Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses: On course for the Zero Emission Vehicle

Nov 12, 2007
  • Ambitious goal: zero emissions for trucks and buses
  • Reducing fuel consumption and emissions, developing new fuels
  • World debut of the Atego and Citaro G BlueTec with hybrid drive
  • Environmental and economic aspects are shaping the future worldwide
  • Particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions already dramatically reduced
  • Alternative fuels for lower emissions
Stuttgart – The goal is an ambitious one: Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses aim to achieve zero emissions for their trucks and buses, while dramatically reducing fuel consumption at the same time. The world’s largest manufacturer of heavy comer­cial vehicles has already made considerable progress on the way to emission-free driving. Worldwide, around 3000 trucks and buses from Freightliner, Fuso, Mer­cedes-Benz, Orion and Thomas Built Buses are in day-to-day customer operation with alternative drive systems – a figure unrivalled by any other commercial vehicle manufacturer.
World debut of the Atego and Citaro G BlueTec with hybrid drive
More than a dozen vehicles from all over the world impressively demonstrate the trailblazing expertise of the brands within the Daimler group. They include world premieres such as the Mercedes-Benz Atego and the Mercedes-Benz Citaro G BlueTec articulated bus with hybrid drive, which are shortly due to enter real-life trials in customer operations. The range of vehicles extends from the Mercedes-Benz Actros long-distance truck with BlueTec technology to trucks and buses with hybrid and natural gas drive from Freightliner, Orion, Thomas Built Buses, Mitsu­bishi Fuso and Mercedes-Benz, and right up to a city bus with a successfully tested fuel cell drive system. These trucks and buses were developed by close cooperation spanning several continents.
Reducing fuel consumption and emissions, developing new fuels
Our corporate strategy is clear: reducing both the fuel consumption and emissions of trucks and buses all over the world to a minimum with the help of innovative tech­nology. At the same time the challenge is to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, and to make these technically and economically viable for commercial goods and passenger transport.
Environmental and economic aspects are shaping the future of transport
It may safely be predicted that in the coming years, environmental and economic aspects will determine the future of passenger and goods transport, road traffic in general and therefore the development of appropriate vehicles. Population growth, environmental issues, expensive and scarce energy sources and climate change are leading to increasingly stringent emission standards and traffic regulations. From a political and economic point of view these are exacerbated by the growing demand for energy and the resulting high costs, the need to conserve scarce resources and political uncertainty concerning energy supplies.
The focus is on commercial vehicles as well as personal transport. Indispensable as they are for economic growth and personal mobility, they are increasingly required to exhibit the greatest possible environmental compatibility. As technological leaders, Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses are taking up this worldwide social, ecological and economic challenge.
This gives rise to a clear strategy: trucks and buses with efficient conventional drive concepts reduce fuel costs and the environmental burden. Commercial vehicles with alternative drive systems further reduce fuel costs, protect the environment and slow the depletion of fossil resources. Alternative fuels lower CO2 emissions and allow more independence from classic energy suppliers.
In addition to trucks and buses with optimised conventional drive systems, the success of this approach is demonstrated by more than a dozen different vehicles with alternative drive systems from three continents. They are all markers on the road towards the ambitious, shared goal of the zero-emission vehicle. By far the majority of the trucks and buses presented are either already in daily operation, undergoing practical trials with customers or shortly about to do so.
Operating economy is also environmentally friendly
The wind is set fair: all over the world, operators of trucks and buses attach great importance to maximum economy in their own best interests. No vehicle operator between San Francisco and London, Paris and Tokyo can afford to spend more than necessary on fuelling his vehicles. The economical use of energy, and therefore con­servation of resources, are absolutely in the interests of all businesses.
Enormous challenges for operators and manufacturers
Nonetheless, commercial vehicle operators and manufacturers are confronted with enormous challenges. While the hunger for energy is increasing in the developing regions of the world, the established industrial regions are concerned about their future energy supplies. Specialists are forecasting an increase of 60% in worldwide energy consumption by the year 2030, and rising energy costs are the inevitable result. The results will not only be felt by motorists at the filling station, for high energy prices also put great pressure on industry and politics. In long-distance truck operations, for example, one third of total costs is already accounted for by fuel.
At the same time goods traffic is growing in an increasingly closely meshed econo­my, with road transport experiencing particularly high growth rates by virtue of its flexibility. Specialists predict a worldwide increase in goods transport by an annual average of 2.5% between 2000 and 2030 – which means it will more than double. Transport by heavy trucks accounts for an above-average share of this, as it is predicted to increase by 2.7% year on year.
Particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions already drastically reduced
Countermeasures have been taken for years to stem the growing environmental burden that inevitably accompanies increasing traffic levels. Examples include the drastic reduction of particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions, as prescribed by the current exhaust emission standards Euro 4 and Euro 5 in Europe, EPA 07 in the USA and JP 05 in Japan. New trucks and buses now only emit a fraction of their former pollutant levels, and the stigma of the "smoke-belching truck" is a thing of the past. A further tightening of exhaust emission limits is also to be expected. Future, not yet finalised exhaust emission standards such as Euro 6, EPA 10 and JP 09 will reduce emissions to such an extent that they are scarcely measurable.
