Not that long ago most (if not all) of Europe’s truck makers were still vying to climb to the top of the horsepower tree, reckons Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Brian Weatherley. Today it’s another story altogether. I’d say the first truck maker to publicly take its foot off the power pedal was Mercedes.
Back in 2011, at the launch of the original ‘new’ Actros, I asked Daimler’s vice president for truck engineering Georg Weiburg ‘Do you want to have the World’s Most Powerful Series Production Truck’? High torque, rather than high horsepower was, he said, the priority for Mercedes and 600hp was probably as high as most operators needed.
It was an insightful reply. Indeed, when Merc’s 15.6 litre OM473 LA in-line six (currently offered in Actros and Arocs) appeared in 2013 it had a 630hp top rating. Despite having the capacity to go higher, it’s stayed there, happily sitting above 580 and 520hp versions.
It’s been a similar story for MAN. Having once made Europe’s most powerful prime mover, a TGX with a whopping 680hp 16.2-litre V8, in 2014 the men from Munich dropped their vee-block in favour of the all-new D38 15.2-litre six-pot. While D38 comes with a top-rating of 640hp and 3,000Nm of torque, note this, it’s strictly-for heavy-haulage chassis applications up to 250-tonnes GCW.
For ‘regular’ haulage applications, D38 is rated at 520hp/2,500Nm and 560hp/2,700Nm. Having driven both at 40 tonnes at the launch, the 520hp D38 was more than enough for me, and why wouldn’t it be with 11.8hp/tonne on tap? At the time of its launch, MAN’s senior managers went out of their way to stress that with D38 they wanted maximum efficiency rather than record power. At the time that struck me as eminently sensible. It still does.
What about the others? Back in 1992 Renault briefly led the field when it offered a 520hp Mack V8 beneath its iconic flat-floored Magnum cab. Today, its latest T-range prime mover’s 13-litre ‘DTI 13’ in-line six delivers an identical 520hp, albeit with 2,550Nm of torque.
As for Iveco, its 12.8-litre Cursor 13 fitted in Stralis peaks at 570hp. And while Fiat Powertrain Technologies (the company which supplies Iveco with its engines) has a 15.9-litre Cursor 16 capable of being rated up to 875hp and 3,500Nm of torque, it’s only available for construction, power-generation and agricultural applications. In the latter category it’s already chalked-up its first ‘World’s Most Powerful…’ superlative, in the 625hp New Holland Agriculture CR10.90 combine harvester.
Might we yet see a Cursor 16 powering a European heavy? If you took the amount of money you’d need to engineer it into a Stralis or Trakker, then divided it by the number of vehicles you’d sell in Europe, you’d probably have to charge a heck of a lot for it just to recover the investment. Ah…but what about for Australia I hear you ask? I’ll come to that in a minute.
Frankly, I’m surprised more manufacturers don’t do it. ‘Do what?’ I hear you ask Down Under. Build more flat-floor cabovers, that’s what. Given the fact that every night hundreds of thousands of European long-haul drivers are bedding down for the night in a truck (and I reckon 99.99 per cent of them will be doing it in a cabover prime mover) you’d think that all of Europe’s truck makers would be keen to make their cabs as easy to move around in as possible.
And what better way to ensure effortless cross-cab access and boost the size of your bedroom than by removing the engine hump and replacing it with a perfectly flat cab floor? Yet so far, only three of the major players, Mercedes, Renault and Scania, actually offer one. DAF, Iveco, MAN and Volvo heavies have all still got the ‘hump’, albeit of modest height on their flagship models.
The big mystery to yours truly is why, despite the obvious driver appeal of flat-floor cabs, none of the other European truck makers have followed suit. Doubtless they have their reasons. Flat-floor cabs aren’t without their own drawbacks, the most obvious being is that you have to mount them higher up above the chassis to provide sufficient clearance for the engine underneath, particularly if it’s a big banger.
As flat-floor cabs are generally taller than their non-flat rivals their size can be a problem when it comes to squeezing into tight delivery spots. For the record, the overall heights (with normal, small roof deflectors fitted) of the Actros, Renault T High and Scania Highline are 3.97m, 3.97m and 3.93m, respectively.
