Overall commercial vehicle production falls in first half of 2017 despite strong export growth

27 July 2017

  • British commercial vehicle manufacturing falls -4.7% in June 2017 with 7,324 CVs built last month.
  • Production in first six months declines -8.1% to 43,782 units.
  • Exports rise for first half of 2017, up 11.9% with 27,818 UK-built CVs sold internationally.

British commercial vehicle manufacturing declined -4.7% to 7,324 units in June 2017, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Year-to-date figures also fell, down -8.1% to 43,782.

Exports drove the sector, up 9.6% in June and 11.9% in the year-to-date. 27,818 of the vans, trucks, buses and coaches built in the UK so far this year have been exported, bolstered by a strong European market.1 63.5% of all production in 2017 has been for overseas demand – the highest level in seven years.2 This rise couldn’t offset the ease in domestic production, which fell -29.9% in the first six months of the year following two years of very strong growth in the UK market.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

While domestic demand eased following years of significant growth, these figures demonstrate the importance of exports to commercial vehicle manufacturing. With such high levels destined for overseas markets, the vast majority going to Europe, maintaining competitive trading conditions with our most significant partner will be vital in order to future-proof the success of the sector.

Notes to editors

1. The European CV market rose 4.2% Jan-Jun 2017, ACEA.
2. Jan-Jun 2010 69.7% of British-built CVs were exported.

New METRO electric microvans could come to Europe

27 July 2017

A new Chinese-designed compact electric utility vehicle could be making its European debut after going into production in kit form in the USA.

Called the Tropos METRO, the all-electric vehicle is built in a modular fashion on a separate chassis, which contains a lithium-ion battery. It is claimed to be one of the cheapest and easiest to assemble electric vehicles in existence, and is supplied to its California-based distributor, Cenntro, in unassembled kit form from China.

The kits are then assembled at plants in California and New Jersey for distribution across the US, and the company say it is looking for similar distribution arrangements in Europe.
The METRO is currently available in three basic configurations, a pickup bed, cargo box, and tradesman package, all of which can be modified to suit the operator’s unique needs, before or after purchase. These include tipper bodies, dropside and delivery-specific box van bodies.

“The METRO is ideal for college campuses, municipalities and local business who are striving for the most contemporary transport options and a low carbon footprint,” said John Bautista, CEO of Tropos Technologies. “Hundreds of METRO vehicles are delivering goods, services, and passengers all over Asia, and we’re excited to be the leading distributor in the US for such an innovative solution to the low-speed vehicle segment.”

The METRO has a power output of 10kW and a range of up to 120 miles, with a top speed of around 50mph. It can carry a payload of up to 545kg.

“With the METRO, we are pushing fleets to reimagine the value their compact utility vehicles bring to their overall operations,” said Peter Wang, CEO of the US assembly operation Cenntro Automotive. “Counterparts to the METRO simply do not provide the market the complete package customers are looking for, and at Cenntro, we’re dedicated to doing better than the status quo. From our 100% US final assembly to our integrated powertrain, Cenntro electric vehicles deliver high-value, dependable and low cost of ownership vehicles to meet market demand.”

Metroline wins electric bus tender

27 July 2017

A London operator has been granted permission to run an additional fleet of electric buses, with 23 10.8 metre vehicles and their associated infrastructure due to be in service by summer 2018.

The buses will be operated by Metroline and will be supplied by the BYD/Alexander-Dennis Limited (ADL) partnership. They will be based at the operator’s Holloway garage and will operate on Route 46 from Lancaster Gate to St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

BYD will supply the required charging equipment at Holloway and, in association with electricity supplier SSE, will work with Metroline on related infrastructure.

Metroline has been operating five BYD pure electric double decks, the world’s first, on Route 98 since May 2016. The buses, built in China and unveiled during Chinese President Xi’s visit to Britain in 2015, are pre-production pilot models which have been on trial to see if electric technology works on double as well as single deck buses.

Metroline’s Chief Operating Officer Sean O’Shea said, “As the operator that launched the world’s first all-electric, zero emission double decker bus service in London last year, Metroline is pleased to be able to follow this with an additional 23 single deck models to serve Route 46. This is a significant step, and further underscores our determination to lead the industry as well as our commitment to our customers and Transport for London to deliver the very best service possible.”

Isbrand Ho, BYD’s MD for Europe, said, “We are delighted that Metroline has joined the growing circle of TfL operators choosing British-built buses from BYD ADL. We are confident that, as elsewhere in London, this fleet will prove efficient and reliable in service.”

