Electricity emerged as a future alternative to diesel for some transport applications at the 2019 Commercial Vehicle Show; however, it is obvious that diesel will continue as the only viable fuel for most transport tasks for many years to come.
DAF and MAN both showed electric trucks: DAF a CF tractor unit that is already undergoing service trials, and MAN the futuristic CitE concept vehicle first launched at the IAA show in Hannover last year.
There were also delivery trucks converted to electric power by third-party customers and all electric and hybrid refrigeration units, as the industry appeared to anticipate yet more in the way of restrictions on diesel power in cities.
A spin-off from the current rash of clean air zones is a renewed interest in using short ‘urban’ semitrailers as an alternative to rigid delivery trucks. With command rear-steering, they are easier to get into confined spaces than an 18 or 26-tonne rigid, but forward-thinking operators will also have realised that the combination of a tractor and trailer is considerably more flexible and ‘future-proof’ than a rigid.
The trailer will have a working life of 10 years or more, and may well end its days being pulled by a gas or electric tractor if future legislators demand it, while a rigid truck with a diesel engine might be tolled out of or even banned altogether from many urban areas long before its mechanical life is over.
But there is no practical prospect of diesel engines being legislated off the motorways in the foreseeable future, as Robin Easton, DAF’s managing director in the UK and Thomas Hemmerich, MD of MAN agree.
Easton said that Euro 6 diesel would remain dominant on longer hauls, with a further opportunity to improve air quality and reduce CO2 by up to 90 per cent if HVO was used as a pour-in replacement for diesel.
“Euro 6-D is the most efficient technology that we have,” Hemmerich told Transport Operator.
“Cost is a big issue in introducing electromobility to freight transport: it must be affordable. The other issue is range. 100 to 150 km is the current limit. This is sufficient for urban distribution, but not for long-haul. There is no electrical solution for long-haul yet.”
Showing there’s still plenty of life in diesel, MAN unveiled the truck-specific version of the D1556 engine it showed in coach form at the IAA last year. An SCR-only engine, the 9-litre D1556 is a direct replacement for the D20, and saves 230 kg compared to its predecessor.
Ratings of 325 hp (243 kW) 355 hp (265 kW) and 395 hp (294 kW) are offered with peak torques of 1,600, 1,700 and 1,800 Nm respectively. A single turbo is fitted to all engines: the two lower output versions with wastegates and the 395 hp a variable-geometry unit.
Alongside it was the XLion version of the TGX long-haul tractor fitted with the optional Professional style package. MAN hopes that the high-spec XLion will help operators to recruit and retain good drivers: it is available as an equipment option on not just on long-haul, but also construction and distribution vehicles.