Driving tomorrow Hannover 2018

34 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 6, 2018

Autumn in Europe and an even numbered year, that can only mean one thing for anyone involved with the road transport industry… Hannover!

Photo: Bristling with tech but at the end of the day you still need something big to shift something big.

While some may pretend it is not so, the design and manufacture of heavy road transport vehicles is dominated by Europe, and this domination is focused within Germany. Two of the world‘s major truck and bus manufacturers are headquartered within Germany, and so it is only fitting that the Hannover show is considered to be the world‘s leading truck show.

This is the show that gives the transport industry the guide as to what the leading manufacturers of trucks and equipment have in store for us, and equally for us to have the ability to talk with top level industry leaders. The transport world comes to Hannover, and even a country as far off as New Zealand has a lot to gain from seeing what is trending in the world stage, as evidenced by the number of Kiwis in attendance. This year the days leading up to the show came at the end of a very hot summer, and the surrounding countryside had suffered from a lack of rain. German fields tend to be unfenced and cropped, and they were dry. The last crop before winter, sugar beet in the north, was struggling to produce an adequate return, with small beets. The weather was hot. So was the show. A step forward from 2016, the advance of software and technology had leapt ahead. Autonomous vehicles and platooning were then in the early stage, and the research and development has matured in two years. Both are now very realistic and capable, although both remain limited through government and social constraints, but not technical limitations.

Photo: New mirror-less tech at Mercedes-Benz.

Photo: The view from the driver‘s seat, note the screen on the A pillar. Compliance will mean it‘ll be a while before we see a Trekka in the screen.

With a theme of ‘Driving Tomorrow‘ it is only appropriate that the challenges of tomorrow‘s world were dealt with at Hannover. In New Zealand we face driver shortages, shortages of labour in many of our suppliers, issues of safety, and environmental care.
These issues are not just New Zealand issues, and the whole world is grappling with them to different degrees. Driver shortages in part have contributed to the rise of autonomous vehicle technology, and platooning. Safety concerns overlap with autonomous driving, and give rise to the huge increase in ‘driver assist‘ safety technologies from every manufacturer. In some cases this is led by the manufacturers themselves, and in others, suppliers to industry have some exciting developments. This report focuses on the manufacturers.

Photo: Electric Actros.

Photo: The rear end on the distribution truck of tomorrow. The grease gun probably won‘t get a lot of use, not that it does now in all reality.

Daimler, Mercedes-Benz
In the centre of the huge Daimler stand (Mercedes-Benz Trucks & Buses, Fuso, Freightliner, Bharat-Benz, Beijing Photon Daimler) was the new Actros. While the outside of the cab has a familiar shape, the inside is very different. Picture yourself in an S Class and you get the idea. The top spec display model was all leather and touch screens, and while we can expect lesser spec models to have less leather, the touch screens will be in most models due to Mercedes-Benz selling trucks here branded Actros that are branded Arocs and Antos in Europe. While these are not substandard in any way, they are specified differently from the premium Actros product. Behind the gloss of the paint and leather there are some highly sophisticated safety and operational systems designed to assist drivers in their daily task. Active Drive Assist is the latest incarnation of the system already fitted to the Actros, but now much more refined. In layman‘s terms it will slow and accelerate vehicles in traffic, and keep them between the lanes. In city driving Active Brake Assist 5 is now sensitive to pedestrians where previously it reacted to larger obstacles. Side Guard Assist is designed to stop the vehicle if there is a pedestrian or cyclist in the driver‘s blind spot. Both systems work well, and we can expect these systems in New Zealand sometime next year, albeit in small numbers initially.

Head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Stefan Buchner, noted there are more than 60 new innovations in the new ranges of vehicles, and detailed four. The mirror cam, which removes the exterior mirrors from the truck (or bus) and replaces them with a mirror-shaped screen inside the cab on each A pillar. That will reduce wind resistance, and have an effect on fuel consumption. He noted the Multimedia Cockpit and Active Brake Assist mentioned above, and Level 2 autonomy designed for the safety and comfort of drivers. In a twist away from the manufacturer dictating equipment, Buchner emphasised the customer demand for safety was driving production, and that he felt grateful for that as an individual on the street, not as a head of the world‘s largest truck maker. Mercedes-Benz Trucks is a clear leader in production terms (more than 20% ahead of the next manufacturer Navistar, now part-owned by Volkswagen), and also a leader in revenue terms with a turnover of about 25% of New Zealand‘s GDP (around $50 billion and $180 billion respectively). The company dominated this show. Not just the huge stand, but in all of the peripheral activities that were part of the wider vehicle supply and support functions. There was a recruiting stand, with staff and vehicles looking for new employees, a finance stand, another dealing with vehicle leasing, and another dealing with service contracts.

Photo: eCanter‘s still on a global rock-star like roll out, and E-Fuso‘s coming next.