Feature: How Ford’s plug-in Transit trial will electrify London fleets

27 July 2017

Ford’s London-based trial of plug-in hybrid Transit Custom vans will get underway in a matter of weeks.

The manufacturer announced plans to set to work 20 examples of its best-selling, one-tonne LCV – complete with a mix of internal combustion engines and plug-in electric power – in January this year. The trial is due to commence in the final quarter of 2017, when a variety of public and private sector businesses will adopt the vans onto their fleets.

The project will be run in partnership with Transport for London (TfL) and the government-funded Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), with the latter organisation providing funding in the form of a £4.7m grant.

Speaking to Transport News Brief, Mark Harvey, Ford’s recently-appointed Director of Urban Electric Van Programmes, explains the basics of the scheme. “It’s a year-long trial and 20 vans will be participating,” he said. “We have named some of the fleets already; some of the vehicles will be with TfL, as they’re the key partner, the Metropolitan Police will have a couple and the rest will be with commercial fleets [including] Clancy Plant, British Gas and Addison Lee for their courier work. We have ongoing discussions with a number of other fleets and we’ll be announcing them later in the year.”

TfL is to run three vans as part of the trial, which will be used for freight duties, while the Met’s pair of Custom PHEVs will be used for very different purposes: one as a liveried, second response vehicle to traffic accidents, the other an unmarked forensic support unit.

Though plug-in hybrid vehicles use both a petrol or diesel engine and battery-powered electric motor, the idea is that the Transits run on electricity most of the time, as Ford claims the project aims to address the capital’s air quality issues. It also wants to gather information about the way in which businesses operating in urban environments use plug-in hybrids.

Harvey said, “The strong feedback we got from those fleets was that a number of them were already using battery electric vehicles – with very mixed experiences, it’s fair to say. A lot of them were not happy with some of the ranges they were seeing in the real world, versus the quoted figures, and they had some acceptance struggles from their employees who used them, given the inconveniences that they created, and the range anxiety. A lot of them were really looking for the flexibility and the elimination of range anxiety that a plug-in hybrid brings.”

As well as establishing exactly how the vans will be used by fleets day-to-day, the project will also give businesses and public sector organisations a flavour of what it’s like to live and work with plug-in LCVs.

“It’s really giving [operators] the understanding of how they could make an electrified product work in their operation,” said Harvey. “There’s huge pressure on a number of them – as public organisations and as commercials – to be going towards electric vehicles. A lot of tenders are specifying it for future work, for example, so they’ve got strong pressure to get electric vehicles into their fleet.”

“A number of them are a long way down that journey already and have a lot of experience. Others less so; they have a lot of pre-conceived barriers to adopting electric vehicles, and they want to use the trial to see if some of those barriers are real, how they can integrate [the vehicles] into their existing operations and mange some of the challenges they present. We’re supporting that with a telematics system, which will be getting lots of real-time data off the vehicles, to understand how they’re being operated, how their being used and what benefit they should bring to those organisations.”

Ford is hoping to soak up a heap of information throughout the trial, including details on the vans’ environmental and financial performance, along with any golden nuggets about how companies can use plug-in hybrid LCVs to their advantage. It recently announced the opening of a smart mobility innovation office in Here East, the former media centre for the 2012 Olympics, where some of the data processing from the trial will take place.

Harvey explained, “We need to get [the vans] racked and pre-prepped to the requirements of the fleets before getting out on the road and gathering data and real miles of usage [but when the trial commences] we will have a huge amount of real world leanings around both the vehicle, potential services that could compliment it, vehicle use cases and [information about] how the vehicle is operating in the city. As part of the announcement of the trial and the product, we explained our intention to put it into mass production in 2019.

“All those leanings will help us to ensure we understand who the vehicle is best-suited to, because clearly, a plug-in hybrid is not the solution for everyone. If you’re running between, say, London and Birmingham or London and Manchester every day, then a stage six diesel is by far and away a better solution, but for an urban environment, [a plug-in hybrid] a very good solution. We’ll hopefully have the data to back that up, and we’ll be using it to educate people as we move towards the mass-production product.”

The Transit Custom PHEV trial is one element of a big push towards electric commercial vehicles on Ford’s part. When it announced plans for the experiment at the start of the year, it also revealed its intentions to electrify an increasing number of its biggest-selling commercial vehicles, and said it would release 13 new EV products during the next five years.

Flashing bike could save lives

27 July 2017

A flashing LED bicycle logo is one of the latest ways in which a company that helps operators communicate with vulnerable road users is aiming to protect two-wheeled commuters.

