Fu­ture cham­pi­ons

Mark Smyth looks at some of the con­cept stars from the IAA

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS -

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.

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