Noise emissions are also becoming a focus of attention. These too have been significantly reduced in recent years, and the next steps are already being planned in the form of national, indexed noise limits based on the EU framework directive on environmental noise levels. These limits will inevitably lead to more stringent emission limits and restrictions affecting vehicle access to inner city areas, for in­stan­ce. Increasing urbanisation is accelerating this trend: by the year 2030 almost two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, with 78% in Europe and no less than 87% in North America.
Traffic management by access regulation
Increasing traffic density also leads to tailbacks and traffic jams, which not only mean delays for those affected but also harm the environment. Traffic management measures are being conceived to help avoid such congestion. According to the EU, traffic congestion, delays and the resulting environmental pollution in cities cost the European economy around € 100 billion per year. Accordingly the EU Commission’s "green book" published a few weeks ago recommends clean propulsion tech­nolo­gies, the use of alternative fuels and the creation of "green" zones with restricted vehicle access. With respect to short-radius goods and passenger transport, the EU proposes the introduction of flexible bus lanes and loading areas, harmonised mini­mum environmental standards for vehicles and incentives for the purchase and operation of "clean" vehicles. A specific action plan is soon to follow.
Major cities introducing road tolls
Many major cities have already taken measures in this direction, often with the exhaust emissions of vehicles as a yardstick. London with its Congestion Charge is the acknowledged trailblazer in Europe, and in 2008 this will be supplemented with drastic access restrictions in the greater London area. Other cities in the EU, such as Stockholm and Hamburg, also plan to take a leading role where environmentally friendly traffic is concerned, and German cities such as Stuttgart envisage vehicle access restrictions according to exhaust emission categories from next year. New York is likewise in the introductory phase for access tolls, and Singapore has been accustomed to them since 1965.
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions
In addition to particulates and nitrogen oxides in exhaust gases, there is now a focus on carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emissions. Increasing emissions of CO2 are seen as the main cause of climate change. CO2 emissions are directly related to fuel consump­tion, though modern trucks and buses perform very well in this respect, by virtue of their powertrain efficiency per tonne of payload or passenger seat. The average fuel consumption of a European long-distance combination with a gross vehicle weight of 40 tonnes has fallen by one third, from around 50 to roughly 32 litres per 100 kilometres, in the last few decades, for example. Nonetheless, overall CO2 emissions are still rising owing to increasing traffic density.
Whether it be magazine reports about the economic consequences of climate change or the UN Climate Report, the latest studies indicate that rapid progress is needed in the reduction of CO2. Even though trucks are currently responsible for only around 5% of anthropogenic CO2 worldwide, it is incumbent on all those involved to reduce emissions.
Alternative fuels reduce emissions
This can be tackled not only by reducing fuel consumption, but also by using alternative fuels. CO2-neutral, synthetic fuels such as diesel made from biomass (BTL = biomass to liquid) are an important step on the way to hydrogen as the fuel of the future. Political decision-makers are supporting this development: by as early as 2010, bio-fuels and natural gas are to account for 5.75% of all fuel within the EU. Including hydrogen, alternative energy sources will make up no less than 20% by the year 2020.
Opportunity for innovative businesses
The increasingly stringent limitations on emissions are however not just a challenge, but also an opportunity for innovative vehicle operators and manu­fac­turers. Transport companies are gaining in image by acting in an environmentally responsible manner. Large courier companies are using low-emission vehicles in city areas, and mail-order companies are stipulating that their partners use "green" means of transport. In the public transport sector, and on a voluntary basis, half of the city buses sold by Daimler Buses in Europe already comply with the future Euro 5 exhaust emission standard, or the even more stringent EEV standard (EEV = En­han­ced Environmentally Friendly Vehicle). In North America, Japan and soon also in Europe, operators are increasingly opting for hybrid-drive vehicles.
Hybrid technologies are also an important step on the way to the zero-emission vehicle for Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses. Progress towards this goal is characterised by minimisation or if possible avoidance of emissions, while main­taining maximum efficiency:
  • Optimisation of conventional diesel systems
  • Improvement of conventional fuels and the use of natural gas and biogas
  • Use of CO2-neutral bio-fuels
  • Hybrid vehicles
  • Emission-free fuel cell vehicles powered by hydrogen.
Accompanying measures are unavoidable
Accompanying measures are however unavoidable to reduce emissions and speed up journeys. Intelligent traffic management not only avoids time wasted in tailbacks, but also drastically reduces fuel consumption and therefore emissions. Stopping just once per kilometre already increases the fuel consumption drastically by 50%. Keeping traffic flowing therefore considerably reduces fuel consumption and emissions.
Significant improvements to the infrastructure are also required, whether this means providing the necessary roads or building up supply networks for alternative fuels.
Harmonisation of standards and procedures necessary
Daimler AG develops trucks and buses with a low fuel consumption and the lowest possible emissions firmly in mind. On the part of politics, this should properly be accompanied not only by continuously more stringent emission standards, but also by a process of international harmoni­sation. The world continues to be a patchwork of different rules and regulations, something that also applies to major industriali­sed regions such as NAFTA, the European Union and Japan. Not only emission stan­dards, but also the accompanying test cycles differ substantially. Harmonisation would make it easier for globally operating manufacturers such as Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses to make even more rapid progress towards more efficiency in the interests of the environment and their customers. The same applies to the international standardisation of new, alternative fuels. This would greatly simplify and therefore accelerate the introduction of such fuels.