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Mercedes-Benz Atego Hybrid – first off the blocks

Daimler AG is continuing to make significant steps in the development of diesel-electric hybrid systems for its Mercedes-Benz trucks. Set for launch at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover is the latest generation Atego Hybrid. With this combined drive technology, savings of up to 15% in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared with conventionally powered trucks can be achieved. There is also a reduction in noise pollution, a significant factor for the urban environment in which hybrid drives operate. Already the impact has been immediate as 50 said vehicles, have been purchased by 40 German fleet operators that are keen to put this cutting edge technology to everyday use. Interestingly, these vehicles received a one-off financial incentive said to be worth €22,500 from the German Federal Ministry of Transport’s "Development Plan for Electrically Powered Mobility".

Production has now moved forward putting Mercedes-Benz ahead of the competition in that hybrid traction is available off the assembly line just like its diesel combustion engined counterparts.

Daimler presented its first European produced hybrid at its "Shaping Future Transportation" event in Stuttgart in November 2007. The following year 5 examples of these Mercedes-Benz Atego Hybrids, (in prototype form) went on trial with DHL Express. Despite the economic crisis interest in the full production type has come from France, Switzerland and Austria.

Various technical aspects have since been improved to perfect the balance between the vehicle and the hybrid components. Under the direction of Karl Deppen, Project Leader, New Atego/Atego Blue Tec Hybrid, the second generation Atego Hybrid has gained the same refreshed look as per the diesel model as well as the internal embellishments.

Back in September last year, ITOY jury members drove one of the examples from the DHL fleet around Stuttgart . In his presentation Karl Deppen outlined the significant modifications to the Atego Hybrids since then. For a start, more powerful and lighter high voltage Lithium-Ion batteries are now fitted and the electric engine is fully integrated without the use of an adaptor. Mercedes-Benz Telligent automated transmission now features Hybrid (Eco)-Roll function. In addition the engine‘s Stop/Start function is now fully automatic. Before now it was manually operated. While the 12 tonne 4x2 box bodied rigid with diesel/electric dual-power met with Euro 5 engine emission standards, the latest one goes beyond that and achieve EEV levels – Enhanced Environmentally-friendly Vehicle compliant.

Having gained European Type Approval, right-hand drive and left-hand drive versions are available for the first time. Safety has been enhanced with automatic shutdown in hazardous situations. As before parallel hybrid architecture is used. In other words, the electric motor is located behind the internal combustion engine and clutch, but in front of the transmission. This arrangement enables the engine and electric motor to power the truck individually or together. Compared with a conventional drive, additional components include the batteries powering the electric motor, a converter or voltage transformer and the hybrid control system and cooling system. As the vehicle moves off under electric power, recuperation or regeneration of the energy is achieved through the foot brake, use of the new 2 storage Exhaust Brake and also through the New Hydro-Roll system. As before this 12 tonne GVW hybrid-drive distribution truck is based on the platform of the Atego 1222L Euro 5 4.8 litre four-cylinder EEV engine that develops 218 hp and has maximum torque output of 810 Nm @ 1200/1600 rpm. This is supplemented with a water-cooled electric motor developing a peak output of 44 kW and maximum magnet motor located between the clutch and the 6-speed automated transmission.

"As a self-sustaining system, the Atego Blue Tec Hybrid is not tied to any specific infrastructure for exampled cables or charging stations, its application options are just as flexible as those for pure diesel vehicles," stated Karl. He added, "Depending on the specific system, the additional weight of the Atego Blue Tec Hybrid compared to the regular Atego 1222 comes to around 350 kg."


Mercedes-Benz refreshes Atego & Axor

At the forthcoming IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany Mercedes-Benz will introduce face-lifted versions of its Atego and Axor models that cover the mid-to-heavy duty segments. At the end of June, members of the ITOY jury got a sneak preview of the redesigned models as well as an exclusive first drive of the all-new second generation Atego Hybrid Blue Tec.

As the successor to the well-established LK range, the Atego made a high-profile debut into the marketplace back in 1998. At that time a total of 25 different basic types and 240 model variants were offered. In its initial years the Atego family stretched from just over 6 tonnes to 36 tonnes, which in effect took over the higher weight MK range also. Then in 2001, a change of strategy saw the Axor emerge which covered the upper segment of the heavy-duty distribution and fleet sector with gross vehicle weights of 18 to 40 tonnes. What it was, and remains really, is that the long Atego cab is paired with the chassis of the Actros. Axor has quickly gained a large following thanks to its reputation as both economical and powerful rigid and tractor-unit. The supermarket chains and petro-chemical distributors testify to this.

In 2004, after chalking up production figures of over 170,000 units a new edition of the Atego was launched. Apart from the cab modifications, a 6-speed Telligent automated gearshift was offered featuring class-leading Hill-hold - roll back lock. Visually, the Axor adopted an appearance similar to that of the heavy-duty Actros series and by 2006 both Blue Tec Euro 4 and Euro 5 engine emission controls were met.

The 2008 IAA Show saw the premier of the Atego Blue Tec Hybrid adding an interesting addition to the line-up that had already exceeded 250,000 units (since 1998).

A new chapter has now opened in the success story that is the Mercedes-Benz Atego. The multi-variant best seller in the 6.7/12/16 tonne distribution sector is continuing on this career path by offering a broad range of features and innovations.

The main characteristic visually of the new Atego is the new frontal design which falls in-line with the Actros – broad bar radiator grille that can be colour-coded ex-factory. When it comes to the interior of the driver‘s cab, which again is available in four sizes, all versions now feature a multi-function steering wheel as standard with remote controls for on-board info-display, telephone and audio. The instrument cluster has been revamped too, with chrome edges around the dials as well as instant connections to telematics or Sat-Nav systems. As per the Actros, new seat fabrics and integrated head-rests as well as a clothes rail are installed. Different types of storage options that include a fold-away table (for writing or eating), cool-box, as well as numerous cup holders and bottle holders are on the provisions list.

Customers can also choose from three Blue Tec Euro 5, 4 and 6 cylinder engines that cover from 129 hp to 286 hp. Stop/Start technology, which transfers over from the previous series can now be automatically engaged and to date over 3,000 operators are saving up to 3% in fuel consumption with this system.

Coinciding with the visual upgrades ala Actros and Atego, the new Axor gets the proven Mercedes-Benz Powershift automated transmission as standard. The 12-speed gearshift not only saves on fuel consumption but also lessens wear and tear on vital drive components. Axor‘s interior has been upgraded along the same lines as the Atego with the exception of the multi-function steering wheel, which is optionally available in leather. Engine power output ranges from 238 hp to 428 hp in Blue Tec Euro 5 form.


Iveco creates the right environmental "formula"

Just over a year ago Iveco introduced the ECO label to its Daily range of light commercial vehicles. That initiative has proved to be the cornerstone on its approach to sustainable mobility. Investment in developing and producing ecological and energy saving products continues unabated as the Italian manufacture aims to take the lead in this innovative area. Members of the ITOY jury were brought to the heart of Iveco‘s engineering planning, research and development facility in Turin to hear the latest on its commitment towards a future sustainable mobility. An opportunity to test-drive some of its new "alternative" traction vehicles was also presented on the day.

E³ is the new symbol or formula that represents Iveco‘s three core values on environmental issues – Energy, Efficiency and Ecology. All three come together under the company‘s "Driving Innovation to Reality" theme.

E³ = Energy

As we all are aware, Energy is essential to the requirements of all transport needs. Conservation and a greater balance of usage of energy produced from renewable sources are now necessary in order to optimise the diminishing fuel sources. Iveco fully supports the use and the diffusion of renewable fuels to satisfy future transport requirements.

E³ = Efficiency

Maximising efficiency means reducing waste to a minimum. Improving efficiency all round in a transport operation is essential as we go forward. Manufacturers like Iveco have improved the efficiency of drivetrains no end, which has had an immediate and direct effect on the reduction of a vehicle‘s environmental impact. The efficiency of the transport operation has a direct bearing on the use of resources necessary to undertake the movement of goods and people.

E³ = Ecology

For Iveco, ecology means respect for the environment on which we all live, but also for the driver and fleet operator. It is also aware of its ecological role of the well being of its employees, its partners, its customers and of its suppliers. Respect for the environment also means ensuring sustainable manufacturing processes, from the conception of its products to the end of their life-cycle.

