Electric Truck Race Has Started
When it comes to electric trucks, Silicon Valley’s Tesla Semi has gotten the lion’s share of attention, but they aren’t the only one developing battery-powered heavy-duty haulers. Instead of long-haul semis, Mercedes-Benz parent, Daimler, is focusing on electric urban delivery vehicles.
This week, the automaker best known in the U.S. for its luxury cars and SUVs, introduced the eActros, the production version of the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck concept that first appeared in 2016. An initial test fleet of 10 trucks will be deployed with customers in Europe in a few weeks. Mercedes plans to begin full-scale production of the eActros in 2021.
Mercedes-Benz is putting electric heavy-duty trucks on the road
While Mercedes isn’t attempting to build an electric semi-truck like Tesla, the eActros shows that the company wants to scale up from small, local-delivery vehicles to larger models. The company plans to spend $3.2 billion on research and development for its truck division through 2019, focusing on developing electric mobility, connectivity and automated driving technology for commercial vehicles. Meanwhile, Mercedes will launch electric versions of its Vito and Sprinter vans and an electric bus over the next two years.
Electric Motors and Batteries
The structure for the eActros is provided by the frame of the standard Actros diesel truck. Both two- and three-axle versions with a gross weight rating of 18 to 25 metric tons (39,000-55,000 pounds) depending on the variant will be evaluated by customers.
The drive system comprises two electric motors located close to the rear-axle wheel hubs. These three-phase asynchronous motors are liquid-cooled and operate with a nominal voltage of 400 volts. They generate an output of 170 horsepower (125 kilowatt-hours) each, with maximum torque of 358 pounds-feet of torque (485 Nm) each. The gearing ratios convert this into 8,113 pounds-feet (11 000 Nm) each, resulting in driving performance on a par with that of a diesel truck.
It has a claimed driving range of 125 miles (200 kilometers), provided by two lithium-ion batteries with an output of 240 kWh. The batteries are accommodated in 11 packs: three of these are located in the frame area, the other eight are to be found underneath.
The high-voltage batteries do not just supply energy to the drive system, but to the vehicle as a whole. Ancillary components such as the air compressor for the braking system, the power steering pump, the compressor for the cab air-conditioning system and, where relevant, the refrigerated body, are also all electrically powered.
A full recharge takes three to 11 hours, depending on the power of the charging station. Recharging of the prototype trucks will be provided by portable rechargers.
Two Years, 20 Test Customers
“We are now passing both two- and three-axle variants of our heavy-duty electric truck, the Mercedes-Benz eActros, into the hands of customers. Initially, the focus will be on inner-city goods transport and delivery services—the ranges required here are well within the scope of our Mercedes-Benz eActros,” said Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
The eActros battery pack can charge in 3-11 hours
The range of requirements means that the vehicles are fitted with a variety of bodies—refrigerated box bodies, tankers or tarpaulin sides are used. The drivers of the eActros are trained specially to work with the vehicle.
The first 10 pilot customers, including German supermarket chain Edeka and parcel delivery service Hermes, will be testing the vehicles in real-life operations for 12 months, after which the trucks will be going out to a second set of customers for a further 12 months.
A Poke At Tesla
Daimler cast doubt on Tesla’s plan to deliver electric heavy trucks next year, saying its more modest goal to start selling battery-powered big rigs by 2021 is more realistic, according to trade publication Automotive News.
As the largest global truckmaker, Daimler has the most to lose should Tesla succeed in producing a semi-truck with a 500-mile range for delivery starting in 2019.
“If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks—one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by,” head of Daimler Trucks Martin Daum said. “But for now, the same laws of physics apply in Germany and in California,” he added.
Who Will Win the Race?
Daimler and rivals including Tesla, Volkswagen’s MAN, Volvo AB and U.S. truck maker Kenworth and engine maker Cummins are all racing to bring electric trucks to market to cope with a push to shift from fossil fuels to greener vehicles and reduce pollution and greenhouse gases. At the moment, Daimler is at the front of the pack while Tesla can boast of 100s of orders for its future truck.
The eActros can be configured to haul up to 55,000 pounds
In October of last year, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, part of Daimler Trucks, launched its new Fuso eCanter in New York City, the world’s first series-produced all-electric medium-duty truck. First on the list to buy three eCanter trucks was the United Parcel Service (UPS).
A few days after the New York introduction, Fuso showed off a Class 8 electric truck at the Tokyo Motor Show. The E-Fuso Vision One concept, called a trailerless or “straight” truck with an enclosed cargo area, carries a payload of approximately 11 metric tons (24,000 pounds) with a driving range of 210 miles on a single charge.
So, while Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, talks (brags) about a big electric truck, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Fuso already have two being driven by customers and the eActros arriving in a few weeks.
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Cargo & People Hauling To Became Cleaner in 2019
Mercedes-Benz pulled the covers off its new Sprinter van line this week at the company’s logistics center on the Mercator Island in Duisburg, Germany. In addition to the usual diesel- and gasoline-powered models, the truck and carmaker Daimler revealed an all-electric Mercedes-Benz eSprinter. The eSpritner goes on sale in Europe in 2019 and will be offered eventually in the U.S., said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.
Few Electric Drivetrain Details
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter will be front-wheel drive only and at this point Mercedes says the new van will have a 41.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack and a driving range of around 100 miles. The exact specifications could change before the vehicle comes to market, including the battery size.
It’s a big electric box
According to Mercedes, the pairing of the electric battery with dedicated front-wheel drive lowers the load floor by 80mm and may end up as a slightly lighter drivetrain. Both low load floors and lighter vehicle weight are important factors not only for fleet purchasers, but for the drivers who end up running delivery routes in them.
Mercedes says the eSprinter will primarily be used in large metropolitan areas, where range isn’t critical, but emissions are. European cities like London, where electric-vehicles are exempt from a congestion charge, will likely make the electric van a popular choice for small and large trucking fleets. Mercedes says operating an eSprinter will cost about the same as a diesel-powered Sprinter. These electric vans can be tailored for specific payload requirements.
In Profile, Still A Sprinter Van
The 2019 Sprinter van’s exterior hasn’t changed much since its 1995 introduction. In profile, the new third-generation model remains with its boxy design, but the front and rear have some nips and tucks to look fresher. Of note, the new look up front adapts the latest Mercedes design direction that applies to both its latest vans and passenger cars.
The Sprinter dash ups the tech quotient
Inside, the story is much the same. That means the Sprinter retains its durable, everything-is-hard plastic. But changes were made to bring the van into the 21st century, such as incorporating the display screen into a semi-floating part of the dashboard that tilts upward. There’s also a plethora of storage from under-seat cubbies to large slots and bins on the dashboard. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mercedes-Benz without door-mounted seat controls.
It’s not known what tech gear will be offered on the eSprinter when it arrives, but the standard van is lousy with new=fangled tech, whether it’s intended for driver convenience, safety or the fleet company.
In terms of safety equipment, the Sprinter’s tried-and-true Crosswind Assist system returns to help mitigate the effects strong wind has on a slab-sided van. Distronic will guide the van in its lane on the highway, keeping distance between the Sprinter and any traffic ahead. It’ll brake on its own if something gets in the way, and traffic-sign recognition will help drivers navigate unfamiliar areas.
The Sprinter will come in several different configurations
LED headlights will keep the road ahead nice and bright, while a new “Wet Wiper” system puts the wiper fluid nozzles inside the wiper arms for better dispersal and less spray-related mess. USB Type C connections allow you to charge devices at amperages up to 1.5A, but there’s a traditional 12-volt port in there, too, if you need that.
The infotainment screen can display both the backup camera and a top-down view of the world around the van when navigating gets a little tight.
Speaking of infotainment, the Sprinter can also be optioned with Mercedes-Benz’s new MBUX infotainment system. With a 10.25-inch screen, MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) brings new connectivity to the table thanks to a new digital assistant that understands natural-language requests like, “I’m cold” or “The gas tank is empty.” Paired with the MBUX system is the new Mercedes Pro internet connectivity system. It connects customers to help with efficient fleet management, improved navigation, analysis of driving style, digitalized recording and remote vehicle operations.
Regular Sprinter vans will arrive in the U.S. before the end of this year and will be offered for the first time with a gasoline engine in addition to diesel engines. It will have configurations that work for nearly every commercial van use as well as serve as a recreational vehicle platform. It will come as a regular cab—the most popular body for a delivery van—as well as a crew cab.
As for the eSprinter, we’ll just have to wait (hopefully not too long) for details.
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Frankfurt Motor Show Sees Advances on Hydrogen Front
Mercedes-Benz arrived at the Frankfurt Motor Show with a pre-production plug-in fuel-cell version of its GLC F-Cell, ahead of its showroom debut next year. The GLC F-Cell is exactly what the name suggests: a fuel-cell version of Mercedes’ GLC-Class compact crossover/SUV that has been rolling off the production line since July 2015.
The GLC F-Cell looks ready to hit the road
A prototype model was seen at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, and the pre-production GLC F-Cell’s powertrain is a near duplication. It features both a fuel-cell stack and a lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged by pluggin in, an industry first.
Fill Up With Hydrogen—Or, Plug It In
The centerpiece of the GLC F-Cell EQ Power’s technology, the fuel-cell stack, was developed in Vancouver, Canada, together with partner Ford in the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation (AFCC) joint venture. Around 30 percent more compact than previous stacks, it can be fully housed in the engine bay for the first time. Furthermore, the cost of the fuel cell stack technology has been slashed thanks largely to a 90-percent reduction in the amount of platinum used in the stack.
Electrical energy used to power the GLC F-Cell’s electric motors is generated on board within the fuel cell stack in a reaction between compressed hydrogen and oxygen. Two carbon-fiber-encased tanks are located in the middle and under the rear seats, storing four kilograms of hydrogen. Mercedes states that the tanks can be refilled within three minutes and provide 271 miles of emissions-free driving range.
The fuel cell now fits under the hood
A 13.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is housed at the rear of the SUV to save space and provides about 30 miles of battery-electric driving, for a total range of 301 miles. Regenerative braking allows energy to be recuperated and stored in the battery during braking and coasting phases. Like plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles, the battery can be recharged using a standard 120-volt household outlet, a home recharger or a public charging station.
Combined output for the rear-wheel drive luxury crossover is about 197 horsepower and a hearty 258 pounds-feet of torque. Charging time for the battery on a standard household outlet using the 7.2 kW on-board chargers takes just 1.5 hours. The GLC F-Cell will have three driving modes (Eco, Comfort and Sport), as well as four operating modes (Hybrid, F-Cell, Battery and Charge).
The Mercedes GLC F-Cell will go on sale in the U.S. by the end of 2019, but it’s unlikely that it will be sold outside of California, as there are only 40 hydrogen refueling stations available in the U.S. and all but four of them are in California.
Another Manufacturer Joins Electric Car Racing Series
Mercedes is ditching the roar of four-liter fire-breathing V-8 engines for the hum and whine of electric motors. This isn’t a new product announcement (though they’re doing that, too), but it is related to future products. Daimler, Mercedes-Benz parent company, announced this week that it is pulling out of DTM racing, where it competes on mainly European tracks against its German luxury car rivals. The motorsports efforts will migrate starting in season six (2019/20) of the Formula E electric car racing series.
The roar of the gas V-8 will be replaced by electric motor whine
Patterned after the high-end Formula 1 series (in which Mercedes also competes), with which it shares a governing board, Formula E currently consists of 20 cars from 10 teams using standardized battery packs and cars. Over the years participants have gradually been allowed more innovations on their powertrains, something the race series has promised to open up even more in the coming years.
That is part of the attraction for Daimler, which has announced the launch of its electric EQ sub-brand. “Formula E is a significant step in order to demonstrate the performance of our attractive battery-powered electric vehicles under the EQ technology brand,” said Dr. Jens Thiemer, vice president of marketing, Mercedes-Benz Cars. “It is time to start a new path.”
The race commitment will mean Mercedes is joining Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Renault among major automakers already in the series. Given two German luxury marques are already involved, the Mercedes move should be looked at as almost a forgone conclusion.
Part of the Launch of the EQ Label
“Mercedes-Benz will market future battery powered electric vehicles using the EQ label,” explained Thiemer. “Formula E (gives) an emotional spin to our EQ technology brand through motorsport and marketing.”
Toto Wolff, managing partner of both the Formula 1 and Formula E teams, views Formula E as a brand new form of racing that reflects a rapidly changing automotive landscape.
Expect to see the Mercedes-Benz EQ brand in Formula E
“In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects,” he said. “The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that. Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture: it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies. Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience – and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.”
It’s clear that Mercedes will be spending the next two seasons scoping out the competition and planning to make its entry in a forceful way. Given its track record in Formula 1 and DTM, in motorsports “the best or nothing” translates into a quest for trophies.
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Saving Money by Driving an Old Mercedes-Benz Brute
Before you do a double take or refresh this page, let me assure you that you did indeed read that title correctly and, as surprising as it is, the Mercedes brand is a totally viable option for those looking to drive economically without compromising on power.
Performance at a Low Price
Used Mercedes-Benz GLAs offer a high-mpg option
It’s already well known that diesel engines get a good mileage compared to their gasoline-based counterparts, but even bearing that in mind, it’s surprising how well Mercedes-Benz has managed to walk the tightrope of power and efficiency in its bigger cars—the old ‘brutes,’ as they have been called.
These hefty beasts not only bear the prestige badge and the armour of a Soviet tank—they also offer fuel economy to match the real world MPGs of some of the most economical small cars on the market today. Of course, you can’t talk about brutes without talking about power, and this line can put its money where its mouth is.
The Proof in the Pudding
It’s all well and good to make these claims, but you can judge for yourself from the numbers—the European GLA Class hatchback introduced in 2014 can get
C-Class could be worth the wait
67.3 MPG (EU) in one trim or produce 332 lb-ft of torque (in GLA 45 AMG trim). The 2013 E-Class sedan (in E200 CDI BlueEfficiency trim) produces an equally impressive 270 lb-ft while still reaching a combined MPG of 70.6 (EU). Even the more compact 2012 C-Class sedan manages just a little more power than but still delivers 64.2 MPG (EU).
This isn’t all the brutes have to offer though; these larger vehicles don’t just burn less fuel per mile travelled, they burn it more cleanly too. For some this is a benefit in and of itself but if your first concern is how much the car costs to run, then this can keep road tax down in locales that charge emissions duties. Some of them fall as low as Band C on the U.K.’s system for an annual car tax of just £30.
Of course, you might wonder how you’ll save money buying a famously expensive luxury brand, but a used Mercedes-Benz can come surprisingly cheap. Unlike the price, the fuel economy, the power and prestige of the brand won’t depreciate, which makes this a great choice for business or personal use.