Last month was the IAA Transportation event, one of the biggest events in the world of vans, pickups, trucks and buses. It took place in Hanover and provided the perfect platform for commercial vehicle innovators to demonstrate how quickly the transport industry is evolving.
The electrification of the van sector is becoming well established, as suggested by the number of models on show, but there were four other key insights to take away from this years’ event:
1) Electrification of HGV transport is gathering pace
Many of the world’s largest truck manufacturers showcased battery electric rigid and tractor unit models at the show, with ranges clearly increasing and a greater number of configurations for different applications. Established OEMs like Daimler and Scania were alongside newcomers Volta, Nikola, Tevva and Quantron with Chinese giants Dongfeng and BYD looking to expand their European footprint.
Several battery electric tractor units will now be in full production by 2024 with battery capacities in excess of 500kWh. Daimler Truck unveiled the eActros Long Haul unit capable of up to 311 miles with Volvo demonstrating the FE (124-mile range), FM and FMX (186-mile range) alongside the new e-axle, which creates space for future range expansion across six different models. The Scania electric trucks, in single and twin rear-axle electric versions, claimed up to 217 miles at 40GVW whilst the DAF XD and XF models could achieve up to 311 miles.
Charging infrastructure to support the HGV transition is critical and with the development of the megawatt charging system standard ever more electrified routes are viable. Siemens were one of the manufacturers featured developing water-cooled systems to support this.
There is also significant improvement in the lighter truck categories with 7.5t to 19t vehicles from Daimler, Fuso, Scania, DAF and Maxus soon to all be achieving between 125 and 150 miles on a single charge. Volta’s new entry, capable of up to 16t and up to 125 miles of range will challenge this area as will Tevva’s 7.5t which recently went into production. BYD’s ETM6 7t urban delivery truck and the 19t ETH8 truck also offers a similar range.
Given the sizes of these batteries now entering the market and the power of the supporting infrastructure, long-term property strategies for fleet operations will come into sharper focus.
2) Public transport and waste are areas for early electrification
Dennis Eagle and Electra have led the way in the UK waste sector, demonstrating zero emission waste collections without impacting performance. Three more refuse collection vehicles were on display in Hanover with Scania, Volvo and Daimler all demonstrating models for the European market. Ford Trucks unveiled its first electric truck prototype, available from 2024 onwards, which was set up in a waste collection configuration with 392 kWh batteries and a load capacity of up to 26t. They are aiming for electric trucks to represent 50% of their European sales by the end of the decade.
What’s inspiring such confidence? The operating profile of many of these RCVs; the improving models and ranges; and the pressure of local authorities to reduce emissions suggests that this is one area that will lead HGV electrification.
Public transport is another area where local authorities can lower their city emissions. The continued development in electric bus models were showcased. The BYD eBus, Scania Citywide and the Iveco E-way all highlighted a targeted shift to zero emission public transport in a built -up environment, a space also occupied by the likes of AB Volvo, VDL, Yutong and Proterra.
Local services will need to take the lead in communities that demand cleaner air and greener local authority policies. If funding can be unlocked, then momentum will continue to build in these areas.
3) An impressive variation of e-Cargo bikes and micro vehicles for last mile deliveries
The decarbonisation of last mile deliveries in Europe is becoming highly competitive with a breadth of innovative solutions now on the market for different consignments. The use of e-Cargo bikes is currently being trialled extensively across the continent and models from Urban Arrow, Rytle, Riese & Muller, Junge and Fulpra highlighted the extent to which cargo bodies can be modified or interchanged to meet the different use cases.
The continued development of electric micro vehicles to support larger consignments or volumes that may be challenging for eCargo bikes is an interesting area. Companies like Sevic, EVUM, Duracar, and X-bus displayed a range of vehicles that were configured with flat bed, tipper and swap box bodies for carrying typically less than a tonne.
Local authorities are looking at projects that reduce traffic and encourage cleaner urban distribution models. The variety of last mile vehicles entering the market will be able to accommodate many urban schemes and transport use cases.
4) Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles prototypes emerging
Hydrogen-based drives featured this year with both gaseous and liquid hydrogen options demonstrated alongside fuel cell systems. Hyundai and Iveco have been working closely together on the development of electric and alternative propulsion systems.
The hydrogen-powered Iveco bus equipped with Hyundai’s fuel cell system and the new eDaily Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) have now showed the benefit of this partnership. The eDAILY FCEV prototype is equipped with Hyundai’s 90 kW hydrogen fuel cell system and 140 kW e-motor. Six tanks offer a combined storage capacity of 12 kg of hydrogen. The 7t prototype has a driving range of 350km and payload of 3t.
The Mercedes-Benz GenH2 Truck prototypes displayed both hydrogen tank types and like Iveco, Mercedes-Benz believe there will be a viable place in the European market for this fuel. Daimler Truck have based the GenH2 Truck on the characteristics of the conventional Mercedes-Benz Actros long-haul truck in terms of payload, range and performance. The aim is to offer the series-produced variant of the GenH2 Truck with a payload of 25t at a gross weight of 40t. Two liquid hydrogen tanks with a capacity of 80kg and a particularly powerful fuel-cell system will enable this high payload and long range.
The Nikola Tre FCEV Artic 6x2 in beta version targeted for 2024 in Europe featured a steering tag axle and a new cab with improved aerodynamic performance. It can accommodate approximately 70 usable kilograms of hydrogen at 700-bar pressure. This capacity, together with its fast-refuelling time of under 20 minutes, enables a range of up to 800km.
Tevva revealed its heaviest truck to date, a 19t dual system of batteries and a fuel cell range extender. The truck will have a range of up to 500km, depending on the number of hydrogen cylinders, which can be refilled in ten minutes. The hydrogen energises the fuel cell range extender, which recharges the Li-ion battery during truck operations.
There are many hydrogen detractors, but clearly some OEMs believe there is a place for fuel cell technology and the development of these prototypes signals a shift in thinking for European transport.
Overall, the event served to highlight the blistering speed of technological change since the last IAA gathering and the extent to which the decarbonisation of transport will be firmly on the agenda of fleet operators for the remainder of the decade and well into the next. Whilst electrification was front and centre, with Hydrogen Fuel Cell making some notable appearances, the early autonomous vehicles from the likes of Einride and URSA hinted at the direction of future events.