Product wise E³ means that Iveco will offer vehicles that associate efficiency and productivity that has an even more respect for the environment, with particular regard to fuel consumption. In relation to specific customer needs re different vehicle applications that are more environmentally friendly, Iveco has a number of technological solutions available to order. Euro 5 engines that meet EEV (Enhanced Environmental-friendly Vehicles) standards are on offer throughout its range of vans, trucks and buses but its alternative traction solutions such as Electric power and Natural Gas represent Iveco‘s biggest gains in all aspects of sustainability.


The Changing Face of Distribution Transport

Germersheim, Germany, reported to be located in the centre of Europe was the location chosen by Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles to host a Distribution Symposium. Situated just a few minutes away from its Wörth production plant, the massive warehouse built in the Southern Palatinate region where the event was held also happens to be the Mercedes-Benz Logistics Centre. Attended by European transport journalists, the Conference was mediated by Stefan Schulze-Hausmann, a presenter of transport and science programmes on German TV. He introduced the keynote speaker Sylvia Diederichsmeren, Head of Future Markets & Customers at Daimler AG. Words like conurbations and futurology were mentioned more than once but when she got down to it, the face of urban living is changing and as a consequence so too is urban transportation particularly distribution.

She began by explaining (to the converted) what distribution transport is all about – or her interpretation of it. "Distribution transport is often the pre-or on-carriage part of a long haul transport operation starting from a central depot – the so called Final Mile. Distribution transportation primarily serves the consumption needs of the people who live in conurbations." Let‘s explain what that last word means – "an extended urban area, typically consisting of several towns merging with the suburbs of one or more cities" - so there!

The regular supply to retail outlets from food and drink retailers to clothing and pharmacy stockists together with the increase in internet shopping that requires home deliveries were cited by Sylvia as the main day-to-day operations of urban distribution providers. Another area which is growing due to customer demand, is chilled food and drinks as well as frozen foods which is specialist due to its nature of application. Surprisingly refuse collection or postal deliveries do not form part of this equation according to Sylvia. "Due to the types of goods and sizes of consignments involved, all classes of vehicles participate in distribution transport – from cars, vans to tractor-units with semi-trailers."

This in itself poses a problem and she sees a number of challenges ahead. As increasing numbers of people are moving to urban areas, small and medium-sized towns on the outskirts of cities are growing, while at the same time City Authorities are promoting Inner-City regeneration. United Nations forecasts that the global population will rise to over 60% of the World‘s total population by 2030 and will reach around 70% in 2050. Wonder if these figures are recession proof? But as the old Irish saying goes "there is no poverty under the blankets." Time will tell!

"Creeping mobility", already a reality in many towns and cities today will continue to increase. As a result exhaust emissions and noise pollutions will become more in focus in towns and cities with the aim of improving the quality of life. But what can the Authorities do apart from introducing more Environmental Zones as already in place in London, Stockholm, Bologne and Berlin for example? Weight-Class Regulation, Appointed Delivery Times and certain "No-Go Areas" for heavy traffic, were mentioned by Sylvia as town‘s and City Authorities take on a leading role in climate protection in the future. "Towns will compete for the title of "Greenest Town" and Best Practice projects will be exchanged", she forecasts. But in reality, towns and cities will be unable to fully exclude truck traffic. For instance if a 40 tonne truck were to be replaced by smaller vehicles to supply a supermarket, around 17 vans would be required. There will be a greater emphasis, for sure, on reducing CO2 emissions in urban traffic from here on and this will lead to vehicle manufacturers developing products with low to zero emissions such as diesel-electric hybrids to full electric power. But with a 12-tonne hybrid averaging €45,000 more expensive than the conventional diesel powered equivalent, financial incentives must be offered to transport companies that have to comply with this regulation.

Already some of the larger transport and logistics companies are heading in this eco-friendly manner. DHL for example has set a target to reduce emissions from its own vehicles and its subcontractors by 30% between 2007 and 2020. Along with TNT Express, FedEx and also Coca-Cola, field trials with hybrids and electric vehicles are ongoing across Europe. The ESB, the Irish Electricity Supply Board has a policy as we know in running a fleet of vehicles powered by the energy source it generates hence the purchase of electric/hybrid vehicles from Allied, Smith and Fuso. She concluded by saying that "the changing underlying conditions in the towns and cities will have a major impact on distribution transportation and truck customers operating in this field in the future."