Alternative trucking solutions

Alternative trucking solutions

As the economic recession drags on, truck launches, manufacturer partnerships and the drive to find sustainable transport solutions continues, in hopes of a better trucking future.

Most readers will be aware that Swedish manufacturer, Scania AB, divides its truck range into G-, P- and R-series models. The P-series is aimed at regional and local operators making frequent stops, the G models add additional in-cab storage and space for the national long-haulage and construction sectors, while the R-series can be regarded as the flagship range, optimised for comfort on long-distance haulage applications. In terms of cab height, the P-series has the lowest profile, and the R-series the highest, with the G models in between.

In September 2008, Scania launched its new R-series. Externally, this is distinguished from its predecessor by sharper frontal styling, with a new grille, new bumper, optional LED daytime running lights, and new, colour-coordinated, low-drag, aerodynamic sideskirts. Internally, the cab has a new dashboard, navigation/audio system, enhanced storage, optional 155 mm-thick pocket-spring sleeper mattress, adjustable-width pullout bunk, high-quality materials and customisable colour options.

Technically, the new R-series offers the latest version of Scania’s Opticruise automated mechanical transmission, with or without clutch pedal, which is claimed to provide faster and smoother shifts than the previous generation. This transmission, which features electro-hydraulic clutch actuation, is controlled from a single steering column-mounted lever, and is available in eight-speed, 12-speed and 12+2 speed configurations, in conjunction with Scania’s optional five-position retarder, which is operated automatically via the brake pedal and incorporates the exhaust brake function. The Opticruise transmission can be selected to operate in automatic, manual, power or manoeuvring modes. The automatic mode calls up skip-shifting and early down-change functionality to conserve fuel, while the power mode provides optimum performance in hilly conditions. Other features include Hill-hold, which applies the brakes to prevent roll-back or inadvertent forward motion on hills, and Load Sensing and Starting, which selects the most appropriate starting gear to suit the payload and gradient parameters. A “Rocking” mode is also available to assist take-off in slippery traction conditions.

Other improvements incorporated in the new R-series include a revised chassis layout, making space for up to 1 500 l of fuel capacity, in twin tanks, on 3.55- or 3.7-m wheelbase 4×2 truck-tractor models, irrespective of the choice of Exhaust Gas Recirculation or Selective Catalytic Reduction emission countermeasures. The latest packaging on 6×2 tractor chassis enables total fuel tank capacities of  up to 1 000 l, which is 50% more than on equivalent models in the previous R-series. Considerable attention has also been paid to enhancing fuel consumption, and this includes a 2.59:1 ratio for the R780 single-reduction rear drive axle, reducing engine rotational speed to 1 200 rpm at 85 km/h on 70-profile tyre fitment. Optional direct mounting of the fifth wheel on the chassis siderails, without the need for a baseplate, is an additional mass-saving feature.

Power options for the new R-series include Scania’s full range of 12 and 13-l inline 6, and 16-l V-8 diesel engines. The V-8 engine family recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, with more than a quarter of a million of these units produced to-date. The V8 was initially introduced as a turbocharged 14.2-l, 350-hp (260-kW) unit late in the 1960s. Marketing and legislative considerations dictated that this engine would be developed to reach an output of 530 hp (395 kW), with Euro 2 emissions compliance, by 1995. Five years later, in 2000, the displacement was increased to the present level of 15.6 l, and the Euro 3-compliant output had reached 580 hp (430 kW). The current version of this engine, as fitted to the new R-series, develops up to 620 hp (462 kW) and complies with the provisions of the Euro 5 emissions standard. Just recently, Scania launched a larger displacement 16.4-l industrial V8, with outputs up to 700 hp (520 kW), and this has generated inevitable speculation about its possible future use in truck applications. It is equipped with the same Scania/Cummins-developed XPI common-rail injection system used on the truck engines and has been seen as the perfect potential response to arch-rival Volvo’s recent introduction of the 700-hp FH 16 model. The absence of any specific reference to new engines in the R-series launch material has certainly left an opportunity for something along these lines, not too far into the future.

It does not appear, at this stage, that any substantial cross-fertilisation of technical development has been taking place between Scania and MAN (both companies have Volkswagen AG as their largest individual shareholder, while MAN has its own, non-controlling shareholding in Scania), or Scania and Hino, who continue to operate a strategic alliance, mainly focused on cross-marketing of each other’s products in Japan and Thailand. Scania has reportedly emphasised that the core chassis and driveline components of the new R-series were developed entirely in-house.

With just about every car manufacturer rushing headlong into the development of electric vehicles, it was interesting to read the reported comments from Hasse Johannsson, head of research and development at Scania AB, during the R-series launch. He said, quite simply, that to equal the energy density of 1 000 l of diesel fuel (around 9 000 kW hours of energy) would require the use of
9 t of high-energy lithium-ion batteries! This mass penalty would be totally unacceptable in terms of adding to a typical truck’s tare mass, and reducing its payload capacity by an equivalent amount. “It seems that there will have to be another very significant step in battery technology development, which, in his opinion, may be as many as 50 years away, before all-electric trucks become a viable proposition.”

