The road ahead for commercial vehicle design

Written by: Roger Brereton | Published:

Time magazine has announced its Person of the Year for 2019 as Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who has inspired a global movement to fight climate change. This is a poignant reminder that sustainability and environmental issues will be high on the global agenda in 2020, and the commercial vehicle sector is no exception. Here, Roger Brereton, head of sales at steering system manufacturer Pailton Engineering, explains three commercial vehicle design trends to look out for this year.

Vehicle design trends are driven by many factors, some of which are region specific. In Europe and America, the shift towards a digital platform ecosystem has disrupted the industry, while changes in the logistics landscape will affect today’s customer structure and result in the expected growth of large fleets.

Globally, two megatrends continue to propel change in the commercial vehicle sector; specifically, the need for cleaner and safer mobility. To achieve these important objectives, technology will play a leading role. Design engineers have developed many innovative design concepts for commercial vehicles. However, Pailton Engineering predicts that three key trends will have an impact in 2020: digitalisation, vehicle electrification and autonomous driving technologies.

Digitalisation

According to the Connected Truck Market Report 2020, the global connected truck market is expected to continue growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29.7 per cent during 2020-2022. The latest Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled fleet management systems can improve operational efficiency, maintenance costs, fuel consumption and regulatory compliance. Coupled with quality truck parts, IoT technologies will continue to offer design benefits in 2020.

Vehicle electrification

Electric vehicles (EVs) are contributing to cleaner, greener transportation networks. Urban electric buses are one of the fastest growing EV markets, and the commercial vehicle sector is following this example in urban settings.

Low or zero emission urban delivery vehicles are needed to meet Euro VI standards that apply to heavy duty vehicles. The Euro VI emission limits became mandatory in January 2013, but new stricter limits have recently been introduced. For fuelling commercial vehicles, gas is currently the only real alternative to diesel for long-distance freight. However, electric power will certainly have its place for transporting goods over shorter distances, to provide zero emissions in some road freight scenarios.

This shift will push vehicle OEMs to invest in electric and hybrid powertrains. These include batteries, as well as lightweight and aerodynamic drag-reducing technologies that could increase vehicle operating efficiency.

Autonomous driving

Autonomous driving can significantly impact the total cost of vehicle ownership. Although full autonomy is not yet expected, we are seeing partial automation and conditional automation technologies being adopted. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has established a set of guidelines in driverless vehicles, ranging from 0 (no automation) to 5 (full automation). Driver assistance technology could increase road safety by providing lane change assistance for example. This technology uses sensors to warn a driver of imminent collisions. Providing drivers with greater road and vehicle insights through artificial intelligence (AI) could contribute to an increase in operational efficiency, therefore cutting down on unnecessary resource wastage.

It’s essential that OEMs have an awareness of the changing competitive environment to make informed strategic decisions. OEMs should also leverage partnerships to make the most of new design technologies such as digitalisation, electrification and autonomous driving. In the long run, it’s about the small changes that manufacturers can make when striving for safer and more environmentally friendly engineering concepts. Who knows, 2020’s cover of Time magazine may feature an innovative commercial vehicle design engineer whose work has significantly benefitted society.


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