Shift­ing to dura­bil­ity

The truck in­dus­try is all about qual­ity

The Witness - Wheels - - NEWS - AL­WYN VILJOEN

HANOVER — Europe’s big­gest truck show this year saw a lot of “back to the fu­ture” style in­no­va­tions.

At the Ural stand, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Rus­sia’s ro­bust truck maker poured vodka into the tank to prove their trucks can run also on ethanol, apart from the more usual diesel or com­pressed nat­u­ral gas.

This harks back to both de­sign­ers of the diesel en­gine, Rodolf Diesel, whose first en­gines ran on biodiesel made from beans, and Henry Ford, whose Model T was also de­signed to com­bust ethanol made from stalks of bio mat­ter, in­clud­ing maize and hemp.

And sev­eral truck mak­ers dis­played their mod­ern car­riages’ au­to­mated pla­toon­ing and emer­gency brak­ing abil­i­ties — some­thing horses did rather well long be­fore Karl Benz started sell­ing the first horse­less car­riages in 1886.

The list along­side shows more ex­am­ples of the in­dus­try re­turn­ing to a de­sign phi­los­o­phy that moves the fo­cus from cost of pro­duc­tion to de­liv­er­ing dura­bil­ity.

Mak­ing qual­ity de­spite the price has al­ways been the de­par­ture point at the Daim­ler group, whose vans, trucks and buses set the bench­marks in Europe, ex­plained Sibu­siso Mkhwanazi of Mercedes-Benz South Africa.

Dr Ingo Et­tis­cher, head of pro­duc­tion at Daim­ler’s truck plant in Wörth, Ger­many, said the Daim­ler group is ready to build elec­tric ve­hi­cles of any size — from trucks to lit­tle Smart cars — to meet the zero em­mis­sion re­quire­ments of Euro­pean cities.

This in­cludes the e-Ac­tros, a dou­ble axle rigid truck that has 240 kilo­Watt/hour bat­tery good for 200 km with a full load.

In the U.S. new com­pa­nies Tesla and Ni­cola are cur­rently test­ing full elec­tric or hy­dro­gen pow­ered trucks that can do the Dur­ban to Jo­han­nes­burg run on a charge, but Et­tis­cher said 200 km is fur­ther than most in­ner fleet de­liv­er­ies re­quire in Europe.

For truck­ers who need to go fur­ther, Siemens, the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity of Dres­den and the Fed­eral Ger­man High­way Re­search In­sti­tute (BASt) have adapted an­other old idea — tram­lines.

Over­head pow­er­lines feed an ac­tive pan­to­graph on trucks, which can con­nect and dis­con­nect with the over­head con­tact line at speeds of up to 90 km/h.

A study by the Ger­man Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Agency (UBA) shows the sys­tem, which is also tested in Cal­i­for­nia and Beijing, is the most cost-ef­fec­tive way to de­liver car­bon-neu­tral long-haul road freight.

The sys­tem of­fers fleet op­er­a­tors on the N3 a way to save a lot on diesel, but Msanzi’s transport guru Pa­trick O’Leary told Wheels that South Africans first have to find a way to stop the scourge of ca­ble theft that cur­rently sab­o­tages from ra­dio tow­ers to rail­ways. “We should de­clare ca­ble theft a trea­sonous of­fence,” sug­gested O’Leary.

Daim­ler truck plant in num­bers

• 1 120 000 dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of truck

• 400 colour op­tions, as spec­i­fied by cor­po­rate brands.

• 54 dif­fer­ent pay­loads

• 31 trans­mis­sion types, from full au­to­matic to man­ual

• 9 en­gine op­tions

• Full dis­clo­sure: Al­wyn Viljoen at­tended the IAA as a guest of Daim­ler.


Dr Ingo Et­tis­cher, head of pro­duc­tion at Daim­ler’s truck plant in Wörth, Ger­many, ex­plains what goes into mak­ing an Ac­tros cabin to a del­e­ga­tion from China.

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