Naturally, the higher up the cab, the more steps you’ll need to climb to get into it. Where non-flat floor rivals generally make do with three entry steps, all the above-mentioned ‘flatties’ need four. And with one more step it’s harder to ‘layer’ them, so the entry-step layout can become more like a vertical ladder than a sloping, progressive stairway.
That said, Scania has managed the trick well on its S cab. As with its previous prime mover range, it’s scalloped out the edge of the cab floor where it meets the bottom of the door, thereby creating a recess that allows you to see the top step more easily and place your foot on it without having to lean outwards to spot it.
Riding so high, flat-floor prime movers provide great forward vision on motorways. However, in towns and busy urban areas the higher up the driving position the harder it is to spot objects within the classic close-in blind-spot areas immediately in front and around the nearside corner of the cab.
So much for the cons, what about the pros? Aside from the obvious driver appeal of being easier to move around inside, and the extra headroom they provide when you’re standing up, high-mounted flat-floor cabs tend to have a lot more storage space, both inside and out, not least in terms of extra external lockers.
Fitting two beds into a flat-floor cab is also easier and the unobstructed space (thanks to there being no engine hump) beneath the bottom bed means there’s more than enough room for slide-out lockers and fridges. And being so tall it also means the airflow over a 4.0m trailer (the de facto maximum height limit in continental Europe) can be sorted a lot easier with just a small top deflector, if that.
So will we see any more flat-floor cabs appearing in Europe soon? Frankly, I think it’s unlikely. Indeed I doubt whether DAF, Iveco or MAN want to spend a lot of money on creating a unique flat-floor version of their existing heavy-duty truck cabs just so they can say they have one, especially when those same cabs have core structures (‘Body-in-White’, for example) that are arguably approaching the end of their lifespans.
It’s much easier to create a flat-floor cab when you’re designing ‘from new’, like Scania, Renault or Mercedes. As for Volvo, one can only assume they weren’t prepared to make the current FH cab any taller than it is just to have a flat floor.
Against that backdrop, there’s something else bubbling away up here that could affect the future design of long-haul cabs, flat-floor or otherwise. The European Commission wants to relax the rules governing the overall length of semi combinations to allow more room for improved aerodynamics (both at the front and back) to save fuel and reduce emissions. A more aerodynamic ‘long nose’ sloping cab might also help improve driver vision as well, as offering better crash protection for vulnerable road users. Only it’s anyone’s guess when those new rules will become law.
According to one manufacturer I’ve spoken to, the most optimistic timeline for adoption by the European Union’s member states of a revised EU Directive on truck dimensions would be 2018. There would then be a three-year moratorium before it could go ‘live’. So the earliest opportunity for any truck maker to launch a longer, more aerodynamic cab would be 2021.
However, as the new EU directive won’t be mandatory I can’t see many of those truck makers who’ve launched new cabs within the past 10 years hurrying to do so, especially when the average lifespan of a truck cab these days is closer to 20 years. But for those whose cabs are already getting somewhat long in the tooth, sometime around 2025 might be a good time to launch a new long-haul prime mover cab that takes advantage of the revised EU rules. And who knows? When those new cabs do appear they might even feature a flat floor, and right-hand drive too.
The long-awaited arrival of the right-hand-drive Renault ‘T High’ tractor in the UK has given Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Brian Weatherley, some flat floor thoughts – thinking about the benefits of flat-floor cab-overs to overnighters.
Frankly, I’m surprised more manufacturers don’t do it. ‘Do what?’ I hear you ask Down Under. Build more flat-floor cab-over models, that’s what. Given the fact that every night hundreds of thousands of European long-haul drivers are bedding down for the night in a truck (and I reckon 99.99 per cent of them will be doing it in a cab-over prime mover) you’d think that all of Europe’s truck makers would be keen to make their cabs as easy to move around in as possible.
And what better way to ensure effortless cross-cab access and boost the size of your bedroom than by removing the engine hump and replacing it with a perfectly flat cab floor? Yet so far, only three of the major players – Mercedes, Renault and Scania – actually offer one. DAF, Iveco, MAN and Volvo heavies have all still got the ‘hump’, albeit of modest height on their flagship models.
