Global innovations & megatrends: A look at fully electric and connected vans

At the recent IAA International Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, Germany, the focus was on future megatrends, which included fully electric vehicles, digitalization for e-mobility and connectivity. I got a look at a concept city deliver van— the nearly completely integrated Vision Van (pictured above)—which optimizes many levels of connectivity, and the all-electric and networked Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck and the electric Fuso eCanter.

The sleek and futuristic looking van from Mercedes-Benz was loaded with sophisticated integration technology, and was in part jointly developed with a U.S.-based Silicon Valley company. While talking about its development and testing, Volker Mornhinweg, head of MB vans, said, “We like to build prototype van in collaboration with our customers, because development needs to be more than perfect.”

What these cooperative ventures have produced is a highly advanced, fast-loading city delivery van that has a role in planning and executing deliveries for the driver, which includes the possibility of using drones to off-load packages. The technology is designed to increase efficiencies.

Exceptional connectivity
The Urban eTruck showed off the fascinating possibilities of connectivity, electric drive systems, future display and control technologies, telematics, and a largely self-sufficient power supply. It has the lasts developments in all-electric vehicle in the heavy short-route distribution sector. The battery capacity has a modular basic arrangement with a battery pack consisting of lithium-ion batteries that have a totally capacity of 212 kWh. The result is a range of up to 200 km, which is normally enough for a typical day’s delivery route.

The Urban eTruck uses the possibilities opened up by connectivity to create seamlessly interconnected systems that incorporates range and load management vehicle information and peripheral data.

Fuso showed off the third generation of its all-electric light-duty truck, in the guise of the eCanter, Fuso eCanter fully, which will be available in the commercial Fuso FE and FG Series trucks.

Waste heat recovery advances
Eaton showcased waste heat recovery system developed to manage waste heat recovery to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. It utilizes different technical approaches to provide choices for customers that need to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions under stricter government regulations. The concepts include Eaton’s indirect systems, which are based on the organic rankine cycle, and its direct system, which uses an electrified approach. The indirect systems use organic fluids from the after-treatment system or engine to convert energy normally lost in the form of heat into useful power for commercial vehicles. Through simulations, the indirect systems have shown fuel economy improvements in the range of 5%. The direct system uses Eaton’s Electrically Assisted Variable Speed Supercharger (EAVSS) and Electric Waste Heat Recovery Device to deliver precise air flow control to the engine, optimize EGR flow and control the breathing of the engine. This system has shown through simulation more than a 20% improvement in fuel economy while also reducing emissions and NOX.

In addition, Eaton said it has developed an autonomous driving system for commercial vehicles that will initially allow for self-docking of a commercial truck. The Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) Dock Assist feature uses software upgrades to communicate with the control modules in Eaton’s automated, manual and dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

By controlling the vehicle speed and electronic brake (if a vehicle is equipped with one), the Dock Assist ADAS feature can eliminate damage to a trailer, loading dock and vehicle driveline. No additional sensors or hardware are required to activate the system.

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