January 23, 2019

IAA review: Show sets its sights on the future

This year’s IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover highlighted the industry-wide search for an alternative to diesel, despite the fact that many in the logistics and delivery business recognise that the fuel will be the mainstay of the truck and van business for many years to come.

Along with electrification comes autonomy and many manufacturers used the show to demonstrate possible commercial vehicles of tomorrow. While these are often futuristic pie in the sky, they can include details that will filter down into the van of tomorrow.

Of course, it wasn’t all self-driving robo-pods, there was plenty of new metal that will be in dealer showrooms in the coming year. These are some of the highlights that we found at the show.

Mercedes

Electric drive and autonomous driving were the focus for Mercedes-Benz Vans this year, with the recently announced e-Vito and e-Sprinter taking the lead. The company was also looking further into the future, with the Vision Urbanetic concept.

The e-Vito will be the first to market, offering a 41kWh battery and a driving range of around 93 miles. The e-Vito is to be offered with maximum speeds of 50, 62 or 75mph. There are also two wheelbases, with load volumes of 6.0 and 6.6m3. A maximum payload of 1,073kg is on offer, in a gross weight of 3.2-tonnes.

The e-Sprinter will follow in 2019, initially as a panel van in the 3.5-tonne sector. Customers can pick and choose how many batteries to have, balancing range with carrying capability. As an example, three batteries will provide a range of 71 miles, with a payload of 1,040kg.

Renault

With no new models to show, Renault opted to unveil a futuristic, autonomous concept, the EZ-PRO, with a lead pod that includes a human concierge and connected platooning robo-pods that follow behind. The concierge doesn’t actually drive the lead vehicle, but is there to manage in-person, premium deliveries.

“With EZ-PRO, we continue our exploratory work around urban shared mobility of the future,” said Laurens van den Acker, senior vice president, Groupe Renault Corporate Design.

“Focused on delivery solutions, this autonomous, connected and electric concept represents the ideal tool, being both a creator of opportunity for professionals and a facilitator of services for all its users, direct or indirect.”

Nissan

Nissan also had little new metal to offer, other than the recently announced N-Guard specification Navara pick-up. Available in standard ride height or with an Arctic Trucks AT32 conversion, the N-Guard is the toughest version of the Navara yet.

However, even this model takes second place to the Navara Dark Sky concept, that had been designed to work with the European Space Agency’s Gaia Project. To 3D map the galaxy, Gaia requires access to a number of ‘dark sky’ sites across Europe, places where there
is little or no light pollution. The Navara Dark Sky has been designed to carry powerful telescopes to these inaccessible sites.

The truck boasts a high specification and has been designed to tow powerful, trailer-mounted, PlaneWave telescopes to remote locations. It features a more advanced version of Nissan’s ProPilot driver assistance technology and the firm’s Intelligent Around View Monitor has been extended to include the trailer.

Ford

Ford launched the production version of the Transit Custom PHEV hybrid van, that will go into production in the second half of 2019. Offering 30 miles of electric running and more than 300 miles using a 1.0-litre petrol range-extender, the PHEV gets the front end and interior upgrades launched on the standard Custom last year.

Following trials in London, the company has upgraded the electric drive motor from 50kW capacity, to a stronger 70kW, after calls for more power when tackling hilly routes. There is now an EV mode selection switch, that allows the driver to choose between EV Auto – where the van decides which power source to employ; EV Now – using only battery power until it is depleted; or EV Later – where the system aims to maintain the current level of battery charge ready for an EV-only urban driving stint.

The regular diesel Custom line-up has not been forgotten, with the addition of a new 185bhp version of Ford’s EcoBlue diesel engine topping off the range. In addition, from June 2019, Ford will offer a 48V mild-hybrid system on both Transit Custom and the 2-tonne Transit, equipped with the 130bhp and 170bhp engines. The system uses a battery to store regenerated brake energy, releasing that energy to assist the diesel engine through a motor generator under acceleration to boost performance and save fuel.

There are bigger changes on the way for the 2-tonne Transit, with the promise of increased carrying capability and upgraded powertrains. The 48V mild-hybrid system delivers claimed fuel improvements of around 3%, rising to 8% in stop/start urban use. A further 7% fuel improvement has been achieved by updates to the 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine and the adoption of electric power-assisted steering (EPAS).

The big Transit will also be available with the 185bhp engine, which boasts 415Nm of torque. From Spring 2020, rear-wheel drive Transit models can also be ordered with an optional 10-speed automatic transmission, featuring Adaptive Shift Scheduling.

The van will get an aluminium bonnet, spun steel wheels and a move to a single exhaust box to save weight and boost payload. A powered side loading door will be offered to make it easier to access the load.

Beside the actual vans, Ford is also extending its service offer, with an in-house telematic and data solution. Ford has developed its own systems, under the Ford Commercial Solutions banner.