What’s got me writing about flat floors? The recent (and long-awaited) arrival in the UK of the right-hand-drive version of Renault’s towering ‘Range T High’ prime mover complete with a flat-floor cab. While it’s been around ever since the French manufacturer unveiled its Range T long-distance heavy-truck range back in 2013, up until now T Highs have only been available in left-hand drive. So if you were a UK haulier who wanted one, it had to be a left-hooker.
While a couple have gone to Pommie hauliers (primarily international operators running onto the continent where a left-hooker makes more sense), calls for a right-hand-drive T High have been slowly mounting, not least from Renault Trucks UK, who clearly sees its sales potential amongst those small fleets and owner-drivers looking for a prestige overnighter.
Of course, some of us in the press have been more than ready to add our own ten cents worth, usually along the lines of, “why should the continentals have all the pleasures of a T High flat-floor cab in left-hand drive and not us in right-hand drive?”
However, given that the UK and Ireland still insist on having the steering wheel on the other side of the cab, it’s not unusual for right-hand-drive chassis to be at the back of the production queue whenever a new model is launched, as the priority will inevitably be towards the volume left-hand-drive markets. And just as important, if you’re going to engineer a truck for right-hand drive you’d better be sure the cost of doing it will be more than covered by the number you’ll sell. But even so…
Fortunately the folks in Lyon have finally relented with the result that Renault Trucks UK recently proclaimed, “In response to the changing UK and Irish markets, and a clear demand from customers, we are delighted to announce the introduction of a newly engineered right-hand-drive Range T High, available from early 2018.” Better late than never I say.
Three Models to Choose From
British hauliers keen to get their hands on a T High right-hooker have three models to choose from, all based on the current Range T driveline consisting of the 13-litre ‘DTI 13’ in-line six- and 12-speed Optidriver two-pedal auto.
The first, the ‘International’, features fabric seats with a rotating passenger seat, standard bunk and steel wheels, and is available at 440hp and 480hp in a 6×2 configuration only, 6x2s being the industry-standard prime mover for six-axle, top-weight, 44-tonne GCM semi operations in Blighty. The International’s sensible power ratings will doubtless also appeal to those fleet buyers under pressure to retain drivers with a decent flagship cab, but who don’t want a stampede of horses underneath it.
Next comes the ‘Driver’, with 440hp, 480hp and 520hp 13-litre ratings, plus a little more comfort including full-leather seats, again with the rotating passenger chair, ‘performance’ lower and ‘ultimate’ upper bunks, a big fridge, compact dashboard, Alcoa alloy wheels, aluminium suzie support and additional catwalk.
Finally, there’s the top-of-the-range ‘Driver Lux’. Offered with either the 480hp or 520hp DTI 13, it boasts even more goodies including a tilting backrest on the bunk, big lockers, luxury curtains, laminated side windows and aluminium air tanks. But in all three cases they have that all-important flat floor.
Renault is offering a bigger van in a new configuration. The Renault van product has grown to be a major part of the French car-makers sales in Australia. For example, while the Renault Trafic van sold just over 200 in 2007, it is expected to top ten times that amount in 2017, at over 2,000.
Now, as interest in the brand continues to rise, Renault are expanding the number of options available to the van buyer. One of the recent additions is the Trafic Crew Cab.
The Crew Cab is a further adaptation of the current long wheel based van, adding another dimension to the range. By adding a second row of seats the van has the seating of a family car but still retains four cubic metres of cargo space, behind the bulkhead.
The cargo space left with the second row of seats means this van is capable of carrying a substantial load and have five people travelling in the front in comfort, or six, with a bit of a squeeze on the front seats.
Payload remains over one tonne as well. Power comes from the same twin turbo diesel used in all of the Trafic models. Renault claim the 80 litre fuel tank gives this model a range of over 1,000km.
In front of the shaped and contoured bulkhead the rear row of three seats is fitted with three point seatbelts and headrests. This is not a bench crammed into a limited space, but as roomy as the rear of a typical family SUV.
“Irrespective of the specification, the new Trafic Crew provides a practical, easy-to-drive multi-seat van solution for Australian customers, with the reassurance of factory build quality and our comprehensive and lengthy warranty,” says Lyndon Healey, Senior Model Line Manager at Renault LCV. “The multi-seat van segment accounts for around 850 vehicles per year, or up to six percent of the van market. We are confident the Trafic Crew will quickly establish itself with buyers seeking additional passenger carrying capacity.