However, Johannsson passed the opinion that hybrid driveline trucks, even when used on long-haul duties, could be a much more practical proposition. Even with only a 5% saving in fuel consumed, because of the limited time spent in dense traffic conditions, the reduced CO2 emissions of a hybrid long-distance truck would be similar to those of a city bus over a typical year’s operation, and this could make the hybrid a viable option in countries where pollution reduction is the major priority. This is a very interesting comment, in that conventional wisdom would suggest that the most suitable operating environment for hybrids is to be found in low-speed traffic conditions, where the electric drive mode can be utilised to save fuel and reduce emissions, and frequent braking can return recovered energy to the storage batteries. This is the main reason why most attention in the heavy vehicle arena, up to now, has been devoted to developing hybrid buses, local delivery vehicles and refuse collectors.

The logic behind the development of electric cars lies in the notion that the average daily commute can be achieved without depleting the vehicle’s built-in power storage capacity. While the car is standing overnight, it can have its batteries recharged slowly and at the most economical rate, because of the reduced general demand for electricity in the hours between midnight and sunrise. Any attempt to travel beyond typical commuter distance, however, dictates the fitment of an on-board charger (i.e. an internal-combustion engine), or access to some form of rapid plug-in “pit stop” recharge facility, which does not exist at present. Battery-electric delivery vehicles have been in existence for many years, but their appeal has been limited by short range, low operating speed, high tare mass and their complete helplessness if, for some reason, the batteries run down at any distance from the vehicle’s base.

One important factor to have emerged from the recent concentration on alternative power sources is the new thinking on driveline technology. Once the mindset of all-mechanical drive had been broken, increasing use has been made of relatively small, individual wheel electric drive motors. These are now also appearing in applications where they are a more cost-effective solution to providing intermittent all-wheel drive capability than the traditional route of using transfer cases, propeller shafts and additional differentials. This trend will probably have the greatest long-term impact on vehicle layout design, as it has removed the need for “live” axles on larger vehicles, and could make the differential obsolete on smaller vehicles. That will open up multiple new design possibilities for specific-duty vehicles in the years ahead.

While the monthly Chinese market for motor vehicles has exceeded 1.1 million units for seven consecutive months up to September, 2009, and, in the process, has overtaken the United States to become the world’s largest national vehicle market, sales of commercial vehicles over 1.8 t gross vehicle mass (GVM) during the first six months of this year were flat, and actually declined by half a percentage point when compared to the equivalent 2008 result. It should be noted that light vehicle sales in China (including trucks in the 1.8- to 6-t GVM light truck class) were supported by government subsidies during the first half of this year. Nevertheless, a half-yearly market of 1.5 million trucks and buses is not to be sneezed at, and it comes as no surprise that news of additional partnerships and joint ventures between Western and Chinese vehicle manufacturers is regularly found in the international media.

Last month, Global FOCUS reported the establishment of NC2 Global LLC, the new 50/50 joint venture company established by Navistar International and Caterpillar to execute its strategy in the global commercial truck market, starting with Australia, Brazil, China, Russia, South Africa and Turkey. Our report also noted that Caterpillar and Navistar have been talking to Jianghuai Automobile Company about the setting up of a medium/heavy truck and engine joint venture in China. These talks have now reportedly progressed to the signing of a framework agreement to formally review the project.

Alternative trucking solutionsFor those readers who did not immediately make the connection, the initials of the Jianghuai-based company are JAC, and this is the same manufacturer whose medium commercial vehicle class products nearly entered the South African market under the stewardship of the Imperial Group’s Commercial Vehicle Holdings around the time of the 2006 Auto Africa show. Added to Navistar and Caterpillar’s own global interests, and the Mahindra International joint venture already established in India, the global footprint of the NC2 conglomerate is already showing signs of becoming substantial.

Meanwhile, Iveco SpA has expanded its cooperation with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation to merge their Chinese commercial vehicle resources, build an integrated business system and bring large and medium-duty buses, special vehicles and core components into the joint operation. The two companies have also announced that they are to jointly build a technical centre for product development. The history of Iveco’s cooperation with SAIC and the Chongqing Heavy Vehicle Group goes back to December 2005, when the initial framework agreement was signed. This arrangement has subsequently been expanded to incorporate Hongyang, Fiat Powertrain and the Nanjing Automobile Group Corporation. During the first six months of 2009, the SAIC-Iveco-Hongyang alliance sold more than 11 000 heavy-duty trucks and truck-tractors into the Chinese domestic market.

On the light commercial vehicle side, General Motors Company (its new name) and China FAW Group Corporation have announced the establishment of a new joint venture. Using the facilities of FAW Harbin Light Vehicles Company, and FAW-Hongta Yunan Automobile manufacturing Company, the 50/50 joint venture will reportedly build derivatives of GMC products, badged “GM”, for the Chinese market. GM currently operates nine joint ventures and two wholly owned foreign enterprises in China, mainly focused on light passenger vehicles and has enjoyed considerable success with Buick branded products in that country.

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation has reported the first export sales of its series production Canter Eco Hybrid models. Ten units will be supplied to the Electricity Supply Board in Dublin, Ireland, while a further 10 units are being shipped to Australia. The Irish units will be used for customer service duties and on infrastructure maintenance. More than 600 Canter parallel hybrids have already been sold in Japan since July 2006, and a test fleet is operating in the United Kingdom. Mitsubishi Fuso in Japan serves as the global hybrid development base for the Daimler Trucks group, and the company has said that it will be expanding its hybrid export business from 2010.


Global FOCUS is a monthly update of international news relating to the commercial vehicle industry. It is compiled exclusively for FOCUS by Frank Beeton of Econometrix.

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