Short version: "Shaping Future Transportation": Daimler is extending its initiative for greater fuel economy and lower emissions in commercial vehicles

Nov 12, 2007
  • New: Mercedes-Benz hybrid trucks for practical customer trials
  • New: Canter with hybrid technology also in fleet trials in Europe
  • New: Mercedes-Benz hybrid bus heralds a technological change
  • New: Fuels based on biomass in fleet trials
  • New: Freightliner in the USA to produce 1500 M2 hybrid trucks
  • World market leader for hybrid buses with the US brand Orion
  • Hybrid trucks and buses by Fuso in daily operation in Japan
  • More than 3000 trucks and buses with alternative drive systems in customer hands worldwide
Stuttgart– Daimler AG is redoubling its ongoing efforts to achieve a drastic reduc­tion in the fuel consumption and exhaust emissions of commercial vehicles. The world’ s leading commercial vehicle manufacturer has launched an initiative called "Shaping Future Transportation" which underlines this commitment and is now presenting 16 trucks and buses under the Freightliner, Mitsubishi Fuso, Mercedes-Benz, Orion and Thomas Built Buses brands – both vehicles already in customer operation and world debuts in the field of alternative drive systems and alternative fuels. Pride of place in this lineup goes to hybrid technology, which is expected to produce diesel fuel savings of up to one third depending on the type of operation. This is supported by experience gained in the USAand Japan, where large numbers of buses and trucks from the Daimler brands Orion, Freightliner and Mitsubishi Fuso are in fleet operation. With around 1500 Orion hybrid buses, more than 100 Freightliner vehicles and 200 light trucks and buses by Fuso, Daimler is the world market leader in the field of hybrid-drive commercial vehicles. Taken together with the natural-gas-powered Mercedes-Benz trucks and buses in Europe, the total fleet of alternative-drive commercial vehicles delivered to customers numbers over 3000.
Commitment to be extended even further
Alternative drive systems from Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses are now to be made available to customers in other product segments and regions. Freightliner in North Americawill shortly produce 1500 M2 hybrid trucks, as well as hybrid ver­sions of the legendary school buses from Thomas Built Buses. In Japanthe Fuso Aero Star Eco Hybrid is already being launched as a second-generation hybrid bus. In Europe, the first Mercedes-Benz Atego BlueTec-Hybrid distribution trucks will be going to customers in Germany, France and the Czech Republic in 2008, and at the same time customer fleets in Great Britain will take a total of ten Mitsubishi Fuso Canter Eco Hybrid trucks into pilot-operation. For the urban public transport sector Daimler is presenting the Mercedes-Benz BlueTec Hybrid bus, an articulated three-axle bus from the Citaro family. This new vehicle concept already heralds a tech­nological change on the way to the Zero Emission Vehicle.
Alternative fuels undergoing fleet trials
The lower fuel consumption of trucks and buses with hybrid drive systems also leads to a reduction in harmful exhaust emissions, especially where hotly debated CO2 emissions are concerned. Nonetheless, in parallel with alternative drive tech­nologies, research is also being conducted into the use of alternative fuels to con­serve known fossil-based energy reserves and reduce pollution of the atmosphere even further. With respect to fuels made from renewable raw materials, the specia­lists at Daimler AG see a particularly promising potential for fuels based on hydra­ted vegetable oils (HVO), and at a later stage BTL (biomass-to-liquid) fuels. These are fuels whose chemical and physical characteristics are similar to those of high-quality diesel fuel, and which can therefore be used in the highly efficient diesel engines of commercial vehicles. They also reduce the nitrogen oxide and parti­culate content in the exhaust gases. In cooperation with the oil company OMV and two customer fleets (DHL and SSB-Stuttgart), Daimler is now commencing fleet trials of HVO with Mercedes-Benz trucks and Mercedes-Benz buses. The use of bio­diesel (FAME) has already been state-of-the-art in Mercedes-Benz trucks for ten years, and 1500 Mercedes-Benz buses and municipal vehicles powered by natural gas (CNG) have been in series production and in day-to-day customer operation for almost as long.
On the way to the Zero Emission Vehicle
Thanks to continuous further development over the years, diesel engines from Daimler AG have become high-tech power units which will continue to be the back­bone of the drive system for commercial vehicles for many years to come. They demonstrate their great potential by constant reductions in emissions and con­stant­ly improving energy efficiency. Following several development stages since 1990 alone, average particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions have been reduced by well over 90%. Mercedes-Benz trucks and buses with today’s BlueTec diesel tech­­nology combine these ecological advances with economic benefits for the operator. This is because, unlike with other exhaust treatment systems, fuel con­sumption has also been drastically reduced, for example by around 2000 litres per year for a long-distance truck. This corresponds to a reduction in the environmental burden by a good five tonnes of CO2 per year. Compared to other vehicle types, and in terms of transport mileage, the "one-litre per 100 kilometre car" has long been a reality in the commercial vehicle sector.
Until zero emissions using a fuel cell drive system become a cost-effective pro­po­sition, further substantial progress in reducing fuel consumption is only conceivable with hybrid technologies. Two different drive systems are integrated into hybrid vehicles. The energy generated when braking is recuperated in the form of electri­cal energy, stored in batteries and reused to power an electric motor. Thanks to this additional drive unit, a smaller, lighter diesel engine can be installed to produce the same overall performance.
In the case of trucks Daimler AG has opted for the so-called "parallel" hybrid, where the electric motor is integrated into the drive train and usually contributes its out­put to that of the diesel engine. In line with their different operating parameters, the hybrid buses produced by the corporate brands – Orion, Fuso and Mercedes-Benz – use what is known as serial hybrid drive. In this case a generator directly connected to the diesel engine supplies the energy for the electric drive motors.
In the hybrid buses by Fuso and the new Mercedes-Benz hybrid bus, all the ancillary units are also electrically driven, which means that the bus can be operated under electric power alone – and therefore with no exhaust emissions ‑ over short distan­ces. The innovative wheel hub motor concept of the Mer­cedes-Benz Citaro G BlueTec Hybrid heralds a technological change towards the Zero Emission Vehicle. When the time is right to develop the future vehicle generation, it is basically only the diesel generator that will need replacing by fuel cells, as the electric drive components are already tried and tested.
The day-to-day suitability of fuel-cell-powered vehicles has been demonstrated in the world’s most extensive practical trials, using 30 buses based on the Mercedes-Benz Citaro in the fleets of public transport operators. These vehicles covered a total mileage of more than two million kilometres and clocked up more than 125,000 operating hours. For large-scale use of zero emissions technology in heavy commercial vehicles to become possible, the operating life of the fuel cells needs to be significantly improved and the overall costs drastically reduced. These are set to be the main challenges for development engineers for some time to come. In addition the necessary hydrogen supply infrastructure is still lacking.
Overall economy is decisive
With the purchase price for hybrid-drive vehicles lying around one third higher than for today's diesel vehicles, economic aspects will decide whether an alternative drive system is accepted by vehicle operators in both the cargo and passenger trans­port sectors. Thanks to the fuel savings, the goal of overall cost-effectiveness over the operating period has come a good deal closer, however in the early years the introduction of hybrid technology in vehicle fleets will necessitate such mea­sures as incentives on the part of government and the municipalities. The success of alternative drive technologies following public subsidies in the USAand Japanconfirms this. In Europethis decision-making basis has not yet been put in place for fleet operators.