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.