The energy revolution in the road haulage industry is focusing the minds of transport operators more than ever on the question of the best drive technology to serve their needs. Another traditional diesel? Or a fully electric truck? The decision is one that needs to be weighed up carefully and calculated over the whole period the truck will be in use. Ultimately, any investment in a new truck must pay for itself. This makes it all the more important to be able to work alongside a manufacturing partner like Mercedes-Benz Trucks, which is actively involved in the evolution of drive technologies and can provide highly efficient vehicles for all types of use.
But that’s not all. Changes to aspects of drivetrain technology are associated with numerous challenges relating to integrating vehicles into the fleet, charging infrastructure and network connectivity, for example. Here, too, Mercedes-Benz Trucks sees itself as a partner able to give active support extending beyond the vehicles themselves to include services and solutions for maximising the benefit to customers using their trucks every day on the road. To this end, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is in close dialogue with customers, in order to ascertain the precise requirements in this area. The current and future vehicle concepts, as well as the services and solutions with which Mercedes-Benz Trucks generates high added value for its customers are showcased in the company’s “Shaping the Now and Next 2021” press event.
Extensive vehicle portfolio covering all customer uses
As far as the vehicles are concerned, Mercedes-Benz Trucks recently launched a new model in the traditional diesel segment in the form of the Actros L, a truck that offers high quality and the best possible driver comfort. The fully electric and locally CO2-neutral eActros for heavy distribution haulage was presented as recently as June 2021 and is scheduled to go into full-scale production in Wörth from October 2021; it will be followed in the second half of 2022 by the eEconic for municipal use. From 2024, the eActros LongHaul will be ready for series production and 2027 will see the first GenH2 Trucks with hydrogen-based fuel-cell drive system roll off the production line on their way to customers. Both of these vehicles will enable locally CO2-neutral haulage on long-distance routes. Depending on the customer’s individual requirements, there will be a choice between battery-powered and hydrogen-based fuel cell systems in the trucks: the lighter the load and the shorter the distance, the more battery-electric operations will be favoured. The heavier the load and the longer the distance, the more likely the fuel cell will be the means of choice.
New flagship at Mercedes-Benz Trucks for traditional long-distance haulage: the Actros L
Available to order throughout Europe since July 2021 and set for full-scale production in November 2021, the Actros L is the biggest and highest quality vehicle of the successful Actros model range. The driver’s cab available in the StreamSpace, BigSpace and GigaSpace variants is 2.5 metres wide and makes for an exceptionally spacious interior. The absence of an engine tunnel means the cab has a flat floor, creating a really comfortable ambience. The improved cab insulation reduces unwanted and annoying noise, making the experience more relaxing for drivers, particularly at break times. The seating position has also been improved. The optionally available, newly designed LED headlamps have a higher light intensity than xenon headlamps and provide excellent illumination of the road – a huge plus when it comes to safety, especially in the dark or when visibility is poor. A particularly important contribution towards enhanced safety is made by assistance systems such as the fifth-generation Active Brake Assist (ABA 5) emergency braking assistant with pedestrian detection, as well as by Lane Keeping Assist and MirrorCam, which replaces the main and wide-angle mirrors. Equally important here are equipment options such as the second-generation Active Drive Assist (ADA 2) system which enables level 2 partially automated driving. The activities and functions of the assistance systems are displayed for the driver in the user-friendly Multimedia Cockpit, with its two colour displays forming the centrepiece of the Human Machine Interface (HMI).
A new truck for a new era: the eActros
Even where the most sophisticated classic diesel trucks are concerned, developments in the commercial vehicle sector are heading increasingly in the direction of electric drive systems. In this regard, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is fully committed to the target of achieving locally CO2-neutral road freight transportation using battery and hydrogen-based fuel cell technology. The company is committed to the Paris Agreement’s aim of decarbonising the sector and aims to complete the switch of its European product portfolio to electrically powered trucks by 2039.
