HIGH-TECH CHALLENGES

Rolf Lockwood

October 11, 2006 Vol. 2, No. 21

A couple of weeks back I waxed poetic about the huge IAA Commercial Vehicles Show recently held in Hannover, Germany, and specifically about some of the hybrid technology I saw there. That left an awful lot of ground uncovered. I’ll fill in a few of those gaps here (and a few more in the November issue of Today’s Trucking, I should add).

I spent a lot of time at IAA looking at or hearing about the typical European high-tech wizardry, including a very interesting hour’s worth of one-on-one conversation with WABCO president Jacques Esculier. Later I had a couple of hours at his company’s test track. You’ll know the company as ArvinMeritor’s partner in a 50/50 joint venture that brought Roll Stability Control – among other things – to North America. But it also works closely with DaimlerChrysler and other OEMs in Europe and is clearly on the leading edge of vehicle dynamics and other truck
technologies.

Much of my time with Esculier was spent discussing why truck buyers in both Europe and North America seem so reluctant to adopt the high-tech solutions that are increasingly being offered. Disc brakes are a particularly North American example of this phenomenon, though pretty low tech relative to all the electronic trickery that’s in every data book these days, even over here. Widely accepted in Europe, air discs remain a tiny part of our market.

Esculier finds that “puzzling” because “the advantage of the air disc is so compelling.”

Still, he allows that any given market will move at its own pace. “There is a certain maturity of the market to respect,” he told me.

“The only thing to do is inform and convince,” he said, adding that the OE has a role to play in that process, perhaps even by making things like stability control and air discs a ‘delete’ option.

“Ultimately the air disc will make it because the advantage is clear,” he said, but in the meantime he’s concerned. “At the end of the day fleets are simply not optimizing their truck designs.”

Increasingly active in China, WABCO operates a full-bore test track there as well and is busy infiltrating the market, even with its more sophisticated technologies. In fact, contrary to what many of us may think about the typical Chinese truck in an economy still pulling itself out of history, Esculier notes that the government there has mandated anti-lock brakes as standard fare on trucks of a certain size. As well, he says, the automated or fully automatic transmission is making headway as a means of reducing a horrible accident rate largely due to poorly trained drivers.

Technology can in fact save lives, says DaimlerChrysler Commercial Vehicles chief Andreas Renschler, but he too worries that truck operators – European and North American alike — are not buying into that idea. The penetration of high-tech devices like his company’s Lane Assistant and
Electronic Stability Program, both developed with WABCO, is only in the 5% range in Mercedes trucks. It’s the same with other truck makers but Renschler continues to assert that much more can be done. And he can prove it.

Just over a year ago DaimlerChrysler equipped 500 heavy-duty Mercedes-Benz Actros tractors in its Charterway lease fleet with a safety package that included the full gamut of available electronic safety aids. Over 100 million kilometers, those trucks were compared with 500 identical trucks that did not have the safety package. The result? The so-called ‘Safety Trucks’ had 50% fewer accidents, and on average those accidents were 90% less expensive.

Renschler has since been engaged in attempting to convince the insurance industry and governments to provide financial incentives to truck buyers who spec these sophisticated safety enhancements (a full safety package costs as much as 9000 Euros, or about C$15,000). And he’s won. He’s now working with Allianz Insurance on a new program called ‘Safetyplus Truck’. Formally launched at the IAA show, its aim is to develop investment incentives in the form of low-cost special equipment packages and attractive insurance discounts. It’s a three-year trial program.

Elsewhere at IAA, the Dutch truck-maker DAF (wholly owned by PACCAR) announced that it would start offering “extra-clean EEV engines” at the beginning of next year, or earlier if technically possible. The acronym stands for Enhanced Environmental friendly Vehicles, by the way.

The astonishing thing is that, unlike what’s been happening with EPA-compliant engines over here, these engines will go beyond an emissions standard – the so-called ‘Euro 5’ rule — that doesn’t come into effect until 2009. They’ll emit 50% less soot than the Euro 5 standard calls for.

By applying SCR technology (selective catalytic reduction, which we’ll likely see here in 2010) in combination with a passive particulate filter, DAF says its EEV engines will produce even lower emissions than gas engines. The EEV emission standard was set in the late 1990s to promote development of cleaner engines, but it was initially assumed that it could only be achieved with gas engines. DAF’s diesel engines can achieve Euro 5 emission values for particulate matter without a filter, incidentally. Euro 5 is about the same as our 2007 EPA standard.

Compared to the Euro 1 rule of 15 years ago, a Euro 5 engine emits about 75% less nitrous oxide and 94% less particulate matter.

Many other European engine makers are also offering Euro 5 diesels now, well ahead of the mandate, and some fleets are buying.

The PACCAR 9.2 liter EEV engine will first be available in buses, later in 2007 for trucks. An EEV version of the 12.9 liter PACCAR MX engine will also be offered, with output ranging from 360 to 510 hp. As well, DAF will start supplying DPFs from the beginning of next year to be used on existing buses and trucks fitted with Euro 3 engines. They’ll reduce particulate emissions by 50% or so and will be useful to truck operators faced with local legislation requiring the presence of a soot filter in built-up areas.

One last note about this year’s IAA extravaganza, to give you an idea of its scale. The vast Mercedes-Benz ‘stand’, as they call it over there, actually took up two whole buildings, as it always does. It included a bar and a restaurant as well as seemingly countless meeting rooms and
ample space for more than 50 trucks and buses to be displayed. Its construction involved 353 tons of steel, 105 tons of wood, 237,000 sq ft of chipboard flooring panels and 53,800 sq ft of carpet and linoleum. There were also 129,000 sq ft of platform area, 240 doors and 752 chairs.

Needless to say, though there were many other substantial displays in other buildings, it was the show’s biggest.

This newsletter is published every two weeks. It’s a heads-up notice about what’s going on with trucking technology as well as what you can see at www.todaystrucking.com where you’ll find in-detail coverage of nearly everything that’s new. Plus interesting products that may not have had the ‘air play’ they deserved within the last few months. Subscribe today!

If you have comments of whatever sort, please contact me at rlockwood@newcom.ca.

Rolf Lockwood

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

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