Driving force

Renault Trucks is developing a vehicle for night and city deliveries that can change its noise and pollution emissions according to its workload and location.

The truck uses a complete telematics system that connects it to a base office. Features such as navigation and positioning make deliveries easier and more efficient for the driver. The truck is also fitted with technologies to improve the ergonomics of the vehicle.

The system aims to help the truck’s movement through urban environments by detecting when it enters low-noise or emission zones (areas designated by local authorities where only low-emission vehicles are permitted to enter) then adjusting its operation accordingly.

‘The truck is fitted with different operating conditions that can be modified when the driver pushes a button,’ said Bernard Favre, head of advanced engineering at Renault Trucks. ‘For example, the driver can turn the truck from a commercial operating condition to load-reduced or emission-reduced operating condition.

‘We can control noise emissions by reducing the load on the driveline,’ claimed Favre. ‘In addition, we have fitted the driveline with springs on the encapsulation, and modified the exhaust system and a number of other systems so that overall noise emission is reduced compared to commercial trucks.

‘We are using an onboard PDA as an interface to give the driver information such as the zone they are driving through. This is connected to the truck with a simple wireless communication system and also connected to the base office using a GSM/GPRS system.’

Low-emission zones, or ‘geofences’ as they are also known, are being introduced in cities across Europe. A zone covering Greater London is being introduced on 4 February. The zone will initially require all trucks over 12 tonnes to comply with the European Euro 3 engine standard. Smaller vehicles will also be covered — including buses in July 2008 and minibuses in October 2010 — with stricter standards being applied at later dates.

‘The effect of our system is still being assessed, but in bench tests we have reduced the noise under operative conditions by 60dB(A) compared with a normal commercial truck,’ added Favre. ‘But we also have a reduction in the vehicle’s performance, capacity and agility. Our current tests will assess the compromise and see how these work in city conditions.’

The system is being tested in Lyon and Barcelona by courier firm DHL, using a 12-tonne Midlum truck that has noise levels 3dB(A) below regulatory levels and reduced engine emissions compatible with the Euro 5 standard — which will apply from 2009 and further restricts emissions of NOx.

The system incorporates several ergonomic benefits new to the truck industry. Keyless entry and ignition will allow the driver to start the truck easily using a key-fob-style badge that automatically enables the vehicle systems when the driver is in close range. Similarly, the device can be set to lock the truck’s doors automatically when the driver walks away from the vehicle, offering added security. The vehicle also has an automatic braking system to make it easier to operate.

‘The truck uses a normal pneumatic brake system modified with an electric control,’ said Vincent Sartre, project manager for Renault Trucks. ‘This means it can be used as a normal parking brake, but it will also brake automatically as soon as the vehicle is stopped or if the driver leaves the truck. In addition, it has a hill start system where the brakes are released as soon as you accelerate. This means you can use the vehicle very easily and safely.’

The project is part of the Freight Intelligent Delivery of goods in European Urban Spaces (FIDEUS) programme. The three-year project, which started in 2005 and includes companies such as IVECO and TNT, is developing three vehicle types to optimise different types of delivery: a small electric transporter, for sensitive and pedestrian areas; a 3.5-tonne van; and a 12-tonne truck.

All the vehicles will use hi-tech driving, loading and communication systems to improve deliveries in cities.

‘Our system is purely developed for the large type of vehicle, but because we are developing a number of technologies, some are generic and could be applied to other types of vehicle, both bigger and smaller,’ said Favre. ‘This project is really a test for us to assess new technologies that can be developed for different types of vehicles.

‘There will be a final evaluation of the tests and the results will be released this April. Then we will decide which technologies we will want in our product.’

Tim Gee