Fuel Smarts

Daimler Shows Off Vision of Future at IAA Show

September 21, 2016, by Deborah Lockridge

Wolfgang Bernhard answers reporter questions about the Urban eTruck Photo: Deborah Lockridge
Wolfgang Bernhard answers reporter questions about the Urban eTruck Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Hannover, Germany — Daimler Trucks kicked off the IAA international Commercial Vehicle Show by focusing on the future of the urban city, with the unveiling of its Urban eTruck.

It also highlighted and expanded upon its recent unveiling of concept vehicles, the semi-autonomous Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot, and the Vision Van, an electrically powered, automated and connected van designed to change last-mile delivery services.

Welcoming a press audience of some 600 journalists from around the world, Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler Truck and Bus, explained the symbolism of the power plant where the event was held, because “in the next era, electricity and transportation will meet.”

In addition to showing off its concept vehicles, Daimler officials announced they would be building commercially available fully electric Mercedes-Benz vans and the first all-electric city bus by 2018.

While it’s unlikely any of these vehicles will be seen in the U.S., especially in exactly this form, some of the technological advancements being tested out may well make their way to our shores.

Photo: Deborah Lockridge
Photo: Deborah Lockridge

And the urban challenges they are designed to address are global. By 2050, cities will be home to 70% of the world’s population, he noted. By that time, the additional amount of milk alone needed in cities around the world will require 50,000 additional truck deliveries every day. Made with conventional trucks, that could lead to problems with emissions, noise, congestion and infrastructure.

The Urban eTruck is driven by electric motors adjacent to the wheel hubs, while the power supply comes from a modular battery pack that can be charged in no more than two hours with the right equipment. This puts the Urban eTruck on a par with conventionally engined trucks when it comes to payload and suitability for everyday use, says Daimler. But at the same time, it is far more environmentally friendly, generates zero local emissions and makes barely any noise.

Urban eTruck can be configured for a wide range of different requirements. It comes standard with a basic lithium-ion battery pack of three modules with a total capacity of 212 kWh. This provides a range of up to 200 km, which is normally enough for a day's delivery round. The batteries are additionally charged during operation by regenerative braking, i.e. by converting the braking energy into electricity.

Daimler says standard-production vehicles of this type would be conceivable from the start of the next decade.

Bernhard explained that Daimler engineers have addressed the issue of range by adding connectivity and a tool called Intelligent Range Management. Using details such as the number of tons loaded and more, it plans the route, calculates the amount of electric energy needed to complete the route, and suggests the right driving mode.

The Urban eTruck can operate in three different modes. On a standard journey, the Urban eTruck is set to “auto.” The settings in this mode constantly change depending on the actual energy consumed. This ensures a balance between the range and the available power. The second mode is 'agile' and it is a 'power' setting. And an energy-saving 'eco' mode is selected if maximum range is required.

Wolfgang Bernhard answers reporter questions about the Urban eTruck Photo: Deborah Lockridge
Wolfgang Bernhard answers reporter questions about the Urban eTruck Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Once the truck is en route, a screen shows how the actual power being used compares to the amount calculated. If more power is needed, such as from getting stuck in an unexpected traffic jam, the system comes up with a solution, whether that be changing the driving mode or even scheduling an intermediate charging stop.

While acknowledging that the upfront cost of the Urban eTruck would be considerably higher than a conventional truck, Bernhard said costs will come down with economies of scale and as batteries become more affordable. Those costs will be offset by lower operating costs including cheaper electricity than fuel as well as less maintenance. And a new Truck2Grid management will help customers avoid expensive peak charging times with a smart charging strategy — and customers can use the truck’s battery while it’s parked to provide paid energy services.

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