The first step was made by the eActros. Designed for heavy distribution haulage, the eActros celebrated its world première at the end of June 2021, having been extensively trialled for two years by customers in Germany and other European countries as part of the “eActros innovation fleet”. At the technological heart of the eActros is the drive unit with two integrated electric motors along with a two-speed transmission. Both motors provide for impressive ride comfort and great vehicle dynamics, while the quiet and emission-free electric drive means the truck can also be used for night deliveries and entry into inner cities with driving bans for diesel vehicles. Depending on the version, the eActros draws its power from three or four battery packs – each with a capacity of around 105 kWh1. The maximum capacity of 420 kWh2 enables ranges of up to 400 kilometres to be achieved3. The eActros can be charged with up to 160 kW: the three battery packs need a little over an hour to charge from 20 to 80% at a normal DC rapid charging point with a charging current of 400 A4. A display in the standard Multimedia Cockpit, Interactive of the eActros keeps the driver up-to-date on the charge level of the batteries and the remaining range, as well as the current and average energy consumption in kWh per 100 kilometres. The standard safety equipment includes the external Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System for improved acoustic detection for example by pedestrians and cyclists, not to mention the Sideguard Assist S1R system for enhanced safety when turning off to the nearside, and the fifth-generation Active Brake Assist with pedestrian detection.
Fully electric municipal vehicle: the eEconic
The next milestone in the portfolio of electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Trucks will be the eEconic series, which is scheduled for the second half of 2022. Intensive testing is still underway, after which the vehicle will move on to practical trials with customers. One customer has already opted for the eEconic – Urbaser A/S (Denmark), a company active in the waste management sector in Denmark, has placed an order for eleven vehicles. The key technical specifications of the eEconic are largely identical to those of the eActros. The eEconic as a waste collection vehicle is designed to cover the vast majority of typical waste collection routes operated by an Econic in a single shift without intermediary charging. The electric drivetrain allows for a level cab floor – this facilitates easy cross-cab movement and is particularly beneficial for drivers wishes to use the folding door on the co-driver’s side, well out of the way of the traffic. A significant upgrade over the conventional Econic comes in the form of the modern and intuitive Multimedia Cockpit. A further equipment highlight is the panoramic glazing; the coated and heated Thermocontrol windscreen also prevents misting of the screen, thus improving the view of the road around the vehicle, and heating up of the cab in direct sunlight. A major safety benefit in urban traffic, the eEconic features as standard Sideguard Assist S1R and the 5th generation Active Brake Assist emergency braking assistant. The eEconic celebrates its exhibition premiere at the IFAT 2022 in Munich.
Electric models for long-distance haulage: the eActros LongHaul and the GenH2 Truck
In addition to distribution haulage and municipal operations, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is also committed to the use of alternative drive concepts for longer distances. For example, the battery-electric eActros LongHaul, scheduled to go into production in 2024, is designed to cover regular journeys on plannable routes with a range of around 500 kilometres on just one charge in an energy-efficient manner. A completely new generation of trucks with a drive system based on fuel cells and hydrogen is on its way in the form of the GenH2 Truck. Hauliers should be able to use the vehicle for flexible and demanding trips of up to 1,000 kilometres and more without the need to stop and refill. Performance is comparable to that of a conventional diesel truck thanks to the use of liquid hydrogen, which has a far greater energy density than hydrogen in gaseous form. Following intensive testing of the latest prototype, which began in April 2021, the first trials on the open road are due to start before the end of the year. Customer trials are scheduled for 2023 and from 2027 the first series-produced GenH2 Trucks will be handed over to customers.
