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Commercial Vehicles: Green and Smart

Riad Mannan speaks to vehicle manufacturers about the latest smart innovations to hit the road

So long as the majority of logistics journeys in the Middle East are done by road, the need for cost-effective and fuel-efficient commercial vehicles will remain.  Indeed, as budgets tighten, fleet managers are constantly looking to utilise vehicles that reduce their cost of transporting goods around the region.

They are also looking for environmentally friendly solutions that combine the need for reducing their operating costs at the same time as reducing their overall carbon foot print – lower fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions.
Fleet operators are seeking out the latest commercial vehicles which can help boost their productivity, allowing them to increase uptime and optimise service and maintenance for the duty cycle.

Ognjen Jovanovi?, body builder product manager at Mercedes-Benz Trucks points out that: “Fuel efficiency has been gaining importance over the past years in the Middle East and will continue to do so in future, with customers being more and more focused on achieving lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of their fleets, which among other factors means also improving cost-efficiency and lowering fuel consumption.”

However, what options do fleet customers have to ensure their vehicles are both cost-effective and eco-friendly?

Richard Brown

Richard Brown

Green Fleets

There are many viable solutions to making commercial vehicles more fuel efficient and more “green”, not least of all a macro understanding of the intended transport assignments, driving conditions, correct engine sizes and driver training.

For optimal fuel efficiency, it is crucial that a truck is correctly specified for its intended transport assignments and driving conditions. Avoiding unnecessary maintenance and high fuel costs by specifying the correct driveline would be the best viable solution for making vehicles more fuel efficient.

The type of industry and road conditions determine which model is the most suitable for a given business. Dr. Richard Brown, head of after sales and product management at MAN Truck and Bus Middle East and Africa says:

“One of the first considerations for fuel efficiency is the detail of where the vehicle is and what it is doing which will provide fleet managers and owners with the information live from a telematics system and after introduction training, can result in considerable fuel consumption reductions.”

Aerodynamic trucks have also been proven to reduce fuel consumption. According to Lars Erik Forsbergh, president of Volvo Trucks Middle East.

He explains: “Airflow packages alone can offer impressive aerodynamics and consist of air deflectors on the roof and sides, as well as chassis skirts and side underrun protection, which means a fuel saving potential of up to 5%. By making the right choice from the start, fuel consumption can be lowered by more than 10%.”

Driver training is another viable solutions to making vehicles more fuel efficient. Tests have shown that transport companies can reduce their fuel costs by between five and 10% by training their drivers correctly. Eco-driving is all about awareness and planning. By adopting a number of simple techniques, drivers can contribute to cutting both fuel costs and emissions, while also limiting their own stress and body strain.

Another element of environmentally-friendly vehicles include aspects like environmental production methods and re-usable materials. Mercedes-Benz uses and exceeds international environmental standards in their production process and 85% of all materials used in the Actros model can be re-used at the end of the vehicle lifecycle.

Transmission Technologies

From heavy duty trucks to urban lightweight cargo vans, the commercial vehicles industry has gone through a transformation in the last few decades. Truck manufacturers have been working to develop engines and vehicles that are more fuel-efficient as they recognise that by reducing fuel consumption, exhaust emissions are also reduced.
To highlight this, Forsbergh adds: “Between 1980 and 2001, engine efficiency and the normal fuel consumption of a Volvo FH12 40 tonne truck on the road have improved by 25%.”

In an effort to reduce total fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of commercial vehicles and to enable engines to operate at optimal efficiency over a wider range of vehicle speeds, manufacturers have been continuously improving transmission efficiency. This includes incorporating a higher number of gears and new technologies such as the dual clutch transmission (DCT) and automated manual transmissions (AMTs).

Ognjen Jovanovi?

Ognjen Jovanovi?

Truck customers are benefiting from using automated transmissions which are improving the fuel efficiency and also increasing road safety and driver comfort.  Jovanovi? divulged: “The Mercedes PowerShift gearbox offers solutions which are tailored to the road needs of the operators in the Middle East and has proven to provide maximize fuel efficiency under real operating conditions.”

Volvo’s Forsbergh added, “Our innovative Volvo I-Shift automated manual transmission makes every driver more fuel efficient by ensuring the right shift at the right time. The intelligent electronics constantly monitor factors like road grade, speed, weight, and engine load to help keep the truck in the most fuel-efficient gear possible.”

“We are seeing an increasing demand for automated transmission in all fields of transportation, which has the benefit of removing the gear selection decision from the driver resulting in lower cost of operation and fuel consumption.” Brown stated.

Dashboard Smart Sensors

Emerging senor technologies have also been enhancing fuel efficiencies of commercial vehicles for many years. Smart sensor applications and state-of-the-art telematics combine to pave the way for fleet operators to have a more holistic view about a journey – in detail and in real-time. This in turn allows for better and more informed decision making and a reduction in operating and maintenance costs.

Smart sensors in and around trucks can alert fleet managers about tyre wear and tear, driver habits, open doors and maintenance requirements.

As Jovanovi? points out: “The fleet operator can drill deep down into areas of driver performance and utilise this tool to train and advise the drivers on good/bad driving styles. Real time feedback on the driving style is provided via FleetBoard on the instrument panel of the truck, so drivers are immediately informed about driving behaviour, such as braking, rolling, acceleration etc. This enables the driver to react and adapt immediately and continuously.”

Integrating intelligent sensors, smart phones and telematic systems can allow fleet owners to achieve even greater operational efficiencies whilst at the same time improve driver safety on the roads.

With regards to Volvo, Forsbergh says: “Our Dynafleet system, also available as a free application for smart phones, helps customers reduce wear and tear whilst increasing safety, and maintaining fuel efficiency.”
Brown adds: “Telematics provide the ability to monitor and respond to individual routes, driver or vehicle reports that are causing increased operational costs immediately. Live data streaming and two way communication with the vehicle empowering fleet operators to act.”

Lars Erik Forsbergh

Lars Erik Forsbergh

Future applications – Bringing it all together

Developing fuel efficient commercial vehicles is clearly a growing and challenging marketplace, but the future looks bright. New, smart technologies seem to lead the way to providing more green vehicles to fleet customers in a more holistic package.

As Forsbergh puts it: “The complete offering includes i-shift technology, airflow package, driver training and transport information systems – and this package promises fuel savings
of up to 7%.”

Brown adds: “In-vehicle monitoring technologies, for example axle weight and tire pressure monitoring ensure optimization of payload and maintenance of designed rolling resistance values can also help reduce fuel consumption. Air pressure management to reduce engine load according to actual power delivery requirements is yet another area that can be addressed with increased technology of the vehicle.”

Jovanovi? states: “Mercedes-Benz will continue to benchmark in the area of “connectivity” by creating new, highly efficient and open logistical networks, making trucks the data node of this logistics network.”

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