Rolf Lockwood

November 21, 2007 Vol. 3, No. 24

After yet another jaunt across the wide pond, and more tedious airport security checks than a peaceable guy like me should suffer, I can report that interest in alternate fuels and hybrid drivetrains is reaching ever higher proportions. It’s clear that good old fossil fuels will dominate the transportation market for decades to come, but it’s also clear that truck and engine makers are working towards the day when oil is too expensive to use. The environmental imperative, of course, is right on top of us now.

Al of this was discussed at an event in Stuttgart, Germany last week, where Daimler Trucks launched its ‘Shaping Future Transportation’ initiative to some 200 journalists from 28 countries. The venue was the spectacular Mercedes-Benz Museum, outside of which were a few trucks from the company’s global stable, including a Freightliner M2 hybrid
utility truck that looked a little out of place amidst all the cabovers. Later, at Daimler’s test track – a huge facility improbably situated in the middle of the city – we were shown 16 trucks and buses featuring various alternative drive systems and fuels. The nameplates included Freightliner, Mitsubishi Fuso, Mercedes-Benz, Orion and Thomas Built Buses, and a couple of them were making their world debut.

Andreas Renschler, head of Daimler Trucks, earlier joked that he’s a little jealous of Al Gore, who has won international acclaim for his film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. That was based on a single PowerPoint presentation, but Renschler said he’s made “countless” such presentations and “…our company has been developing environmentally friendly
transportation solutions for decades.” In fact, he claimed that with around 1500 Orion buses, more than 100 Freightliner vehicles, and 200 light trucks and buses by Fuso, Daimler is the world leader in hybrid-drive commercial vehicles. Adding the natural-gas-powered Mercedes-Benz trucks and buses in Europe, he said the company has delivered more than 3000 alternative-drive commercial vehicles to customers.

Renschler went on to say that the global commercial vehicle market will grow by 50% over the next 10 years, making the demand for oil – and alternatives – a crucial issue. As well, increasingly stringent emissions legislation, much of it mandated by cities, demands action. Daimler is hard at it, redoubling its efforts especially in the hybrid area.

“Our long-term goal is to make the vision of the zero-emissions commercial vehicle a reality,” he said. “We believe that two factors will play key roles in turning that vision into reality. The first is the achievement of clean combustion through the use of alternative fuels, including everything from natural gas to biodiesel and hydrogen. Secondly, such combustion must be made efficient with the help of modern drive system technologies like BlueTec diesel technology (that’s selective catalytic reduction), hybrid drives, and fuel cells.”

Along hybrid lines, Renschler announced that Freightliner will build 1500 M2 hybrid diesel/electric trucks over the next three years and will also produce a hybrid Thomas Built
school bus. The M2’s hybrid drivetrain is the one developed by Eaton and also used in trucks from several other manufacturers. In a hybrid utility truck, largely because work normally done by an engine-driven PTO can be done electrically instead, fuel savings can be huge – anywhere from 30 to as high as 60%. While working silently as well.

Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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