Mark Smyth looks at some of the concept stars from the IAA
THE car industry is always blowing its own trumpet when it comes to technology and aerodynamic advancements. It even tries to claim leadership in environmental matters, but most insiders in the truck industry sit back and smile because often the true innovations come from the world of the big rigs.
A Toyota Prius may claim to produce only 89g/km of CO and an electric car almost none, but think about what an engineering and design feat it takes to produce a hybrid or electric truck that can deliver your daily groceries in an environmentally friendly way. In some instances the truck may even be better for the environment than the processes used to make the groceries it contains.
This brings me to some of the concept vehicles that stood out for me at the IAA show. There were really only two and the first leads by miles in the form of the MAN Concept S, which when combined with the Krone AeroLiner trailer looks nothing short of stunning. If you saw that on a South African highway you would think we were being taken over by robots!
The whole aim of the project was to create an aerodynamically optimised roadtrain and, believe it or not, the whole rig has a drag co-efficient of just 0.3. Now just to put that into perspective, the Ferrari F40 had a figure of 0.34, so you can see what I mean when I say the truck industry is making major progress.
“The area in which considerable savings in CO in the operation of heavy commercial vehicles are to be realised can be found in the consideration of truck and trailer together and here primarily in the aerodynamic design of the vehicle as a whole. That’s where the biggest potential is,” said Anders Nielsen, CEO of MAN Truck and Bus.
The truck itself still has the same cargo volume as any similar sized vehicle, but with its low drag co-efficient and use of lightweight materials, the company is claiming a 25% reduction in fuel consumption and CO emissions. What should make you think is that this can be done without following a hybrid or electric vehicle route, which means that the Concept S could be with us soon.
My second main choice is unlikely to appear on our roads anytime soon, and I cannot help but think that it is the com- mercial vehicle interpretation of the original beach buggy. I am talking about the Mercedes-Benz Unimog concept, which with its little eyes and long snout would not be out of place if it barked.
It is only a design study, but is based on the components of the existing U 4000/U 5000 models and it pays homage to the original Unimog, which appeared more than 60 years ago. Behind a screen aimed to at least provide some level of disguise also sat the drivetrain of the 2014 Unimog, which promises increased efficiency and even more capability, but it didn’t look like a green-nosed dog, so was far less interesting at the time.
While on the subject of Merc though, the company did show design studies for an aerodynamic truck and trailer. According to Mercedes, the combination managed to achieve a 4.5% saving in fuel consumption during testing.
Like the Mercedes aero concept, my final pick is also rather less tomorrow’s world, but as public transport becomes increasingly important in SA and internationally, the Volksbus 17.280 concept deserves a mention. Developed under the remit of the Rio Sustainable Transport Programme, this BRT solution aims to offer a flexible combination of diesel and natural gas transport for the 2014 Soccer World Cup in the city.
The Brazilian-built Volksbus, left, uses diesel and natural gas. The Unimog design concept, above, paid homage to the original.
The MAN Concept S was a star of the show.