DonBur and DHL take solar power from trailer roofs

19 June 2018

Worldwide logistics company DHL is partnering with Staffordshire-based semi-trailer manufacturer, Don-Bur, to launch a system that draws solar energy from trailer roofs and converts it into electricity to operate the trailer lights and tail-lifts.

TRAiLAR is part of DHL’s target of zero emissions by 2050 and will be used initially on DHL’s own delivery fleet, before being rolled out to other operators in 2019.

The system is made up of thin, light weight solar mats, which are fitted to the roofs of articulated, box-truck and draw-bar trailers and connected to the vehicle’s battery or additional on-board batteries via a charge controller.

The energy generated is used to power on-board equipment, such as tail-lifts, trailer lights and moving floors.

During testing at the Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire, fuel savings of up to 5.2% were achieved.

“Ultimately, we need fewer [and] cleaner and quieter vehicles on the roads,” said Phil Roe, Managing Director for Network Logistics and Transport, DHL Supply Chain UK and Ireland. “This can be achieved while also helping customers reduce their transport costs. That’s why we’re committed to developing new sustainable transport solutions that can be rolled out across supply chains for the benefit of the environment, the public and our customers.”

Tevva gets overseas investment

19 June 2018

Electric truck innovation specialist, Tevva Motors, is to benefit for a £10m investment from an Indian technology and engineering company.

Under the agreement with Bharat Forge, the Essex-based company says it will be in a position to boost its plans for global expansion as well as recruit more staff to its Chelmsford base.

The company, founded by Israeli entrepreneur Asher Bennett, makes electric trucks in the 7.5-tonne to 14-tonne range, many of which feature range-extending technology.

This combines unlimited range from an on-board generator with smart control Geofencing software to ensure minimum emissions in low-emission zones and city centres.

The company was established just over 4 years ago, with start-up capital from individual investors and a cornerstone investment from Angel CoFund, part of the government-owned British Business Bank.

Tevva’s UK-built products have been developed and trialled with parcel firm UPS since 2015, with the two firms looking to scale-up to fleet-wide trials through the DfT’s Low Emission Freight and Logistics Trial.

Pune-based Bharat Forge is a metals and minerals company, but has been working on its research, design and technology strategy in EVs for several years and believes that Tevva will be its perfect partner for e-mobility. The agreement between the two companies involves a licensing agreement that allows Bharat to own Tevva’s technology in its domestic market.

“We are delighted that BFL has decided to make this major strategic investment in Tevva to support the next phase of our expansion,” said Edward Hyams, Tevva Chairman. “This new funding will enable us to scale up our operations in the UK and get more electric trucks onto the roads helping to meet the needs of zero-emission zones in cities such as London and Leeds, as well as internationally.”

Ford develops autonomous takeaway delivery vans

19 June 2018

Ford will be the first vehicle manufacturer to develop self-driving takeaway delivery vans, working in conjunction with an online fast-food retail platform in the USA.

A fleet of autonomous Transit Connects will go into service in association with Postmates, which works along similar lines to online takeaway apps such as JustEat. The customer places their order and the food is delivered to their home via a delivery service.

The Transit Connects are initially going into service in Miami, Florida, with a view to the technology being used globally, and will be delivering tacos and pizzas in association with two major chains.

The vans feature security lockers into which the takeaway restaurant can deposit the food, with the customer being given a unique PIN number to access the lockers when the vans arrive at their homes. An automated text message will inform them when the delivery has arrived.

“With this pilot, Ford is learning how businesses and restaurants will need to interact with and load a self-driving vehicle, and whether there are any obstacles to overcome,” said Alexandra Ford-English, from Ford’s Autonomous Vehicle Business Team.

While the initial vehicles on test will have autonomous features, they will be manned by an experienced driver and manually operated to comply with legislation, but the locker system will operate as it would in full service. Fully autonomous delivery vehicles are being developed separately and will be put into trial service as soon as legislation allows.

Feature: How autonomous systems are tested to perform safely in winter

20 June 2018

The commercial vehicle industry is constantly testing and developing technology to ensure vehicles remain safe on our roads. One area in which CV manufacturers are focusing is driverless technology in adverse weather conditions.

Manufacturers already perform extensive vehicle testing in extreme winter conditions in order to guarantee that their products remain reliable all year round. In the future, that requirement will extend to the emerging field of autonomous systems, too. Industry suppliers and government agencies are collaborating to ensure that driverless technology will continue to function safely.

One such example is the Finnish Transport Agency (FTA)’s Aurora project in Lapland, part of a wider transport services market collaboration.