Traton Group is the new name for Volkswagen Truck and Bus. Effectively it is the holding company for the constituent parts, VW Caminhoes e Onibus, Scania, MAN, RIO. They also hold a 16% stake in Navistar, with potential to take a much larger shareholding. (Navistar has had some difficult years, but is number two in the world for numbers of trucks and buses sold [in USA and Canada/Mexico]. If Volkswagen took over Navistar totally they would be the world‘s biggest by a small margin.). The name comes from a combination of TRAnsport and TONnes of freight moved. Traton has also reached a strategic technology agreement with Hino, but without any ownership. Hino is owned by Toyota, and VW and Toyota are fierce rivals in the car market, with each challenging the other for world number one.

For this year Scania was in the VW hall, which has increasingly filled with Volkswagen companies. The space they used was less than previous years, perhaps constrained by the hall boundaries. Not constrained was Scania‘s vision of where transport was going into the future, and they raised more questions than answers. In a major study Scania identified the changes that would be needed to reach zero fossil emissions by 2050. The pathway showed a range of options (electrification being the main stream) but warned that the cost of infrastructure investment to achieve that will be four or five times higher than at present. They expect the cost of ownership of battery electric vehicles to reach parity with diesel vehicles by 2031, but didn‘t expect to achieve full adoption of fossilfree powertrain technologies until 2040.

Photos: Scania PHEV for local distribution. Electric capability helps with quiet zones and entry is as easy as it gets.

On its stand Scania presented a PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) truck for local distribution. This vehicle offers a 20-minute recharge time when needed. It has a range of 10 km in full electric mode, and a low noise level of 72db. This allows the truck to operate at night within cities with low noise limits, and to enter and leave restricted areas on fully silent, zero emission electrical power. The electric power rating is 130kW. Scania Zone is a new software product which geofences sensitive areas and reduces the truck performance to comply with those limits without the driver having to monitor these details. City zones may well have all or some restrictions on emissions, noise or speed, and the truck will either adapt or advise accordingly. The Scania AiCC software for platooning is designed to use map data to predict gaps between vehicles and adjust the distance between the first and following vehicles to enable lower fuel and brake use. The Scania Interlink Medium Decker coach is powered by LNG, and has a range of 1000 km, opening up possibilities for alternative fuels previously limited by range. This is a 54-seater, 320hp unit suited for medium distance transport.

For the first time to our knowledge, Hino had a truck at Hannover. It was a Japanesebuilt rigid unit and it was parked well away from the main stands, and outside the main open area. A very low-key exhibitor this time, but as number seven in the world but with a low European presence, there is obviously interest in growing their slice of the pie. Hino, and rival Isuzu, previously stood apart from the mainstream heavy vehicle technology development path, and a new strategic technology agreement with Volkswagen will correct that deficiency for Hino. As part of this agreement there was a Hino Poncho EV bus on the RIO stand in the Traton Hall.

RIO was announced at IAA 2016 as a new organisation. They sprang out of MAN, and relished their independence in a growing VW commercial operation. In the years since they have introduced their technology platform to Traton vehicle users in Europe (MAN and Scania mainly) and gone out to other mixed fleets with their ‘black box‘. They offer an increasing array of digital services like maintenance reports, fuel consumption, vehicle tracking, and many others. Their strategy appears to be a brand-neutral delivery to the greater market, and doubtless the back story will be to enable Traton products to reach a greater market while maintaining an independent face of telematics (in New Zealand terms think Navman or EROAD).

Kogel expect to build 18,000 trailers in 2018, which puts them well ahead of the total New Zealand market by a huge number. In the past I have looked at their equipment, and while nothing suits New Zealand conditions because of different dimensions and loading requirements, I had looked at their gear with interest, noting that it was always heavier than anything we run here. This year they have a new skeletal semi-trailer that telescopes to handle containers from 20‘ to 45‘, and weighs around 4550 kg empty. That is starting to get close to our needs, even if the single tyres give it a weight advantage. In connectivity terms they have now added a telematics unit to trailers to allow customers to pull data out of the trailer. This effectively means easy access to EBS and brake data, plus loading, location, and maintenance data. For curtainside vehicles all of the lashing points are inside the body, removing the hassle of wet and dirty straps and ratchets.

Photo: MAN‘s big thumper was making its presence felt.

Their theme was ‘Simplifying Business‘, and their focus was listed as ‘MAN is transforming itself from a commercial vehicle manufacturer to a supplier of intelligent and sustainable transport solutions‘. Lots of thinking had gone into the last mile vehicle for city use. MAN expects cities around the world to double in size by 2050. This is the continuing trend to urbanisation that is happening in New Zealand as well. Auckland now has almost half of New Zealand‘s population, and the issues of congestion and tight contested delivery space here are only a fraction of the complexity of some of the larger world cities. The driver was considered with low height trucks, and easy stepping into and out of the cab. Their CitE electric concept truck at 15 tonnes gross weight was the highlight of the MAN display. This is designed for easy access, ergonomic seating, large side doors for the driver, lots of cameras giving the driver 360-degree vision, and blind spot warning devices. In the city area the blind spot warning system is becoming more important, and MAN has built a retrofit device for existing MAN vehicles.

