RDE (real driving emissions) testing – due to come into force under EU type approval from 2017, and affecting vans and cars – could limit choices. “It may restrict the number of engines, transmissions and body shapes manufacturers can offer,” stated Dr George Gillespie, chief executive of transport R&D specialist Horiba Mira, speaking at last month’s SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) International Automotive Summit 2016.
Why? RDE will require emissions to be measured for each vehicle type on the public highway following a set route. That won’t be cheap, so, in a bid to contain costs, manufacturers may opt to narrow their ranges. However, the dust has not settled on this yet: at the London summit, light commercial makers were seeking clarity about how these tests will be conducted. Will, for example, vans be driven unladen, part laden, or fully laden, with the obvious impact on, emissions and fuel consumption?
That said, urban authorities eager to cut emissions of NOx and particulates from commercial vehicles are being encouraged to consider assisting with alternative technologies – and, in particular, electric vans. Iveco UK managing director Stuart Webster suggested one way forward might be “to raise the O licence threshold from 3.5 to 4.25 tonnes for electric vehicles”. That way, such vehicles could compete on a level playing field against conventional vans, with operators able to achieve economically-viable payloads.
But it’s not just about vans. LNG (liquefied natural gas) could be an option for long-haul trucks, he added, pointing to Iveco’s recently launched 400bhp dedicated gas version of the Stralis – the so-called NP. A 6x2 version of this tractor unit is due in 2017. However, running three axles limits the size of gas tanks and hence the range.
Another way to cut fuel and emissions, and make more efficient use of available road space might be platooning? While not disputing that the technology works, DAF UK managing director Ray Ashworth wondered about its applicability in Britain, given that motorway junctions on average just 4.5 miles apart. That being the case, the requisite narrow gap between trucks would have to keep widening to give other vehicles space to leave and join.“It’s probably a more viable solution for the USA and Australia where intervals between junctions are much longer,” he said.
Meanwhile, on that other critical subject, the safety of vulnerable road users, Ashworth revealed that DAF is developing an active safety system that not only alerts drivers to cyclists and pedestrians getting perilously close, but also automatically brings trucks to a halt. He believes this approach is preferable to adding increasing numbers of passive safety systems – such as extra cab nearside door windows, which, he insists, require drivers to do too much too quickly.
Windows and passive sensor systems are largely being installed at the behest of politicians and big-city councillors, he asserted. Ashworth would prefer them to tell truck makers such as DAF what they see as the problem and leave them to solve it, rather than imposing their own solutions.