“This is a fully engineered solution, with thoughtful touches designed to enhance the passenger experience. The rear row of seats is spacious allowing plenty of leg room and is wide enough for three-abreast seating, complete with handy aircraft-style armrests.”
Out on the highway driving the Trafic is a pleasure. This is a well balanced design which drives like a car and handles cornering solidly. The way the van sits well on the road does help the driver become more relaxed about the task at hand.
The news from Diesel this week shows evidence of a new Scania, trucking optimism, a major fine and electric axles, with stories from around the world.
Images of the next generation Scania driving on Australian roads have started to appear on social media, as the Swedish truck maker run the new models in a, far from secret, evaluation program.
Truck Sales Up
The latest monthly truck sales figures released by the Truck Industry Council (TIC) this week demonstrate optimism from truck buyers and show a strong truck market, when compared to the figures from last September. National sales figures are showing a rise in sales over the year when compared to 2016. Overall sales sit at 26,294 so far this year, they were just 23,951 at the same point last year.
While just about every truck brand is showing an increase in sales, some have made major gains over 2016. The two German brands MAN and Mercedes Benz, now selling new models and with MAN supplying the Defence Forces, have increased sales with numbers up 198 per cent and 48 per cent respectively.
Major Fine for Scania
Scania has been hit with an €880 million ($1,316 million) after being found to be part of a trucks cartel by the European Commission. The charges reckon the Swedish truck maker colluded for 14 years with five other European truck manufacturers on the pricing of trucks. There were also irregularities in passing on the costs of new technologies to meet exhaust emission regulations.
This follows the fining of MAN, DAF, Daimler, Iveco and Volvo/Renault last year after they also admitted to have acted in a cartel-like fashion. Scania had elected not to settle early and underwent a full investigation.
“The decision marks the end of our investigation into a very long lasting cartel, 14 years,” Commissioner for Competition, MargretheVestager, is quoted as saying in reports from Europe. “This cartel affected very substantial numbers of road hauliers in Europe, since Scania and the other truck manufacturers in the cartel produce more than 9 out of every 10 medium and heavy trucks sold in Europe. These trucks account for around three quarters of inland transport of goods in Europe and play a vital role in the European economy. Instead of colluding on pricing, the truck manufacturers should have been competing against each other, also on environmental improvements.”
Meritor has announced it is developing a platform of electric drive axles and suspensions as well as supporting systems with the intention to position the company as a leader in electric solutions for the commercial vehicle market.
“Essentially, we’re focusing on integrating an electric motor into the differential carrier,” said Jay Craig, CEO and president for Meritor. “As we look to future emissions regulations and our customers’ desire for more efficiency, we’re developing new and innovative solutions to expand our product portfolio.”
Meritor designed the e-carrier as a drop-in replacement of a conventional mechanical carrier that does not disrupt axle or suspension packaging. Because the electric motor is integrated into the axle, space is freed up for batteries and other electrical components, offering easier packaging and installation and a safer, more protected location inside the frame rails to mount the batteries.
This week in Diesel News, we have Scania P-Series, Zero-Emission Nikola, Automated Transmission Renault, WA Logistics Launch and New Iveco Dealer.
Scania Reveals P-series Cab and Updated Five-Cylinder Engines
Swedish original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Scania has revealed its new P-series rigid truck for European markets, coinciding with the launch of the XT Construction Truck range.
Scania has said that it will showcase six different P-cab variants including the “CP14L with a low roof – particularly suitable as a starting point to make room for highly productive and advanced bodywork that goes over the cab roof – to the CP20H for those wanting comfortable interior spaces, a lower weight and lower boarding steps, with a cab that is mounted lower in relation to the vehicle’s chassis.”
Scania Trucks Product Director – Construction, Anders Lampinen, said: “While there isn’t evenly weighted demand for all the versions, for us at Scania it’s a matter of credibility to be able to offer the right variant for applications and requirements that are not so common, as well.
“The entire Scania philosophy of always being able to offer the best total operating economy, thanks to customised solutions for all applications, is based on the diversity and customer benefit provided by the Scania modular system.”
According to Scania, the P-series in Europe is mainly intended for customers who rarely stay overnight in their vehicles but who often climb in and out of them.