As part of Sentinel Systems’ ‘Bike Hotspot’ package, the new LED sign is part of a system designed for operators to help promote cyclist safety and protect vulnerable road users.

The flashing bicycle LED is mounted on the tailboard of a van or truck, and illuminates in tandem with the vehicle indicator as an additional, more visible warning that the vehicle is about to turn left or perform a reversing manoeuvre.

The Bike Hotspot system works by fitting sensors on the nearside of the vehicle, and the sign will activate at speeds lower than 10mph. The sensors are linked to a choice of alarm, including in cab sounds, LED lights and external speakers that warn cyclists to move away from the vehicle. Installing the sign onto vehicles will give cyclists a visual indication that the vehicle is about to manoeuvre, giving them time to stay out of the way of any potential harm.

With 19,000 cyclists being killed or injured in road accidents every year in the UK, the Bike Hotspot system not only saves lives, but also prevents side damage to vehicles, reducing potential insurance claims and vehicle downtime. 20% of fatalities occur in collisions with HGVs, particularly when vehicles are turning left, but the Bike Hotspot system detects and warns cyclists before an accident can happen.

Andover Trailers spreads the load for FM Conway

27 July 2017

A British trailer manufacturer has come up with a way to ensure road construction companies can save huge amounts of money transporting road surfacing equipment across Europe.
Andover Trailers, a Hampshire-based plant transport specialist, was tasked with creating a trailer that is capable of moving asphalt chip spreaders used by civil engineering company FM Conway Ltd.

Built by Tex Engineering, the chip spreaders are vital to FM Conway’s highway surfacing and maintenance operations and were previously supplied with their own purpose-built trailers which, due to a lack of powered braking, could not be used on EU roads.

Instead, the chip spreader and trailer had to be mounted on a separate stepframe trailer for transportation on public highways.

Andover Trailers’ design team were given the measurements for two different sized chip spreaders and access to one of the existing trailers to assist with the design process. From there, they developed a road-legal, nine-tonne tandem-axle drawbar trailer capable of carrying either of the two chip spreader variants.

The finished product is equipped with Gigant axles on steel-spring suspension. It features a full air braking system, LED lighting and aluminium loading ramps that allow loading and unloading from either side.

The new trailer means either size of chip spreader can be towed to site using the company’s Volvo FE320 4×2 rigid. This improvement in operational efficiency translates into significant cost savings for FM Conway and its customers, as the trailer will be in regular use on projects across London and the south east.

John Tobin, Asset Manager at FM Conway, said, “Moving our chip spreaders in the past has always been an arduous procedure that took up time, money and manpower. We’re always looking for new ways to improve the way we work and deliver efficiencies for customers so we asked the team at Andover Trailers to help us design a more suitable solution.”

“We’ve worked with Andover for the past 27 years so we knew that if we sent them the machine specs and challenged them to devise a more efficient means of transfer we wouldn’t be disappointed. As expected, they produced the goods and we now have a safe, fast way of transporting the spreaders to site, helping us to continue delivering great projects for our clients.”

Based in Sevenoaks, Kent, FM Conway has more than 50 years’ experience working on road and infrastructure projects across the South-East.

Bendy buses to make a comeback

27 July 2017

Bendy buses are making a return to London’s streets, six years after the last of the controversial articulated vehicles went out of service in the capital.

The Mercedes-Benz Citaros, which are hinged in the middle, are going into service with Middlesex-based OmniServ for its operations around Gatwick and Bristol Airports. The three-door buses have a passenger capacity of 163 people, with 46 seated and the rest standing.

The move marks a return for the buses, which were introduced to the capital by former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone in 2001. While they were praised for their passenger carrying capability and good accessibility, the vehicles were disliked by cyclists and were criticised for blocking road junctions that weren’t designed for such lengthy vehicles.

Incoming Mayor Boris Johnson made it part of his 2008 Mayoral Election campaign to remove bendy buses from the city with the last service, between Hayes and White City, operating in December 2011.

The new 18-metre articulated buses include full luggage racking and LED destination displays with three interior display screens. They are Euro VI compliant and are fitted with a ZF six-speed Ecolife transmission.

Manchester-based service engineer scoops Volvo Trucks’ apprentice award

27 July 2017

A service engineer from Manchester has been named as Volvo Trucks’ ‘Apprentice of the Year’ 2017 at the annual Apprentice Awards.

