Shifting to durability
The truck industry is all about quality
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.