The E4/E8 corridor is used by trucks that bring salmon over the border from Norway and down to Helsinki airport for export. Now a 10km stretch of the E8 has been upfitted with cameras, scanners, marker posts, a positioning service and communications infrastructure. Industry and technology specialists are already taking advantage of this ‘open ecosystem’ to test their latest developmentsin snowy and icy Arctic conditions.

“Part of the Aurora project is the Arctic Challenge study, where proof-of-concept vehicles are testing sensors, information technology and physical and digital infrastructure adaptations that will hopefully be capable of handling winter conditions,” says Ilkka Kotilainen, Arctic Challenge project manager at the FTA. “If we want year-round, 24/7 automated driving, we’ll need Nordic know-how and the ability to handle Arctic conditions.”

Offered as a complement to private test tracks, this is no well-lit, gritted motorway: in an area that experiences winter conditions for around eight months a year, this tree-lined road already provides challenging conditions for logistics companies and their drivers. As such, it is an ideal winter test ground for driverless technologies.

The first of three Arctic Challenge open test sessions concluded in January, with preliminary results to be published in the summer by participating industry coalitions and the FTA. The second will come in October 2018, with the last to be held in March next year. The lessons learned will be made public at the end of 2019 and presented at international conferences in 2020.

One of the companies testing its technology at Aurora is Sensible4. This Finnish startup is developing a control system for autonomous vehicles that will be initially targeted at buses and other shared vehicles such as rental cars and taxis, where removing the driver provides a clearer business case to make the switch to autonomy. In time, it expects its Level 4 autonomy-capable system to appear on trucks, too. The company has no plans to manufacture entire vehicles but is building a winter-capable autonomous shuttle bus as a technology demonstrator.

“We’re focused on winter development, but there’s demand for this technology from areas where, for example, tropical rains also create problems for these systems,” observes Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible4. “Extreme climate conditions are a way of validating that your system is environmentally agnostic. The point of going to Lapland for testing is that if we’re comfortable with the positioning and obstacle detection in those conditions, then we’ll be fine in milder conditions as well.”

Santamala identifies the positioning, obstacle detection and driving dynamics of autonomous vehicles as all being a challenge in winter conditions. Road markings and signs are obscured, familiar shapes such as buildings and vegetation change form when covered in snow, and the available grip can change quickly.

The solutions lie in ensuring that more than one type of sensor is providing data on the vehicle’s surroundings, in careful processing of that data, in robust tuning of the vehicle control system, and in using the shared information from vehicle-to-vehicle, to anticipate the conditions ahead and adjust the vehicle’s behaviour accordingly.

Elsewhere, autonomous technologies are being developed to remove snow – specifically, from airport runways. Once again the impetus is coming from a Nordic country, but the systems being developed could help prevent costly flight cancellations at UK airports, too.

In Norway, airport operator Avinor is targeting remote operation for some of its lesser-used regional airports. Part of the project involves remote control-tower functions; another is remote snow removal. This winter, a successful demonstration with RTK GPS-guided Mercedes trucks was completed by Yeti Snow Technology – a 50/50 joint-venture between technology company Semcon and Øveraasen, a supplier of airport snow-removal equipment – to clear a runway at Fagernes airport, 120 miles north of Oslo. Next winter, with drivers on board as backup, Yeti’s removal planning and control technology is expected to be trialed in routine snow clearance at several Norwegian airports.

“Removing snow involves multiple vehicles,” explains John Emil Halden, project manager at Semcon. “Several vehicles have a plough, a brush and a blower. Then you have a large snow blower, a command car and a dumper, all working together to clear the runway. We’re making a system for all of these kinds of vehicle. In the trials, some will be autonomous, some will have driver assistance, and some will be monitored to learn and see how they work.”

Semcon envisages a four-step path to full autonomy. First, a planning and training module will digitally plan airport snow-removal operations. This is crucial because different types of snow and different weather conditions – wind direction, etc – affect the removal process.

The second step will be to instrument vehicles with navigation and communication equipment so that the manually driven vehicles can be monitored and logged in real time. A third will be to provide driver assistance – instructions on where to drive and what to do with the equipment. Finally, when autonomous vehicles are available from the OEMs – which Halden believes could be only two-three years away – they will be incorporated into the snow-removal mission.

The planning and monitoring, training and driver-assistance functions are all expected to provide value to infrequently snowy airports, such as those in the UK.

“You can do a lot of system learning in the first two-three years on an airport equipped with the planning and monitoring system,” claims Halden. “You continually refine the snow-removal plans based on the logs. Airports that will never go fully autonomous could still derive efficiency benefits from this through refining the plans and training their personnel.

“At airports where you have less frequent snowfalls, people have less training and more need for this system to help them,” he observes. “At a larger airport with a lot of traffic and only a few snowy days, having as many as 300-400 trained people on standby represents a substantial cost. I think these airports will want the driver-assistance system, too, because it will provide online, real-time instructions on how to operate. That could be available within three years.”

Autonomous containers take to the air

19 June 2018

It may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but major parcel companies are exploring the possibility of using autonomous flying containers to replace trucks for long-distance haulage.

Elroy Air, a San Francisco-based start-up company, is in discussion with UPS and FedEx to pioneer the technology, which would use shipping containers with helicopter-style blades that operate using the same technology as drones, but in a much heavier duty form.

The idea is that the drone containers would fly to central cargo hubs, where they would be ‘landed’ onto trucks to complete the regional delivery cycle, reducing the need for trucks to cover such long distances.

“Companies that can respond and be faster and more flexible will be the winners as the logistics landscape continues to change,” said David Merrill, Elroy Air’s co-founder.

The Cargo drone companies will be among the first flying autonomous commercial aircraft, because they will initially fly in thinly populated areas where safety is less of a concern.

Elroy Air has already tested the flying containers in controlled airspace at Camp Roberts, a National Guard post in Central California. The prototype includes a detachable cargo pod that can be mounted onto a truck chassis.

“A lot of these companies like FedEx or UPS, with a fleet of aircraft to support their operations, are thinking very strategically about the long-term future of aerospace,” said Jesse Gipe, Senior Manager of Economic Development at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. “The consensus is that a lot of manned operations eventually will move to unmanned at those companies.”

Optare takes first Euro 6 Metrodecker order

19 June 2018

Yorkshire-based bus manufacturer, Optare, has taken its first order for its ULEZ-compliant Metrodecker Euro 6 double decker bus, which will go into service with Reading Buses later this year.

The order is for five vehicles to operate on the Green Line 702 route between London and Windsor and is due for delivery in June 2019, ahead of the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) coming into operation. ULEZ will require all vehicles operating into Central London to meet Euro 6 engine emission standards.

Optare and Reading Buses have worked together to develop the Green Line buses, which will feature 70 seats, wood laminate flooring, USB charging points, mobile phone holders, seat back tables and 4G Wi-Fi. The vehicles will also be fitted with three-point seatbelts.

John Bickerton, Head of Engineering and Innovation, Reading Buses, said, “The Metrodecker order follows us evaluating the vehicle with a pre-production demonstrator. Two years ago, we put the Metrodecker through its paces for its first ever in service ‘shakedown’ trial, but what is most impressive is that two years on the demonstrator vehicle currently in service with us is still giving great performance, class leading fuel economy, demonstrating a very robust build quality and is getting great feedback from drivers and customers alike.”

Graham Belgium, Optare president said, “This order is fantastic news for Optare and I am confident that after all the positive feedback we have had from operators, drivers and passengers alike about the Metrodecker Euro 6 and EV demonstrators that this order will be the first of many.”

Fleet Engineer Awards open for entries

19 June 2018

An awards competition that recognises skills in the transport engineering sector is now open for entries.

Backed by CV Show partner IRTE, the Fleet Engineer of the Year Awards recognise excellence in fleet engineering across road transport fields, including HGVs, buses, coaches and trailers and will be judged by members of the IRTE’s technical committee.

According to IRTE, the winners will be fleet engineers that have recognised that excellence in their discipline combined with creativity and innovation are the critical elements of continuous improvement and efficiency for their fleet operation.

The awards scheme is open to engineers that work across the entire commercial vehicle fleet industry, and they don’t need to be members of IRTE or its parent organisation, the Society of Operations Engineers (SoE) in order to enter.

There will be two categories – Fleet Engineer of the Year (HGV) and Fleet Engineer of the Year (Bus and Coach), with the awards being presented at the IRTE Conference dinner, to be held on September 26 at the Leicester Marriott hotel. All shortlisted entrants will be invited, with the winners announced on the night.

The deadline for entries is July 20, with more details available at

ADL wins sustainable transport award

19 June 2018

Falkirk-based bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) has won the 2018 Scottish Transport Award for Contribution to Sustainable Transport with its SmartPack and SmartHybrid technology for efficient diesel Low Emission Buses.

SmartPack and SmartHybrid are efficiency enhancements for Euro 6 diesel buses, reducing emissions and improving fuel economy to make the provision of bus services more cost- efficient and sustainable.

