20 Sep 18

IAA Hanover 2018: electric is entering the LCV mainstream

The IAA in Hanover – Europe’s largest commercial vehicles show - had better change its name to E-AA. Almost every OEM in every LCV segment is flipping the switch towards electric propulsion. Another phenomenon that is no longer a phenomenon: smart logistics and telematics.
Judging by the number of exhibitors, trade shows like these seem less threatened by new ways of marketing and communicating than Paris and Frankfurt, incidentally. Fleet customers, from SMEs to large corporations, want to see the novelties in the flesh. But perhaps most of all, Hanover is a meeting place for suppliers of all tiers and their customers.
Click here to visit our live photo gallery showing the highlights of this year's IAA in Hanover.

Last mile delivery: the buzzword

Every OEM seems aware of the booming business that is e-commerce and the effects it has on their industry. Dense city traffic, lack of parking spaces, low-emission zones are challenges that lead to new concepts involving local hubs where packages are redistributed and taken to their destination by agile and flexible means of transport. Like e-bikes, for instance.

Ford presented its vision on an urban distribution van based on the Transit. It can carry a parcel bike in its cargo area, with which the driver can deliver packages while leaving this van parked outside the heart of the city. The bike is equipped with a tablet that connects to the logistics platform.

Autonomous pods

Renault showed the cargo version of its modular, autonomous and zero-emission concept revealed in Geneva in March: the EZ-Pro. The system is basically a train, pulled by a "leader pod" that can hold both packages and a human concierge. The train itself consists of "robo pods" that can carry parcels or act as a mobile coffee shop, a portable grocery store, or whatever else application you can imagine.

Mercedes sees things rather differently with its Vision Urbanetic. This concept allows you to swap bodies to match its cargo – in a matter of minutes. If you need to transport people, you can “click” a passenger module onto the base platform, which contains the electric propulsion system. The cargo module can take up to 10 Europallets.

E-vans: from a spark to a flame

Now that low-emission zones are becoming a reality and diesel is clearly not the option for local distribution, the big boys are also investing heavily in electric vans.

Ford showed the near-production version of its Transit Custom PHEV, which is equipped with a relatively small battery pack and a range extender in the shape of the well-known 1.0 EcoBoost petrol engine. Interestingly, the latter does not drive the wheels, but only acts as a generator.

Ford also has an all-electric Transit on offer, albeit one that carries the StreetScooter badge. The Work XL is based on a Transit chassis onto which are grafted a Bosch-sourced electric motor and a 76-kWh battery pack. Built to the wishes of DHL, this large electric van can carry 1,150 kg in its 20 m³ cargo area over a distance estimated at 250 km.

VW: quite the buzz

VW and Mercedes both have an electric model of their largest van: the eCrafter and eSprinter, respectively. They were joined for the occasion by the Crafter HyMotion – indeed, a hydrogen-based fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV), and the baby brother of the eSprinter, the eVito.

Most of the media attention went to the Cargo version of the very likeable VW Buzz – indeed, the Transporter of the next generation. Amongst its interesting features: a fold-down centre seat that carries an integrated computer station. It also has 230 V power outlets to charge tools.

Less tangible, but at least as promising is what Volkswagen calls Digital Cargo. This features smart shelves in the cargo area that interface with the company’s order management system to verify everything is on board before you leave.

Maxus: the Chinese readily-available alternative

Far more down to earth, but also raising lots of attention, is the China-built electric van Maxus EV80. In the LCV segment design, image and emotion are less of an obstacle than with passenger cars. Still, getting your product to market is extremely challenging.
That is why SAIC Mobility Europe, the European subsidiary of the large Chinese OEM that builds the electric Maxus EV80, has closed a European-wide partnership with LeasePlan. One of the first customers is the Norwegian post company.

Whereas most other builders of e-vans will keep you waiting for several months, if not a year, to deliver their latest products, Maxus can ship as many EV80 as you like – the model has been rolling off the production line for quite some time now in its native China. And that may just be a major advantage in this fast-changing LCV landscape.
Picture copyright: Dieter Quartier, 2018
Authored by: Dieter Quartier