Sam Fazackerley, from Manchester-based Thomas Hardie Commercials at Trafford Park, was presented with the award by the company’ Aftermarket Director Mark Cunnew at the annual ceremony, held last month at Stephenson College in Coalville, Leicestershire.

This year’s Highest Academic Achiever Award was won by Thomas Buckle of Crossroads Truck and Bus, York, and was presented to him by their HR Manager Kerah Laher. The Highest Vocational Achiever Award was presented to Michael Hughes from Volvo Truck and Bus Centre East Anglia, Bardon and the ‘Grafter’ Award was presented to winner Michael Yuruk from Volvo Truck and Bus Enfield by award sponsor Volvo Truck Driver Magazine Editor Matthew Eisenegger.

Inaugurated in 1995, the Volvo Apprentice Academy, described by Volvo Group Trucks’ UK & Ireland Managing Director Arne Knaben as ‘The best and most advanced truck manufacturers’ Apprentice Programme in the UK’, celebrates its 22nd anniversary this year with a further intake of new talent, keen to make their way in the progressive heavy truck industry.

New London taxi will pave way for new electric LCV

18 July 2017

The London Taxi Company has announced it is changing its name to The London EV Company (LEVC) at the launch of the new version of the traditional London Taxi, following an announcement earlier this year that the new cab will also form the basis of a plug-in hybrid light commercial vehicle.

LEVC is owned by Chinese parent company Geely Holdings, which also owns Volvo Cars, and will manufacturer the new taxi and its future LCV spin-off at its state-of-the-art factory in Ansty, Warwickshire, which it opened last year.

The taxi will run for about 70 miles on its battery, before switching to a petrol engine that operates as a range extender – effectively a generator that continues to supply charge to the electric motor rather than drive the wheels directly.

From next year, all new London cabs must be capable of zero tailpipe emissions, leading LEVC to develop its own powertrain. While the new taxi, named the TX, uses a petrol engine to sustain the electric motor’s batteries as a range-extender, there will be opportunities to fast charge the cabs using a new network of rapid chargers that are being installed in London before the end of 2018.

The company’s Chief Executive, Chris Gubbey, said, “London has led the way in setting out tough measures to reduce taxi and van emissions and in just a few short years we expect electric vehicles for the commercial operator will not just become commonplace, but mandatory in cities around the world, creating huge opportunities for LEVC globally.”

The new taxi will be on general sale from 1 August, to private individuals and taxi rental firms in London initially, while the cab will also be supplied to towns and cities outside of the capital, including some overseas. An order for 225 vehicles has already been placed by Dutch taxi operator RMC

New look and revised engines for Transit Custom

18 July 2017

Britain’s best-selling medium sized van has had a makeover, with an updated exterior, new interior, advanced driver assistance systems and a low emission engine variant.

The Ford Transit Custom gets a new nose in line with the styling of the new Fiesta hatchback, while its new cabin features harder wearing materials, 25-litres of stowage space in the dashboard, two-litre bottle holders and Ford’s Sync 3 connectivity system including wi-fi.

Ford has also added a new Econetic variant to the range, powered by a Dagenham-built 2.0-litre Ecoblue engine. The new model produces 104bhp and 148g/km of CO2emissions, and comes with auto stop-start, low rolling resistance tyres and a 62mph speed limiter. It offers a combined fuel economy figure of 49.6mpg, a 6% improvement over the most efficient version of the current model.

The range includes a number of advanced driver assistance features, and is the first commercial vehicle to offer an Intelligent Speed Limiter, which enables automatic adjustment of maximum speed to remain within legal limits, using a traffic sign recognition system to detect speed limit signs.

The new model also offers Ford’s Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, which warns drivers reversing out of a parking space of vehicles that may soon be crossing behind them, ideal for vans that often have restricted rearward visibility.

The line-up also includes Ford’s six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, unveiled at this year’s CV Show, and a unique-to-segment rear air suspension system that delivers a supple and level ride across a wide range of conditions.

Customers can also specify a new ‘Upfitter Interface Module’, which allows aftermarket conversions and accessories to access data from the vehicle’s telematics systems, so that they can be operated and controlled more efficiently using real-time vehicle data.

Hans Schep, General Manager of Commercial Vehicles, Ford of Europe, said, “Transit Custom has been a runaway success since it was introduced, and this new version raises the game once more. We have listened carefully to our customers and delivered a one-tonne van that is even more stylish, even more productive and packed with smart features.”

Ford is yet to confirm when orders can be placed but first deliveries are scheduled for early 2018.