Keith Watson, ADL Customer Development Director, said, “We are delighted with this recognition of our efforts to provide an affordable means of delivering cleaner buses on a large scale. Combining low emissions with low investment cost over conventional buses, ADL Enviro200 and Enviro400 buses with SmartPack and SmartHybrid efficient diesel technology are part of the solution to the air quality challenge not only in Scotland but across the world.”

SmartPack is centred on the smart management of alternator and air compressor, which are controlled to only charge during vehicle deceleration when they place no additional load on the engine. This is combined with engine stop/start technology, as well as electrically-driven cooling fans and mass reduction. It has been available since 2016 on most variants of the Enviro200 single deck and Enviro400 double-deck buses, which together account for over 60% of all new diesel buses registered in the United Kingdom.

Enviro200 and Enviro400 buses with SmartPack are accredited as Low Emission Buses by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), in whose tests the technology delivers an 18% to 24% reduction in well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions compared with a Euro 5 bus.

They technology qualifies for grants from the Scottish Green Bus Fund. First West Lothian is using the technology to reduce emissions on services from Bathgate and Livingston into Edinburgh city centre. Similar funding was awarded to First Glasgow and First Aberdeen and led to the introduction of low emission buses in these cities. Other Scottish operators, including Stagecoach and independent Whitelaws Coaches, have also fitted SmartPack.

SmartHybrid is a LowCVP-accredited system that builds upon SmartPack and adds a 48V hybrid system, which recovers kinetic energy during vehicle deceleration, stores it on-board, and uses it to provide torque to the driveline when required during subsequent acceleration.

The energy storage is supercapacitor based rather than using batteries, removing the need for component replacement during the vehicle’s normal operating life.

Self-driving trials soon to start in the UK

13 June 2018

Real-world testing of autonomous self-driving vehicles will soon begin on roads in central England, with another major partner signing up to the Midlands Future Mobility project.

HORIBA MIRA, which incorporates the former Motor Industry Research Association, will apply advanced engineering, research and product testing to the Midlands-based consortium of industry and academic experts.

The consortium is led by WMG, University of Warwick, and includes Amey, AVL, Costain, Coventry University, HORIBA MIRA, Transport for West Midlands, University of Warwick and Wireless Infrastructure Group. It is funded by the industrial partners and Innovate UK as part of the wider Meridian Testbed UK initiative.

Midlands Future Mobility will use over 50 miles of Coventry and Birmingham roads to establish the Midlands as a world class UK centre for the development, and evaluation of, connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) and related technologies and services.

End users will have access to a combination of urban roads, including intersections, junctions and pedestrian controlled areas, with hybrid connectivity and monitoring of tests and trials.

HORIBA MIRA’s role in the project includes providing guidance on simulation and modelling. This involves selecting the appropriate simulation and modelling tools to be used for the project, the development of guidance and case studies to support the planning for CAV test cases, and developing driver-in-the-loop and testbed models to aide future CAV testbed trials.

The consortium will be at the heart of the UK’s transport network, making a significant contribution to the UK’s national transport strategy, and will play a crucial role in shaping the transport sector. It will help establish the UK’s presence in the connected and autonomous market and contribute to the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

Project leader Professor Paul Jennings, from WMG, said, “New mobility technology and services will lead to safer, greener and more efficient transportation for people and goods. The Midlands has a proud heritage in the UK automotive industry. Now our expertise, infrastructure and innovative technologies will set the future for the entire UK road transport system, creating knowledge, developing key skills and contributing to the national economy.”

London Mayor confirms ULEZ extension

13 June 2018

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has confirmed that the capital’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will expand out to the North and South Circular roads from 25 October 2021.

The new ULEZ will cover an area 18 times larger than the initial Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone, which is to be introduced in the centre of the city from early 2019.

The ULEZ will replace the current T-Charge emissions surcharge applied to older vehicles entering the capital and will see vehicles that do not meet certain emissions standards liable for a daily charge to drive within the zone, ranging from £12.50 for vans and light trucks up to £100 for pre-Euro 6 heavy goods vehicles.

Drivers within the expanded zone using non-compliant vehicles will pay a daily ULEZ charge of £12.50, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. These include motorbikes that do not meet Euro 3 standards, petrol cars and vans that do not meet Euro 4 and diesel cars and vans that do not meet Euro 6 standards.

Mayor Khan said: “I promised hard-hitting measures to tackle air pollution and City Hall is confirming the next stage of our plans to expand the Ultra-Low Emission Zone up to the north and south circular roads.”

The public consultation on expanding the ULEZ was the largest ever recorded by TfL, City Hall said, with 56% of respondents supporting the expansion of the ULEZ boundary from central London.