driving tool in place of the steering wheel and pedals. But how does this "automatic pilot" work? No consecutive linking with other vehicles, as with Adaptive Cruise Control. But radar sensors and cameras that allow the vehicle to travel autonomously. Interconnection with other trucks and cars further expands its capabilities, but it is not essential for autonomous driving. A radar sensor installed in the lower section of the front end of the vehicle scans the area in front of the truck both of long and short range: in the first case with a range of 250 m and an opening angle of 18 °; in the second case, the range is 70 m and the angle 130°. The area ahead of the vehicle is further kept under control by a stereoscopic camera installed above the cab, behind the windscreen. Today a monoscopic Lane Keeping Assist camera can be mounted on the same spot if requested. The camera has a range of 100 m and covers an area of 45 ° horizontally and 27 ° vertically: it can identify the streets both one or two lanes, pedestrians, still and moving obstacles of various kinds in the area monitored. Since it recognizes anything that is detached from the background, it can accurately detect even free space. The monitoring of the roads to both sides of the truck is entrusted to radar sensors installed on both sides of the cab. With the merger of the data in the high-performance multi-core processor of the central computer center, all the data relating to the area in front and adjacent to the truck are connected to each other by sensors. The technology employed by the sensors and cameras is active over the entire speed range from zero to the maximum limit prescribed by law. It automatically keeps the truck right in the middle of the lane by acting on the steering. The on-board memory also has a recorded three-dimensional digital map, as the one already used by the driver assistance system Predictive Power-train Control (PPC). The truck is therefore always perfectly informed on the road and its topographic features.
After the triumph of two years ago, when it won the Truck of the Year award with its Stralis Hi-Way, from Hannover Iveco brings back home another trophy by winning the Van of the Year award with the New Daily. An all-new model that, in a nutshell, is distinguished by record cargo volumes, between 18 and 20 m3. And for the new automatic 8-speed Hi-Matic gearbox, which lets you change faster and more accurately: using 0.2 seconds less for each gear change, allowing for a smoother ride coupled to a lower fuel consumption. Among the heavy duty vehicles the real news is represented by the Eco Stralis Hi-Way Euro 6: after the success of the Eco Stralis Euro 5, launched in 2011, this "Eco" lowers fuel consumption by an additional 2% thanks to some tricks. For example the Eco-Roll, a system that evaluates the slope of the road, “cutting off” if necessary the power-train and thus putting the vehicle in neutral. At the end of the downhill stretch, the system re-calculates and sets the optimal gear position, thus restoring the normal setting of the vehicle. Or the improved thermal management of the engine oil, combined with the introduction of new synthetic lubricant SAE 0W-20, which improves the performance of the engine.
Scania also has its own idea about a truck for the future. Which must be, first of all, cleaner, pursuing the development of engines without complacency after the advent of the Euro 6. But, above all, it will have to improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption. This is the path traced by the new 450hp Euro 6 engine unveiled in Hannover, which usually uses the SCR after-treatment system, instead of the EGR system of exhaust gases recirculation. A change that aims to increase the efficiency of the engine. After Iveco, Scania is the second manufacturer to use a technology based solely on the SCR catalyst: will the Euro 6 be the future? Maybe. Meanwhile, however, Scania did not merely present the traditional diesel solution.
Alternative engines were also presented, such as trucks powered by natural gas already seen in the last issue of Pneurama, as well as an unexpected return of biodiesel for its midrange models, with a P320 powered by a 320hp Euro 6 engine. In terms of accessories, an interesting new feature is the retarder that mechanically switches off when it is not operating, which allows you to have a greater braking effect at lower speeds and reduce fuel consumption. And a new generation of Eco-roll, allowing the truck to proceed over mild slopes without gears. But Scania, we know, is also the favorite brand for real enthusiasts: for them the Swedish manufacturer launched the new R730 V8 engine, a 16-liter 730 hp, a limited edition power-train for this ultra-powerful truck with top interior and exterior trimmings. Must be tried!
Built in-house axles
And what about semi-trailer manufacturers? The trend, this year at least, seems to be the do it yourself kind. Two years ago, Schmitz presented a built in-house isothermal refrigerating unit, a historical news for a sector subjected to the duopoly Thermo King-Carrier (with the addition, from time to time of Mitsubishi). This year, however, it was the axles turn. Krone and Kögel presented their in-house components. The first, following the acquisition of the German manufacturer Gigant, which occurred in 2013; the second after a new investment in the Chocen production plant. Krone and Kögel set their foot in a market so far dominated by Saf, Knorr-Bremse and Bpw. By contrast, finally, Mercedes, that may soon sell its production of axles for trailers to Jost, already a European leader in the support legs sector.