World premiere of the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck

8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 26, 2016

At a glance:

• Innovative electric drives: clean and silent short-radius distribution

• Powerful battery: range of up to 200 km

• Larger payload: Urban eTruck has a permissible laden weight of 26.0 t

• Innovative solution: electric motors adjacent to the wheel hubs

• Revolutionary design: exterior with black panel grille, interior with an innovative display and operating concept

• Intelligent networking: pioneering FleetBoard for urban distribution telematics service

• Stationary battery storage units make the overall costs competitive

Mercedes-Benz revealed its electric Urban eTruck at the IAA show in Hannover recently. The 26-tonne truck features a revolutionary exterior and interior design, exciting new technology, a 200km range, and a system that shows the maximum range based on the current level of battery charge.

The Urban eTruck is on a par with conventional trucks when it comes to payload and usability, but is more environmentally friendly, generating zero emissions and very little noise. The 3-axle rigid Urban eTruck features a tailor-made concept for highly efficient and clean short-radius distribution.

Based on a unique concept, the Urban eTruck‘s drive come from electric motors adjacent to the wheel hubs, while the power supply comes from a modular battery pack. The revolutionary technical concept is part of an integrated system for eTrucks with a made-to- measure telematics service in FleetBoard and power supply using stationary battery storage.

The axle is based on the ZF AVE 130, but has been comprehensively modified for use in the Urban eTruck. The axle housing has  been raised to give greater ground clearance and the method of axle attachment reconfigured. The original low-floor axle has been provided with a liquid-cooled high-speed asynchronous three-phase motor on each side. The rated voltage is 400 V, while the maximum output is 2 x 125 kW. The motors have a peak torque of 2 x 500 Nm. In combination with the gearing, the torque at the wheel reaches 11,000 Nm.

The Urban eTruck comes with a basic battery pack of three modules with a total capacity of 212 kWh, providing a range of up to 200 km. The lithium-ion batteries are charged during operation by regenerative braking. The design of the truck allows different variants of the battery pack. If a lower range is required, it can be fitted with a compact battery pack with reduced capacity.

Alternatively, customers requiring a longer range can fit an additional battery pack.

The Urban eTruck can operate in three different modes, auto, agile and eco.

When set to auto, energy consumption is regulated, ensuring a balancebetween the range and available power. In agile mode, full power is available.

This can be useful in hilly regions or if the speed needs to be increased, provided there is sufficient energy available. The energy-saving eco mode is selected if maximum range is required. In this mode, the electric motor‘s torque is reduced to achieve minimal consumption and maximum range, and energy is recovered through braking.

Aside from its range, one of the main technical factors behind the success of the electric drive is its weight balance. Electrically powered commercial vehicles need to perform similarly to diesel-engined trucks and the Urban eTruck only weighs an additional 1700 kg.

The futuristic-looking driver’s cab is a derivative of the cab on the Mercedes-Benz Antos truck. The truck‘s body carries a typical 7.4m long refrigerated body for use in fresh food distribution to supermarkets and retailers.

Across the roof, a three-dimensional spoiler connects the cab with the body of the truck. It has a wide vent at the front, which acts as air inlet for the cooling unit concealed behind the spoiler. Just like the roof spoiler, the aerodynamic skirting panels on the side of the cab fit almost flush with the body. The windscreen has been extended downwards. The mirror cams that replace the conventional outside mirrors are another distinctive feature on the truck.

The conventional air inlet has been omitted from the Urban eTruck because of the electric drive. Instead it features a transparent black panel grille back-lit by high-resolution LEDs.

Instead of conventional instruments, the Urban eTruck features a completely new display and control system consisting of two screens. The middle section of the central display shows the speed, while the central display shows a visual representation of a road and information about the route and vehicles in front. Thanks to the stored map data, the automatic drive control also receives prior warning of braking and acceleration phases and road features such as traffic lights, and the truck automatically adjusts its speed in line with the road sign recognition system.

The upper section of the display shows the battery capacity. Should it fall below a predefined tolerance level, the Urban eTruck can automatically introduce countermeasures. If the power reserves fall to such a level there is a risk the truck won't reach the next charging station, a warning light comeson. The engine management system can then be set to eco mode, thus maximising range.

An additional tablet – similar to the well-established tablet from FleetBoard – gives the driver a wide range of other  useful information, including details about the delivery run, calculated driving times to charging stations and expected duration of the stop.

Up to now, electric drives have failed to make a breakthrough in the distribution sector because of their overall cost as well as their limited range. The use of stationary battery storage units opens up a world of opportunities. They act as a buffer during expensive peaks in demand to lower electricity costs, a significant factor if a whole fleet requires charging at once.

Furthermore, it is possible to charge stationary storage units using electricity generated by solar panels fitted on large warehouse roofs. This allows transport companies to charge some of their fleet with energy they have generated themselves, giving them much greater flexibility.