Hydrogen offensive with Volvo Group and Shell
In addition to battery-electric trucks, Mercedes-Benz Trucks sees electric trucks with hydrogen-based fuel cell drive systems as a key technology for the CO2-neutral transportation of the future. To further the development of this technology, in March 2021 Daimler Truck AG set up the “cellcentric” fuel cell joint venture with the Volvo Group. It is the ambition of cellcentric to become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of fuel cell systems. The company is therefore planning to establish one of the biggest operations for mass producing fuel cell systems in Europe. Production is scheduled to start in 2025. On the subject of fuel cell trucks, the collaboration agreement reached by Daimler Truck AG with Shell New Energies NL B.V. (Shell) in May 2021 also deserves a mention here. The two partners are planning to set up a hydrogen tank infrastructure and launch fuel cell trucks in Europe.
Business eco-system with advice
In order to assist customers along every step of their move to e-mobility, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is embedding the eActros and the eEconic in an eco-system which also provides advice and services, as well as a range of digital solutions to increase capacity utilisation of the vehicle and to optimise the total cost of ownership. For example, using a customer’s existing route plans it should be possible to establish a highly realistic and meaningful usage profile for electric trucks. This e-consulting service doesn’t only include electrification of the depot. If the customer desires, it also covers questions concerning planning, applying for and implementing everything to do with the charging infrastructure, and connection to the electricity network. Specifically for this purpose, Mercedes-Benz Trucks has entered into a strategic partnership with Siemens Smart Infrastructure, ENGIE and EVBox Group. Plus, if required, Mercedes-Benz Trucks can additionally provide help with identifying any available public grants for infrastructure and vehicles.
Digital solutions and customer-focused services
To help customers get the very best from their vehicle, Mercedes-Benz Trucks provides customers with a number of applications designed to increase efficiency and convenience, that can be accessed via the Truck App Portal. For example, the telematics services from Fleetboard allow intelligent networking of drivers, truck, fleet and assignments. All help to optimise consumption, reduce wear and increase vehicle utilisation.
The Truck Data Centre is the centrepiece of Fleetboard and serves as the basis for other vehicle connectivity solutions. The connectivity module receives the data from the sensors, cameras and steering devices in the truck and analyses these for a range of applications. The Truck Data Center not only forms the basis for Fleetboard’s numerous services, but also for Mercedes-Benz Uptime, the service for consistent increases in vehicle availability. The intelligent system comprises all relevant vehicle data – from tyre pressure to the engine, and now to the battery status too. In this context, Mercedes-Benz Uptime has been extended by more than 100 e-specific rules that constantly monitor charging processes for example, or voltage history associated with the high-voltage battery. In addition, the information is available via the new cloud-based customer portal. Thanks to the networking between Mercedes-Benz Service and the transport companies, trips to the workshop can be planned and unexpected downtime caused by breakdowns can be reduced.
Individually configurable service packages as well as tailor-made leasing, financing and insurance solutions complete the range of services and ensure greater planning security in these areas. That Mercedes-Benz Trucks is continually looking to innovative solutions in this regard is demonstrated perfectly by the Mercedes-Benz CompleteMile service contract. Like Mercedes-Benz Complete, the flexible service contract encompasses all workshop work including wear parts, but its concept is different: the monthly rate depends on the number of kilometres actually driven. “My TruckPoint by Mercedes-Benz” adds plenty of value where all existing service contracts and the current vehicle status are concerned. This new platform offers a full overview of contracts, quotes, orders for parts, inspections and maintenance, proving to be a useful fleet management tool.
High level of safety for the driver and other road users
With its traditional diesel trucks and battery-electric vehicles Mercedes-Benz Trucks is systematically pursuing its goal of helping to make road traffic as safe as possible by utilising active safety assistance systems, and in doing so is taking another step closer to realising its vision of accident-free driving. This is evidenced not only by Lane Keeping Assist, Proximity Control Assist and MirrorCam, which replaces the main and wide-angle mirrors, but by a host of other safety features.
