The level of innovation in commercial vehicles continues to accelerate. Unusual-looking trucks, vans or buses with advanced technologies, purposely designed for business or commercial operations, are already racing their way to today’s road surfaces. In the years to come, as surface transportation presumed to remain as the lifeblood of commerce, more groundbreaking developments in this segment of vehicles are expected to take place.
According to a report titled Commercial Vehicles — Driving the Future by the German Association of the Automotive Industry, commercial vehicles will remain as the backbone of freight transport system and the engine of future for many decades.
“All forecasts assume that freight transport will increase significantly in coming decades and that the share of commercial vehicles will be just the same as today at approximately 70%,” the report said.
One of the major developments which will continue to drive the future of commercial vehicles is the push for a cleaner and more economical engine.
Firms are now mindful to not cause pollution to the environment, and commercial vehicle manufacturers have also taken this awareness development into account.
Even in the past years, manufacturers were already aiming for emission avoidance. The German Association of the Automotive Industry report said that in spite of the increasing traffic volumes, the emissions of commercial vehicles have decreased in absolute terms in almost all categories. It noted that emissions per ton-kilometer have decreased between 30% and 80% since 1995, and environmental experts expect that this will continue to improve in the future.
“The work of commercial vehicle manufacturers concerning the reduction of pollutants is completed today. After 20 years of continuous development work, they bring engines onto the market today which fulfill the limit value stage according to Euro VI, and with that emit only 3% of the pollutants which their predecessors emitted 20 years ago. With the increasing propagation of Euro VI vehicles within the vehicle fleet in the coming years, the emissions of the fleet will continue to sink,” the report said.
Aside from concentrating on developing a cleaner engine in the future, manufacturers will also focus to further reduce fuel consumption.
“The commercial vehicle manufacturers continue to develop new ideas with this objective in mind. On the one hand, these efforts concentrate on the further optimization of the diesel engine, however also the secondary aggregates and the drive chain. Through these measures alone, further savings are to be expected of approximately 6% in total on a long-term basis,” the report said.
As part of the efforts to minimize costs, manufacturers will likely give more attention in engineering improved aerodynamics. By this, fuel consumption can be reduced by up to 15%.
“Three to four percentage points of that can be achieved alone by the attachment of so-called ‘boat tails’ at the rear of the semi-trailer, which are trailing-edge flaps about 40 centimeters long,” the report said.
Other technical possibilities for improving aerodynamics of truck-trailer combinations, for instance, include an aerodynamically shaped roof without superstructure such as lights or horns, a spoiler between tractor and trailer, and a rear spoiler.
There is also a possibility for commercial vehicle manufacturers to develop low-resistance-running tires that can decrease rolling resistance. This can lower fuel consumption by another 2%. Moreover, lightweight construction measures with the utilization of aluminum and composite materials can additionally reduce consumption by approximately 5%.
“The commercial vehicle will therefore long remain our engine for an economically secure, resource-saving and clean future,” the report concluded. — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino