Honda develops world’s first 3D-printed van

17 October 2016

Japanese vehicle manufacturer Honda has created the world’s first 3D-printed delivery van in conjunction with technology company Kabuku.tnb-honda-3d-print-1

The Honda Micro Commuter is built on a tubular chassis, with all the body panels 3D-printed by Kabuku. It is built on the platform of the 2013 Honda MC-Beta concept car, a Renault Twizy-style urban commuting vehicle powered by a 6kW electric motor. The concept features a tubular body frame developed by Honda’s motorcycle division, and seats two people in a tandem layout.

Thanks to the 3D printing technology, the design and manufacturing process took just two months from concept to completion, according to Honda.

The Micro Commuter is fully electric and has room for a driver, passenger and a number of small boxes, with the first example being used to deliver cookies around offices in Tokyo.

Despite its basic design, it has a full instrument cluster and a touch-screen infotainment system. It can be driven up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) on a single charge – enough to cover most urabn delivery routes.

The all-electric drivetrain was developed by Honda specifically for the vehicle, which is designed for operation in densely populated urban areas, and could point towards a future EV system from the Japanese company.

Honda said that the Micro Commuter was 3D-printed specifically for Toshiyama, a Japanese company that makes a wide array of food items, snacks and beverages.

Toshiyama will use the Micro Commuter to deliver a dove-shaped cookie named Hato sable and will be used on public roads. However, neither Honda nor Kabuku have committed to putting it into regular production.

US Army to test and develop fuel cell pick-up truck

17 October 2016

The United States Army is to be involved in the development and testing of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell powered pick-up truck, which is being manufactured by General Motors.tnb-chevy-colorado-1

The Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 concept is an electric truck powered by hydrogen fuel-cells, and is based on a modified version of the standard Colorado chassis, which underpins the brand’s best-selling truck in its domestic market.

The hydrogen fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity and provide longer range and endurance than battery power. Recharging takes minutes and the truck can run on renewable hydrogen from wind and biomass, with water vapour as the only exhaust emission.

Standing at six-and-a-half feet tall and seven feet wide, the Colorado ZH2 rides on 37-inch wheels and is designed for off-road applications. It has been developed by GM in conjunction with the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centre (TARDEC), and real-world testing is set to begin next year.

“Fuel cells have the potential to expand the capabilities of Army vehicles significantly through quiet operation, exportable power and solid torque performance, all advances that drove us to investigate this technology further,” said Paul Rogers, director of TARDEC.

tnb-chvey-colorado-2“The Colorado ZH2 is a terrific example of GM’s engineering and design skill in creating an off-road vehicle relevant to a range of potential users,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel cell Activities. “Over the next year, we expect to learn from the Army the limits of what a fuel cell propulsion system can do when really put to the test.”

The Colorado ZH2 concept also features an Exportable Power Take-Off unit that allows the fuel cell to power activity away from the vehicle, such as remote locations where electric power may otherwise not be available.

The Colorado ZH2 was assembled at GM’s Advanced Vehicle Integration facility in Warren, Michigan, and calibration testing will continue until early 2017 at GM’s Milford Proving Ground in the same state.

GM has been developing hydrogen fuel cells since the late 1990s and has invested nearly US$3 billion into the technology. It also has a long-term agreement with Honda Motor Company to co-develop a fuel-cell system, hydrogen storage technologies and a broader infrastructure for the fuel.

DHL to sell its own delivery vans

17 October 2016

Global delivery giant DHL is to branch out into making its own electric delivery vehicles after the successful completion of a trial that began in 2013.DHL go Green Elektroauto

The ‘Streetscooter’ is an electric van with a range of 75 miles, and has so far been used in service with its subsidiary, Deutsche Post GMBH – the German post office. The trial began with 50 vehicles, but proved so popular that there are now almost 1,000 of the vans in service.

Now, DHL has said it plans to replace its fleet of VW Caddy vans with Streetscooters across Germany. It is increasing its production capacity to 5,000 vans a year, with plans to expand further and potentially sell or lease the Streetscooter vehicles to other urban delivery companies.

At the recent IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, Deutsche Post and Streetscooter announced a larger model – the StreetScooter Work L, with double the carrying capacity of the smaller model. Deutsche Post DHL aims to have 170 of the larger vehicles on the road by the end of the year.

“We are purposely not reinventing the wheel. We do not produce a single component ourselves. Everything comes from a supplier,” said Win Neidlinger, director of business development at Streetscooter.

Streetscooter used a software program developed by PTC to talk to a network of 80 suppliers including Stuttgart-based Bosch, which provides the electric drivetrain, and Hella which makes the headlights.

“We designed it as a tool. So the fit and finish does not need to be as good as in a passenger car,” Neidlinger said.

The vans are designed to last 16 years, stay in use for six days a week and for 10 hours at a time. They need some particularly robust components, such as doors that can be opened and closed up to 200 times a day.

Feature: How Euro 6 retrofit tech gives bus operators options

20 October 2016

With the forthcoming introduction of Low Emissions Zones in London, and with other major cities set to follow suit, bus operators are faced with an expensive challenge if they want to continue to do business in the most congested parts of the country.

Do they replace their fleets entirely, or do they choose another way to ensure their fleets are complaint without the need for such a significant investment, which allows a more organic renewal cycle for their fleets?

The best way, of course, is to opt for an entirely Euro VI compliant fleet as this is inarguably the most efficient way forward, but not all operators have the luxury of being able to replace their vehicles at the drop of a hat, be it for cost reasons or simply the time it would take to bring an entirely new set of vehicles onto the fleet. But there is a suite of technologies that can help bring older buses from Euro III, IV, or V up to the new required levels of adherence when it comes to NOx and CO2 emissions.
Eminox has been fitting SCRT systems since 2013

Eminox has been fitting SCRT systems since 2013

The technology in these retrofit systems typically combines a continuously regenerating trap (CRT) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology, which injects AdBlue additives into the fuel system to produce a system that reduces particulate matter of many types, including nitrogen oxide (NOx), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), hydrocarbons (HC) and carbon monoxide (CO).

The idea isn’t a new one, but its relevance is greater than ever. Back in 2013, one company – Eminox – announced that it was to use its Selective Catalytic Reduction technology (SCRT) to help retrofit filters to more than 419 buses. This project was one of a number that took place throughout that period, with significant reductions in primary NOx emissions.

The Lincolnshire-based business has since successfully retrofitted more than 3,500 vehicles with its SCRT technology, through working with local authorities, passenger transport executives and bus and operators, and at the forthcoming European Bus Expo, which takes place next month in Birmingham, will be promoting its latest system, which takes the technology to new levels.

Eminox works closely with Johnson Matthey, based in Royston, Herts, to develop its emissions control systems. Johnson Matthey was one of the pioneers of catalytic converter systems and introduced the very first automotive catalytic converter system in 1974.

The company’s sales and marketing director, Chris Butcher, said, “Retrofit technology is an attractive option for many operators, as it meets the new standards at a fraction of the cost of buying a new vehicle.”
NOxBuster City is the latest name in retrofit system technologies

A similar message comes from a newer player in the market. NOxBuster is a collaborative effort between Finnish company Proventia Emission Control and the UK-based Excalibre Technologies. Together, the two have released a trial system called the NOxBUSTER City, which takes existing Euro IV and V vehicles and helps them meet the ULEZ and Clean Air Zone requirements of today and the near future.

The NOxBuster City is said to exceed Transport for London’s retrofit specification on chassis dynamometer testing over the Millbrook London Transport Bus cycle and is backed up by a web-based monitoring system known as Procare Drive, which allows fleet managers to check the system’s condition remotely.

Karl Grimston, a director at Excalibre Technologies, said that the key requirement for fleet operators using retrofit is to keep the amount of mechanical changes required on vehicles to a minimum.

“We have adopted some ideas to minimise the number of changes to the vehicle and maintain as many of the original components as possible,” he says. “None of the operators really want to do this, so you have to make it as easy as possible for them with the least amount of disruption.

“Another key element is the mixing chamber – the injection of the AdBlue is something of a black art – it has to be mixed properly.”

For UK applications, Proventia provides the basic kit and elements and Excalibre makes the design specific to each vehicle type. Excalibre then installs, maintains and services the systems in operation.

The partnership is currently running two trial systems, one with Alexander Dennis buses and a second with Volvo models. The trial was sponsored by TfL, says Grimston, and the manufacturers are aware.

“TfL is in discussion with them and letting them know that their buses are being retrofitted. Obviously they would rather supply brand new buses to fleets, but from a timescale point of view, there is a need to retrofit them.”

Futureproof telematics is also important, with a number of suppliers providing web-based monitoring tools like the Procare Drive sytsem connected to NOxBuster.

The company says it enables full remote monitoring of the system and the vehicle’s emissions. “While TfL has not yet released the full tender specification of the next retrofit programme, we believe it will be a requirement, so we want to make sure we are ready,” says Grimston.

Although SCR technology and retrofit kits are of most benefit to London bus fleets, they can also be applied to other vehicles, including tenders operated by the London Fire Brigade and older trucks.

New heavy commercial vehicles have had to be Euro VI compliant since 2014 and their relatively short service life means that most of the larger hauliers are already running fully Euro VI fleets, or are in the process of renewal. But for smaller operators running older vehicles, there will be a requirement for certified retrofit systems to be installed should they wish to use low emissions zones in urban areas.

“With trucks, operators would be installing a system to become compliant, because not all of them are worried about actual emissions,” says Grimston. “They just want to be able to drive the vehicles in certain areas. But with buses it is a legislative requirement and they have got to do it to operate on certain specific routes. The approach is stick-led, rather than carrot.”

Truck manufacturer recognises apprentices’ achievements

18 October 2016

Some of the brightest new stars in the CV Sector have been recognized by truck maker MAN in a national awards ceremony.

MAN Truck & Bus UK celebrated the success of its young high-flyers with the awards, held at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull, W Mids, last week.

The awards were presented by former England footballer Sir Geoff Hurst, who found fame 50 years ago as the critical goal scorer in England’s legendary World Cup final victory of 1966, along with Paul O’Cain, head of UK service with MAN.tnb-man-apprentices

O’Cain said, “We have had 43 apprentices complete their training this year and our new intake is at a record number for us with 50. Apprenticeships are important for our future and all our trainees will be developing and extending their skills working across the range of MAN vehicles.”

Sir Geoff, who co-presented the awards, enjoyed a question and answer session with the audience about the legendary 1966 World Cup Final and his role in it, and explained how he started as an apprentice with West Ham, training in the mornings and working as a groundsman in the afternoons.

Representatives of vocational charity The Outward Bound Trust and the S&B Training Academy, were also present, acknowledging their ongoing commitment to MAN and, moreover, to helping young people gain access to careers within the truck, bus and van industries.

S&B has a state-of-the-art CV workshop and training facility in Bristol specially geared towards helping young people learn about the maintenance of heavy vehicles.

In total, 19 MAN apprentices were honoured with awards in a move that sends strong signals to young people about job opportunities within the CV Sector at a time when the industry is working hard to attract young people to address a chronic shortage of skills as well as drivers.

TIP to offer moving floor trailers

18 October 2016

A major UK rental and leasing company has added moving floor semi-trailers to its range in answer to increased demand from hauliers, especially around added security.tnb-tip-trailer

TIP Trailer Services is working in conjunction with a number of leading moving floor trailer manufacturers to broaden its trailer management, leasing and sourcing business.

The company’s managing director Mike Furnival said, “Moving floor trailers provide a great alternative to the traditional bulk haulage vehicles such as tippers, particularly if there are height restrictions when unloading. The moving floor trailers are becoming more and more popular amongst bulk haulage transport operators and TIP is pleased to support that by offering a range of competitive and flexible rental, leasing and maintenance solutions to suit customer’s ‘moving floor’ needs.”

The moving floor trailers are supported by a European wide network of TIP branches and authorised service partners to service and repair new or existing trailers. TIP also offers a ‘sale and lease back’ facility to enable customers to free up invested capital.

“Transporting high volume bulk material, waste or recycling, moving floor semi-trailers offer an efficient loading and unloading facility that works effectively when space is tight,” said Furnival. “They are extremely flexible too, carrying virtually any type of bulk material such as biomass, foodstuffs, salt, tyres and paper. With the appropriate specification of moving floor, they can also transport more heavy duty materials such as landfill waste and aggregates.”

Moving floor systems are increasingly popular with bulk hauliers, as they reduce time spent unloading in depots, offer safety advantages and remove the need for forklifts to enter the trailer body, as well as eliminating the need for tipper mechanisms when unloading loose materials. They are seen as a more secure alternative to curtainside trailers, as they allow pallets to be unloaded without having to access the trailer from the side.

Manchester’s guided busway ‘a great success’

17 October 2016

The launch of a guided busway in Manchester has been branded a ‘great success’ six months after services commenced on a route between Leigh, Lancashire, and the city centre.tnb-guided-bus-1

With free wi-fi, leather seats and USB charging points, the purple ‘Vantage’ buses have attracted nearly two million passengers, surpassing all expectations.

The trip, which used to take nearly an hour and a half, is now being completed in less than 50 minutes and costs half the price of an equivalent weekly train ticket.

“We’ve achieved our most optimistic year one targets already with 1.9m people using these buses, which is massive,” said Si Ho, senior innovation officer at Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM). “This is a great success story.”

Guided busways are concrete walls built into or next to existing motorways that allow specialised buses (with guide wheels on either side) to travel at far greater speeds than regular buses, up to 55mph in some cases. At the end of the busway, the vehicles can be driven onto public roads and operated in the same fashion as normal buses.

Drivers don’t even need to touch the steering wheel, they just put their foot down and the walled routes stop the buses from running into traffic.

The UK’s first guided busway opened between St Ives, Cambs, and Cambridge City Centre in 2011 and was originally branded a ‘White Elephant’ by local government officials after its development budget over-ran by £50 million. However, it now attracts over 3.5 million passengers a year and is seen as a benchmark for other cities where there is room to develop busways alongside motorways and major trunk roads.

Convertor supports youth manufacturing challenge

17 October 2016

One of the UK’s leading manufacturers of refrigerated van and truck conversions is sponsoring a competition aimed at attracting young people into manufacturing.tnb-coolkit-make-it-in-manufacturing

Burnley-based refrigerated vehicle specialist, CoolKit Ltd, is sponsoring the heats of a competition to find the North West’s manufacturing stars of tomorrow.

Organised by The Manufacturing Institute, The Make It in Manufacturing North West Championship gives businesses the chance to work directly with schools to engage young people.

The Challenge involves engaging businesses from each of the region’s counties – Merseyside, Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire and Greater Manchester – to support a one-day competitive activity, organised by The Manufacturing Institute, for schoolchildren aged 13 to 14 from across their county.

The winning team of each heat will then go forward to the grand regional finals, where the champions will be crowned at Manchester United Football Stadium on 15th March 2017.

Stephanie Boyle, Events Executive at The Manufacturing Institute, said, “Make It in Manufacturing is working with manufacturers across the North West on a series of competitions to encourage young people to consider careers within manufacturing. CoolKit will be working directly with schools across Lancashire, helping to engage young people with manufacturing by showcasing the work that they do and the opportunities that are on the students’ doorsteps when they leave school.”

Steve Wilkinson, Head of Operations at CoolKit, said, “As a growing manufacturing business in Lancashire, we are delighted to have the opportunity to be part of such an innovative program for young people in the local area. A large proportion of our workforce is based in Operations at CoolKit, in our new large workshop premises. It is important to broadcast the message to our future workforce that manufacturing is an exciting and vibrant industry to be part of.”

“We are looking forward to leading the Lancashire schools in this event and hopefully provide some valuable guidance for the next generation of manufacturing talent.”

Highways Agency ‘Trap Cab’ corners unsafe drivers

11 October 2016

An HGV cab owned by Highways England has led to over 2,700 drivers being stopped for unsafe driving by police forces across the country, which borrowed the truck for law enforcement purposes.tnb-safety-cab

Over the past 16 months, the ‘Trap Cab’ has been used in various locations across England, and takes advantage of the elevated position of the cab for police officers to film unsafe driving behaviour. Drivers are then pulled over by police cars following behind.

The initiative has proved so successful that the cab was demonstrated to police forces from across Europe at the European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL) annual road safety conference at Manchester Airport last week.

Footage from the truck includes one driver using two hand held phones at once on the M6 and another boiling a kettle while driving. One man in Surrey told officers he needed to use his mobile phone to call his new girlfriend after ‘their song’ came on the radio. Another driver in Kent was spotted watching a DVD while at the wheel, and a driver in Hampshire was captured reading a book.

Anthony Thorpe from Highways England’s Incident Prevention Team said, “The vast majority of drivers pay attention when they’re on a motorway but a minority are putting themselves and others at risk by not driving safely.”

“We’ve been loaning out the HGV cab to police forces to help improve safety and are delighted that the initiative is making a real difference and protecting motorists.”

“It’s astonishing and worrying that drivers have got into bad driving habits and are using their mobile phones, watching DVDs or even boiling a kettle while driving.”

Since the safety scheme began in April 2015, 3,494 offences have been spotted. Nearly half related to the unsafe use of mobile phones, and over a fifth involved drivers not wearing seatbelts.

In September, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced motorists using their mobile phones while driving will soon face much tougher penalties. Anyone calling, texting or using an app while at the wheel will face higher on the spot fines and more points on their licence than they do today.

A total of 25 police forces took part in the HGV safety cab initiative during its first 16 months. Officers gave verbal advice to 247 drivers, issued 693 fixed or graduated penalty notices, and filed 2,186 traffic offence reports – usually requiring drivers to attend a driver education course. There were also 34 prosecutions for more serious offences.

Driverless buses to begin airport trial

11 October 2016

A fully autonomous bus is to go into service at one of New Zealand’s busiest transport hubs as a part of a trial that begins early next year.tnb-christchurch-shuttle

Built by French company Navya, the driverless 15-seater minibus will go into service on the airport’s internal perimeter roads, with a view to it operating on public roads outside the airport boundaries later on during the trial period.

The trial is led by New Zealand’s former Transport Secretary, Martin Matthews.

“Autonomous vehicles are coming, whether we are ready or not, so we are taking the initiative to be ready,” he said.

“Many people believe we are years away from seeing these vehicles on our roads, but I disagree. I believe they will be with us very soon, so it’s important we understand what is required for them to operate safely here.”

The shuttle will arrive in New Zealand by Christmas and the trial will start early in 2017.

The trial partners will work with University of Canterbury researchers, the Ministry of Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency.

It comes after one of New Zealand’s major bus operators, NZ Bus – which operates buses in Auckland and Wellington – claimed autonomous technology would make a big impact over the next decade.

Speaking at a transport conference earlier this year, NZ Bus Chief Executive Zane Fulljames said, “It is going to happen quickly, it is going to be big, it is actually going to be awesome and we are pretty excited about it.”

“Our best view is that between 2015 and 2025, we are going to have something between 15 and 30 percent penetration, which is a massive ramp up.”