MAN has used an adapted version of the platoon and autonomous concept to provide safety vehicles for motorway work. Around 44% of truck accidents on the German motorway system involve rear end crashes on the inside lane, or hard shoulder. The aFAS (automatic driverless safety vehicle for motorway networks) system allows the rear vehicle of a work crew convoy to be unmanned, and therefore safer in the event of a rear end collision. The aFAS vehicle follows the attached vehicle in front fully autonomously, and stops in the event of a malfunction. In a country with almost 13,000 km of motorways this is a bigger problem than in New Zealand, which has about 350 km of motorways. In the autonomous area MAN showed a ‘combined‘ autonomous truck doing off port and on port deliveries in Hamburg. Off port the truck is driven by a driver, and on port the driver steps out at the gate, and the truck navigates the complex port environment on its own. When unloaded and reloaded, the truck returns to the driver at the gate, and a conventional delivery is made. They are also running two trucks daily in a platoon between sites in Munich and Nuremberg. The service has been operating since June without incident. This is predominantly a motorway run of 170 km, and being independently monitored by Fresenius University. MAN sees the urban future as dominated by alternative drive technology.

This stand was significant for its lack of transport‘s lifeblood – diesel. The vehicles on the stand (a much bigger stand than 2016, having taken over and expanded on the space that Scania always used) were all powered by alternative power trains. Electricity, natural gas, and bio fuels were all on display. What was not clear was the ability to put lots of these alternatives into daily use. This is of course limited by both supply and acceptance. The irony was that methane was a key fuel for IVECO, and we have lots of cows producing this fuel in New Zealand. Containing that fuel would be a complex challenge. IVECO is using farms to produce methane from cow poo, and noted that there were more than 7000 farms in Germany. I guess that‘s a lot of poo.

Photo: There were no diesel powered trucks on the IVECO stand. Stralis mixer with CNG.

Further north in Trondheim, Norway, IVECO was working with a bio methane plant that can currently produce gas for heavy trucks. They termed it ‘Field to wheel‘ and see this form of bio engineering as a future fuel source in much larger quantities. They predict natural gas to have a 30% energy share in Europe in the near future. Iveco identified battery supply as a real issue, and while they were developing electric vehicles, they asked the question, “Will cobalt and lithium become the new coal?” That leads to a major energy concern, being electricity is only clean if it is produced from a clean source. For us in New Zealand that is not a concern we currently have, but were we to increase electricity demand we will be left with needing additional supply, and with no idea where that supply will draw its generation from. Iveco showed a long haul Stralis, powered by natural gas, with a range of 1600 km. That will address a lot of distance limit concerns.

This year is a milestone too for DAF, as it celebrates 90 years in business. It‘s hard to believe that DAF started as a workshop to serve the mechanical needs of a brewery owner in 1928. The business grew as Hub van Doorne set up with his brother, and changed the name to van Doorne‘s Aanhangwagen Fabriek, abbreviated to DAF, and manufactured trailers and other general engineering. After World War II DAF started making trucks, buses, trailers, and even cars. In Hannover this year they proudly displayed a DAF 1600 truck in original 1967 livery, based in their then site in Zeeland.
Their modern trucks on show are a long way away from that 1967 vehicle. The CF and LF electric innovation trucks are more than 50 technological years away from 1967. These mid-range trucks have gathered a popular following, and the electric versions will hope to build on that. The LF rigid uses Cummins electric technology and has a 220 km range. The CF tractor unit uses VDL E-Power technology, and has a range of around 100 km. The Hybrid CF model uses their MX-11 engine and ZF electric power, with a 75kW peak, with an electric range of around 40 km. DAF is very proud of its record as number one truck in the UK, and as the largest import seller in Germany.

Photo: DAF LF with Cummins electric technology, and the CF with VDL E-Power technology.

Volvo rightly celebrated 25 years of their successful FH model. From the launch in 1993 until now 1,000,000 have been sold, and the 1,000,000th unit was handed over on the show site. Volvo had two electric models on display, an FL and an FE, with GVW weights from 16 to 27 tonnes, and a range up to 300 km. Also on display were units powered by LNG, offering similar performance to diesel units, but with lower emissions by a significant factor.
In connectivity terms Volvo too is offering software solutions. Also revealed was Volvo‘s future transport solution, which involves regular and short distance journeys with high volume goods being undertaken by electric autonomous vehicles. The lack of noise and emissions make increasing urban limitations more palatable. Vehicle location accuracy is within centimetres, and the units are all controlled from a central control site. Their Heavy-Duty FH16 heavy haul unit was a beast to behold with power at 560kW (750hp) and 3550Nm (2618lb/ ft) of torque, and the I-Shift with crawler gears. A very limited market, but a great looking truck.