By 2020, all Ford commercial vehicles will be equipped with an embedded modem, starting with high trim level models, providing access to a range of connectivity services. Customers will decide whether they want to activate the systems and how they prefer to use the available data. This includes access to the Ford Pass mobile app, allowing drivers and fleet managers to lock and unlock vehicles remotely, check fuel levels and access health alerts.

Vehicle information will be transferred to the Ford Transportation Mobility cloud and van operators will be able to access this through a web-based application for more detailed data, including fuel consumption, driver behaviour and vehicle location. The system will be launched in 2019, initially in the UK and Germany and will be available for any connected Transit.

Maxus

Maxus has updated the EV80 electric van line, with revised interior and exterior styling. Parent company SAIC has also announced an exclusive leasing partner in Europe, in LeasePlan.

The EV80 offers load volumes of 10.2m3 and 11.5m3, along with payloads of 950kg and 915kg. It can be ordered as a chassis cab, a panel van, a high-roof panel van and as a wheelchair accessible minibus.

LeasePlan will be the exclusive leasing partner for SAIC Maxus in continental Europe, with the supplier agreement including configuration and customisation, finance, insurance, fleet management, repair, maintenance and remarketing.

MAN

MAN Truck & Bus joined a growing number of companies offering an electric van range. The eTGE, based on parent company VW’s e-Crafter, is powered by a 136bhp electric motor with 290Nm of torque.

The single eTGE body provides up to 10.7m3 of load volume. A lithium-ion battery pack sits beneath the van floor, weighing 340kg. Fully charged it offers up to 107 miles of range and MAN will back the battery with an eight-year warranty.

The van offers a choice of AC wallbox or DC rapid charging capabilities. A 7.2kW AC wallbox will require 5 hours and 20 minutes to fully charge the battery, while a 40kW DC rapid charging system will take just 45 minutes to take the battery to 80% charge.

Volkswagen

With e-Crafter coming to market over the coming months, Volkswagen continues to push its electric credentials, with the unveiling of e-Caddy and e-Transporter models. The firm also had an e-Bike to add to the line-up for last-mile delivery.

Initially shown as concepts, both the e-Caddy and e-Transporter will be built by VW partner Abt Group. Both will arrive in 2019, though right-hand drive e-Transporters won’t be seen until 2020.

The e-Transporter will come with a choice of one or two 37.3kWh modular lithium-ion battery packs, the two-battery model will offer 74.6kWh. These will deliver driving ranges of 130 and 250 miles respectively. A single fully discharged 37.3kW battery can be charged to 100% within five hours and 10 minutes, using a 7.2kW charger, while a 40kW rapid charger will take a battery pack to 80% charge in 49 minutes.

The e-Transporter will initially be offered with a 6.7m3 load volume and a payload of 1,050kg for the single battery model. That drops to 750kg with two batteries, in exchange for the longer range. The van will be offered in panel van, Kombi and Caravelle people-carrier layouts.

The e-Caddy will come with a single battery pack, to offer up to 136 miles of driving range. It will be available initially in Caddy Maxi layout, delivering up to 4.2m3 of load volume and a payload of 635kg. An 82kW motor powers the van, which will also be offered as a panel van, Kombi or a passenger carrying model.

The Cargo e-Bike is a three-wheeler for last-mile delivery, with power assistance from a 250W, 48V mid-mounted electric motor offering speeds of up to 15mph. The e-Bike offers a 210kg payload including the rider and boasts a cargo box capacity of 0.5m3. Produced at the firm’s Hanover plant, it will be available online and through Volkswagen’s dealers.

Looking further ahead, VW also unveiled the Crafter HyMotion concept, based on the e-Crafter but powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The van has integrated tanks capable of holding 7.5kg of hydrogen, which would provide the 4.2-tonne commercial with a range of more than 310 miles.

Instead of the standard traction battery, the HyMotion would use a smaller lithium-ion battery with a 13.1kWh capacity to save weight. The fuel cell delivers 30kW of power, providing a range extender to the drive battery. The van would use the same 100kW electric motor as the e-Crafter which has just been launched.

The manufacturing costs of a hydrogen fuel cell van will be similar to those of a standard electric van by 2025, according to VW, by which time hydrogen infrastructure should also have improved substantially.

Volkswagen also showed the I.D. Buzz Cargo, a commercial vehicle concept that could point the way ahead for the firm’s Transporter. Based on the people-carrying I.D. Buzz that will go into production in 2022, the van features a digital cargo handling and intelligent racking system, plus the potential for a driving range of up to 340 miles.

Peugeot/Citroën/Vauxhall

The Peugeot Partner, Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall/Opel Combo picked up the International Van of the Year award at the show, though we won’t get to drive the vans until later in the month. Available in two wheelbases and body sizes, with a range of petrol and diesel engines, the three vans have load capacities of up to 1,000kg. There was also a concept four-wheel drive version on show that looked particularly impressive.

There was no sign of an electric version of any of the new vans on show, but PSA has confirmed that starting in 2019, every new model introduced by any of the company’s divisions will have a full electric or hybrid version, so watch this space.