“A new P-series with a low roof has the same roof height as a P-series from the PGR generation, which of course provides compact outer dimensions, so it is good in environments where headroom is limited,” said Scania. “The new CP17N or CP20N provides a cab that has 10 centimetres more interior headroom than previous versions. This is consistent with all of Scania’s new generation cabs where interior space has increased.”
Nikola Partners with Bosch on Zero Emission Prime Mover
US-based company Nikola Motor Company is aggressively targeting the electric vehicle market with a new partnership with Bosch to make its ‘zero local emission’ prime mover a reality.
Nikola revealed its truck lineup in December last year, and since revealed that the vehicles, dubbed ‘Nikola One’ and ‘Nikola Two’, will be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
Now, the new partnership with Bosch will see it develop a new electric powertrain based on Bosch’s eAxle expertise.
Nikola One and Two aim to deliver more than 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 lb ft of torque – nearly double the horsepower of any semi-truck on the road, according to Nikola.
“We have been aggressively pursuing our goal of bringing the most advanced semi-truck ever built to market,” said Nikola Founder and CEO Trevor Milton.
“The powertrain requires an innovative and flexible partner able to adapt quickly to the speed of our team. Bosch has empowered us to come to market quickly with automotive-grade hardware and software so our vision can become a reality.”
The Bosch eAxle is a scalable, modular platform with the motor, power electronics and transmission in one compact unit that will be paired with the custom-designed hydrogen fuel cell and use commercial vehicle electric machine technology and SMG (separate motor generator) motors from Bosch.
Renault Kangoo Diesel to Feature Auto Transmission
Renault Australia’s Light Commercial Vehicle division will introduce an automated transmission for the Kangoo diesel before the end of 2017.
The two-pedal turbo-diesel Kangoo will use a similar six-speed Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automatic transmission as fitted to the 1.2-litre petrol-engine Kangoo, which was launched in Australia in February.
“We’ve been looking to add an auto diesel powertrain to the Kangoo range for a while now, and I’m pleased to say that the specification we want has now gone into production, and we should receive the first vehicles prior to Christmas,” said Lyndon Renault Australia LCV Senior Model Line Manager, Lyndon Healey.
The OEM has said that the six-speed EDC is an automatic dual dry clutch transmission and is the ideal gear for any driving condition, which is selected automatically by an Electronic Control Unit (ECU).
The Renault Kangoo diesel EDC will reportedly provide very smooth gear-shifting characteristics, with a shift time 290 milliseconds. The transmission’s ‘creep’ control has been designed to pull away gradually when the brake pedal is released. Also, the EDC transmission will offer Hill Start Assist as standard, ensuring safe starts on an incline when partnered with the creep control system.
The Kangoo EDC’s 81kW/240Nm of torque from the 1.5-litre diesel engine will feature an ECO Mode, cutting fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent, according to Renault Australia. When activated via a switch beside the handbrake, ECO Mode will adjust the management of the gearbox ECU, enabling gearshifts at lower revolutions per minute.
GAC Australia Launches Logistics Service
GAC Australia has opened a new consolidation warehouse in Perth, marking its first foray into the logistics business, in parallel to its shipping services available at all Australian ports since 2007.
The opening of the new warehouse comes in response to growing demand for storage space and distribution services from a major client with operations in Western Australia. The facility is located in the new Swan Brewery Estate at Canning Vale, about 20km away from Perth International Airport and Fremantle Port, with easy access to transportation links through the major road network.
The 800m² facility features a 5m x 5m warehouse door and an 8.5m truss height, allowing trailing equipment to reverse into the facility for loading and unloading. Arriving goods are consolidated and packed into pallets before being distributed to domestic and international locations.
“Australia has significant quantities of discovered gas resources,” said Scott Henderson, GAC Australia’s Managing Director. “In Western Australia alone, resource projects and infrastructure in the pipeline amount to billions of dollars. It is home to many local and international companies servicing the oil and gas, as well as mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sectors, presenting plenty of opportunities for project logistics and warehousing services providers.
“Having established a strong foothold in the country’s shipping sector, we are now ready to expand our portfolio to provide logistics services, and Western Australia is an ideal launch pad for our logistics operations.”