Hyundai was due to show a hydrogen powered truck this time. We couldn‘t find it. As a fuel, hydrogen will potentially be significant in that it has zero emissions, and a really usable range. They plan initially for a 400 km range, and then a sevenminute refill time – a significant advantage over the first generation of electric trucks – while operating in the 18 to 32 tonne weight range. Their website says they have an agreement with a Swiss company to sell up to 1000 trucks, and a network will be established to provide hydrogen fuel.

The surprise of the show for me was Ford. From a factory in Turkey they released the new F-Max truck on Tuesday 19 September. The following day they were awarded the 2019 International Truck of the Year. Long after Ford left the mainstream truck market in Europe and the USA they continued to produce trucks in Turkey, as Ford Otosan. They started building under licence in 1960, and became co-owned by Ford in 1977. Evolution has led to the new F-Max. Fitted with a 12.7-litre in-line 6 engine at 373kW (500hp), it has a ZF 12-speed automated manual gearbox, and it looks good. It carries some sophisticated connected software and has a service network centred around its home in Turkey, but covering a large chunk of eastern Europe and the Middle East. I doubt we‘ll see it in New Zealand any time soon, but for fans of the blue oval it will be a welcome return.

Photo: The blue oval on big wheels again. The Ford Otosan F-Max won the 2019 International Truck of the Year while at the show.

Is the horsepower race over?
Adoption of technologies to reduce emissions to zero by 2050 will surely happen, but uptake and transfer to all these technologies by 2050 will depend on factors beyond the control of vehicle manufacturers. A significant change will have to occur in the method of energy transfer from ground reservoirs to mobile vehicles. Currently the transfer of energy, via diesel, is a fast and efficient process, with the infrastructure costs borne by the oil companies and transferred to users through pricing. In an electric world the demand for electricity will increase exponentially, and so will the need for infrastructure to store and transfer that energy.
That will change everything in terms of cost allocations and demand. In New Zealand we store our electricity in dams, and generate more as needed. With a huge increase in demand that may no longer be possible. The role of energy delivery will transfer to our existing power companies, or their replacements, and will see a different energy landscape. While there was a huge focus on electric and alternative power plants, it is good to remember this technology is not widely available yet, and anyone in New Zealand looking for an electric truck is going to have to go to the back of a very long queue. There are difficulties for every manufacturer in gaining a supply of batteries and this will cause delays for many enthusiastic potential electric truck owners here.

Mercedes-Benz top brass
Through an introduction made by Mercedes-Benz New Zealand we were privileged to have meetings with senior Mercedes-Benz executives, Stefan Buchner (head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks) and Sven Ennerst (Daimler head of truck product engineering, global procurement, and Daimler Trucks China). As you would expect, both are extremely positive about their product, but unexpectedly both were well aware of the New Zealand market. Given the small size of our market, we can be flattered those who head a company like Mercedes-Benz are aware of a market at the bottom of world markets, by number at least. New Zealand represented 0.2% of Daimler sales last year. Stefan was well informed about the New Zealand market and model conditions, and keen to get the new Actros here as soon as possible. While he wouldn‘t be led on Actros 4-axle vehicles, he did acknowledge, with a smile, that Mercedes-Benz wanted the safety features available in all models. He cautioned the limiting factors would be governmental as well as supply.

A look into Sven‘s future suggests Daimler cannot afford to ignore its competitors, or any potential future power source. Equally though, Daimler recognises the near future requires they continue to develop the efficiency of diesel power plants, while working with suppliers and regulators to provide for electric and other fuels in parallel. It was clear electric vehicles cannot exist in numbers without a holistic view that includes discussions with grid and electricity suppliers. Crowded cities require different approaches, and electric vehicles with a range of around 150 km and a network of high-speed chargers will have a place in the near future. He saw a need for all parties involved to work shoulder to shoulder to address the CO2 reduction targets required. We took this to mean vehicle suppliers would do as much as they could, but without the support of the infrastructure providers, uptake could not proceed rapidly.

Given our slow infrastructural uptake in New Zealand, we will not see any rapid uptake of electric vehicles. Sven saw the introduction of electric vehicles in phases, as technology allowed a move from city distribution, to short haul, then medium haul, and finally long haul. He said they already have a large number of eCanters in use in Germany, and the uptake depended on collaboration with their commercial partners as well as the national infrastructural suppliers. I asked for a timeline for diesel. It was met with a grin, but it was clear diesel still had a major role to play for the medium term, and diesel development would continue at the same pace as current, alongside development of other motive sources.