One example, also available as an option for the Actros L, is the second-generation Active Drive Assist (ADA 2). Under certain preconditions the system actively assists the driver with longitudinal and lateral guidance of the truck and can automatically maintain the distance to the vehicle ahead, accelerate and also steer if the necessary system conditions such as sufficient curve radius or clearly visible road markings are met. In addition, ADA 2 includes the Emergency Stop Assist sub-function which is able to initiate an emergency stop if the driver is no longer controlling the steering wheel despite visual and audible warnings.
If an emergency braking assistant is required by law, all Actros models are also equipped as standard with fifth-generation Active Brake Assist (ABA) with pedestrian detection function. This system can help to avoid accidents where, due to the driver being distracted, the following distance being too short, or an inappropriate speed, the truck is at risk of colliding with a vehicle ahead or a stationary vehicle, or there is a risk of a frontal collision with a pedestrian. ABA 5 works using a combined radar and camera system. Upon detecting the danger of an accident with a vehicle ahead, a stationary obstacle or a person – be that crossing in front of the vehicle, walking towards the vehicle or in the vehicle’s lane – the system first warns the driver visually and acoustically. If the driver fails to respond appropriately, the system can then initiate partial braking in a second stage. If the threat of a collision continues, ABA 5 can perform automated maximum full-stop braking – at vehicle speeds of up to 50 km/h when responding to moving persons. Finally, on coming to a stop the vehicle applies the new electronic parking brake.
One feature designed specifically for the eActros and the eEconic is the external Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS). The low noise levels of these vehicles may in some cases lead to dangerous situations, for example if pedestrians or cyclists notice the electric truck too late. The acoustic warning system should prevent such hazardous situations from occurring. AVAS comprises two speakers – one at the front and one at the rear of the vehicle. They are connected with one another and with the vehicle. Depending on the driving conditions, sounds for driving forwards and reversing are played. The forwards noise simulates a quiet fan noise, while in reverse, an intermittent two-tone sound is emitted.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks aims to support the driver as much as possible within the respective limits of each system. However, as the law prescribes, the driver remains fully responsible for driving the vehicle safely at all times.
Statements from management and selected customers/drivers
Karin Rådström, Member of the Board of Management at Daimler Truck AG and responsible for Mercedes-Benz Trucks: “At Mercedes-Benz Trucks we are fully committed to locally CO2-neutral transport. In 2030, we want more than half of our new vehicles sold in Europe to be locally emission-free. To make that happen, there is no one-size-fits-all, no silver bullet. In line with the different use cases of our customers, we follow a dual electrification strategy based on battery- and fuel cell-electric trucks. But there is more action needed – in terms of infrastructure as well as a reliable regulatory framework.”
Andreas von Wallfeld, Head of Marketing, Sales & Services at Mercedes-Benz Trucks: “Working with and for our customers to find the perfect solution has always been something special to me because every customer has their own individual requirements and challenges that need to be met. Here at Mercedes-Benz Trucks, partnership is a lived experience all round the clock. To be real partners, we do two main things: Firstly, we listen really carefully to what our customers are saying. Secondly, we develop our trucks – be that traditional diesel or electric vehicles – and services such that serve a unique aim: contributing to the success of our customers.”
Cyrille Bonjean, Head of Land Transport Europe at DB Schenker: “DB Schenker is speeding up the electrification of its fleet as well as helping its hauliers move over to electric vehicles. During our trials, drivers were very happy with the prototype of the eActros. In terms of reliability it was on absolutely the same level as a series-production vehicle with a diesel engine.”
Stefan Olin, Managing Director of Urbaser A/S (Denmark): “I like the all-embracing approach taken by Mercedes-Benz Trucks, which includes e-consulting and digital services. As for the eEconic, I’m looking forward to testing it as soon as possible. I think it is helpful for both parties that we as customers are involved at an early stage so we can provide some feedback.”
Bettina Koob, HGV driver, Wilhelm Schüssler Spedition GmbH: “The Actros L is a fantastic drive and with all its features makes driving both relaxing and safe. I’d like a truck like this for long-distance haulage.”