Suttons Group Joins Forces with Iveco
Truck manufacturer Iveco has announced that Australian auto dealership company Suttons Group has assumed ownership of its largest New South Wales-based dealership, and is already well-progressed in consolidating its operations.
Iveco General Manager Daniel Glynn has said Suttons Motors identified some huge opportunities for the Iveco brand.
“Suttons Motors saw enormous potential in the Iveco product range,” Glynn said.
“With a model range spanning everything from passenger car licence vans and light trucks through to road train prime movers, we can offer a transport solution to anybody who walks through the dealership doors.
“We see a very bright future for this dealership and for Iveco as a whole, and we’re looking forward to working closely with Iveco Australia and more broadly with CNH Industrial, to take Iveco Sydney to the next level,” he said.
Iveco Sydney is located on the corner of Penelope Crescent and McCormack Street, Arndell Park.
Just like in any other workshop, high-quality technicians are needed to run a small commercial vehicle workshop designed to cater for vans. It brings a different set of issues to the workshop manager and Diesel News talked to a busy facility in central Melbourne handling Renault vans.
Essendon Renault is one of the biggest Renault dealers in Australia and the top seller of commercial vehicles for the French brand. As a result of the growth in van sales for the operation over the past ten years, the decision was made to set up a workshop dedicated to handling work for the commercial vehicles customers the company now had on its books.
The facility is the only stand-alone Renault commercial vehicle service centre in Australia. Many of the Renault dealers around Australia sell the commercial range but by being specialists, Essendon Renault is finding vans sold by other dealers are ending up in its workshop due to the level of specialisation possible with a specifically designed workshop.
In a typical month, the workshop will see over 400 vans coming through the workshop facility in one way or another. There are about 13 vans a day getting serviced, on top of the normal flow of pre-delivery work, which has been boosted by a large hire fleet order working its way through the system.
This work is handled by five technicians, with another two in the pipeline to cope with growing demand for the company’s workshop services. Renault runs an apprentice programme, with one of the technicians currently going though the process. They get one week a month in the classroom.
The other techs run through new product training, technical updates, plus Renault technical meetings quarterly for the highest grade of technician. Service advisors get a series of training workshops during the year.
A further two top technicians are sponsored through a Renault initiative, they come from Saudi Arabia, and bring over thirty years’ experience in the product. This is valuable for working on a range that has only been available here for limited period of time.
The six hoists and one diagnostic bays are able to cope with the workflow, but Nick Calvert, Essendon Renault After Sales Manager, does admit to needing ‘half a hoist more’ sometimes. With such a large building there will always be plenty of room for growth and more bays will be added, as and when required. The wash bay is designed to be portable and can be moved to free up more space for extra bays.
In the Essendon Renault business, vans represent over 45 per cent of sales, and over 50 per cent of all servicing work. The van work is turning out to be quite seasonal, with minimal servicing work in the lead-up to Christmas, during the delivery rush. The team doubles to cope with the rush of work in January. The operation has realised the commercial vehicle side of the equation is growing and has reset the business to concentrate on vans as sales continue to be strong.
“We have found a lot of vans are being used to replace small Japanese trucks,” says Nick. “We are doing a lot of fridge conversions on them for people doing country runs in the morning. One of our customers does about 15,000km per month. He’s doing Bacchus Marsh to Lorne and back, twice a day. We see him every two months for a service and he’s already up to 240,000km.”
Essendon Renault became a Pro+ dealer in 2015, in order to reach this grade the operation has to demonstrate a commitment to customer service and quality assurance. The servicing side of the process requires a dedicated team to proactively keep standards high. There is an auditing regime from Renault to ensure dealers continue to meet the strict criteria.
Although they do not play in the Australian market, the Truck Of The Future From Renault may be of interest to our operators. It is an attempt to optimise fuel use and utilises different technologies from a range of component suppliers.
Renault Trucks recently unveiled the latest in its series of on-road mobile laboratories designed to find ways to maximise fuel efficiency. After originally starting the ball rolling with its Optifuel Lab prime mover in 2009 (based on the old Premium model), followed in 2015 by Optifuel Lab 2 (built around the latest T-Range tractor), it recently launched Urban Lab 2, a concept truck specifically aimed at saving fuel in the urban and regional distribution sectors, rather than long haul.
