S stands for sensational!

S stands for sensational!

The single most impressive exhibit at this year’s IAA was undoubtedly a radical and revolutionary concept truck on the MAN stand. CHARLEEN CLARKE chatted to Stefan Knecht, director of engineering truck and cabin at MAN Nutzfahrzeuge, about the utterly sensational MAN Concept S

Picture the scenario: every three trucks on our roads are replaced with two (considerably more efficient) vehicles. Can you imagine the consequences – especially in places such as Europe, where trucks litter the roads much like plastic bags in our country (so much for our government’s fancy scheme to charge for them, huh)? What about emissions – they would be chopped by a third. Instantly!

This is not a pipedream. Thanks to ever-so-clever companies such as MAN, this situation is fast becoming a reality. Well, it can become a reality if governments co-operate and amend legislation.

This traffic and emissions nirvana could be realised thanks to vehicles such as the MAN Concept S, with its slim front end; projecting wheel arches; a cab with soft, smooth lines and a curved rear wall. And hey, let’s face it, our roads would suddenly become a whole lot prettier too – I am not sure if readers can get the full impression from the photographs on this page, but this is no ordinary truck. It’s like the supermodel of trucks; a drop-dead gorgeous beauty.

But, as Knecht explains, the Concept S is about much more than just pleasing the eye. “The design of the MAN Concept S was rigorously adjusted in the wind tunnel until we achieved extremely low air resistance. With its drag coefficient (CD value) of around 0,3 the MAN Concept S enters a domain of aerodynamic quality previously inhabited only by modern passenger cars!” he notes.

According to Knecht, the Concept S was first conceived some two-and-a-half years ago. “It followed on our famous dolphin truck (so named because its design was based on the flow topology of the dolphin). But that was a virtual exercise; we never produced a truck to scale. But it was clear from that study that we could achieve a great deal in terms of aerodynamics and efficiencies – that was when we first realised that a CD of 0,3 could be feasible,” he tells FOCUS.

S stands for sensational!The biggest challenge was to come up with a concept that would not exceed the standard four-metre height of a truck. “The dolphin was 20 cm too high. In addition, we wanted to ensure that we could load 70 pallets,” he explains.

The Concept S – with an appropriately modified trailer – achieves both of these goals, while using up to 25% less fuel than a comparable, conventional 40-ton semitrailer tractor. Of course, this also means a 25% emissions saving. These are no fancy claims. “Our Concept S, in conjunction with an aerodynamically optimised semitrailer, is as streamlined as a modern passenger car. We have proved it in the wind tunnel. The savings in consumption are absolutely realistic,” says Holger Koos, head truck designer of MAN Nutzfahrzeuge.

But how has this been achieved? Well, in the Concept S, the truck’s frame and components (such as the two fuel tanks, for example) have been integrated into the external bodywork design, where they help to guide the flow of air past the truck. Can’t spot the rear-view mirrors on the MAN Concept S in our photograph? You won’t. They have been replaced by cameras built into the wing-like mounts for the indicator units, left and right. There’s also an electronically adjustable spoiler integrated into the roof of the driver’s cab.

So, the Concept S is ready to rock and roll. But now two challenges remain. The first is getting driver acceptance. According to Knecht, the design of the cab is such that the driver sits in the middle – and not to the extreme left or right as per a regular cab. “We may battle to get driver acceptance of this concept,” he notes.

The other is getting legislation changed. “The current legal length of a truck in Europe is 16,75 metres,” explains Knecht. “For the Concept S to work, this legislation needs to be changed to 25 metres.”

There has been much talk about this for ages and ages… will it ever happen? “I believe that this discussion will be resolved in two years,” says Knecht.

So there is good news on all fronts. The politicians appear to be finally seeing the light. And MAN, which is in the business of selling trucks, has come up with a fabulous concept that could see the company shooting itself in the foot (in theory, a hugely efficient vehicle such as the Concept S means fewer truck sales).

It’s great to see that both parties can see the bigger picture.

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