Developed with six partners under the collaborative Efficient Distribution Truck (EDIT) project, Urban Lab 2 has a whole bundle of fuel-saving technologies including improved aerodynamics, engine hybridisation, low rolling resistance tyres (from Michelin) and vehicle/infrastructure communication. Together they offer potential fuel savings of up to 13 per cent on the 19-tonne Euro VI D WIDE rigid, on which Urban Lab 2 is based.
Particular attention has been paid to the airflow passing around the cab and body and the engineers from Renault and bodybuilder Lamberet have created a super-slippery chassis and reefer body whilst still meeting the everyday operational needs of controlled-temperature hauliers.
The first step involved reducing the truck’s frontal area. Consequently, on Urban Lab 2 the fridge unit has been moved from its traditional location above the cab to between the wheels, allowing a full roof-deflector to be fitted which is fully fared into the body. By redesigning the interior architecture of the refrigerated body it’s also been possible to add curved front and rear sections to the roof but without increasing its overall height.
One of the more interesting features on Urban Lab 2 is its PVC-coated textile side-deflectors which are stretched and fitted onto the truck’s existing sideguards, providing a light and effective system that should be simpler to use and cheaper to repair, unlike ‘hard’ aerodynamic side-valances. Lateral airflow is further boosted by rear air-deflectors, integrated with the back of the body and tailgate, plus the streamlined front wheel covers.
Further fuel-saving attention to detail on Urban Lab 2 includes optimising ground clearance through the use of flexible components on the underside of the vehicle which ensure good airflow, a rear access step that’s completely-covered when not in use and a system of profiled cameras and internal feedback screens that replace the conventional wing mirrors, further reducing wind-resistance.
If Urban Lab 2 is innovative on the outside there’s plenty of clever stuff under the hood too. Its engine features stop/start and micro-hybrid technology developed in partnership with Valeo. The latter recovers ‘free’ energy generated during over-run and braking via a 48V generator that provides electricity to either drive the vehicle’s electrical ancillaries or reduce the mechanical power required by the diesel engine. Renault Trucks has also been working with the Lyon INSA to reduce friction at the front of the engine in order to optimise the overall efficiency of the micro-hybrid system.
Last but not least, Urban Lab 2 has a special navigation system designed to ease its passage through busy streets, calculating the best route for fuel economy, whilst still taking operational constraints into account. Urban Lab 2’s ‘connectivity’ to local infrastructure further extends to optimising driving – through green lights. When the truck approaches traffic lights, it receives information from them and the system calculates if it is more efficient to brake or accelerate, “when conditions and regulations allow.” According to Renault, this limits the amount of stop/start driving, which has a high impact on fuel consumption. Following on from track tests conducted late last year Urban Lab 2 has now started road trials in Bordeaux and the results from those trials will be presented when the project ends sometime in 2018.
Here is another of what is becoming a growing trend, truck manufacturers making stunt videos with their trucks and posting them up on YouTube. The videos rarely have any real relevance to the act of trying to sell the truck to the customer. They are often about engaging the viewer, upping awareness of the brand and, perhaps highlighting one of the features of the truck. Of course, this is followed by the obligatory behind the scenes video:
Freightliner also, literally, went down the stunt truck route. Spectacular, but is it relevant?
The Europeans are up to it as well, in this video a full Renault Magnum semi jumps a Formula One race car:
Volvo is probably the truck maker to go the furthest down this stunt video road, there is a series unfolding at the moment (Diesel News will feature the videos when they are all available for binge watching). For now, we will make do with the first of the stunt videos, the Ballerina on a Tight Rope:
There was no competition for video of the week this week. The image of a semi truck jumping over a Formula One car is impossible to resist. The truck used is a Renault Magnum, an updated version of the unsuccessful Mack Magnum, released here in Australia over ten years ago.
It would be interesting to see the state of the truck’s suspension after a pretty hard landing. The door of the truck did come open as it hit the deck but the driver, Mike Ryan, was securely fastened into his seat. In fact, the Lotus F1 team and their collaborators EMC have released very little information about the jump, but there is a behind the scenes video available at their website.
Mike Ryan does have some form when it comes to handling a truck.
Here he is drifting a mine truck:
Plus, here creating mayhem at a container dock
Of course, it has nothing to do with this Magnum Leap: