Renault unveils high-tech rigid for urban environments

Renault Trucks has unveiled a new prototype medium-rigid truck for urban distribution work that could cut fuel consumption by 13 per cent.

The ‘Urban Lab 2’ is based on the company’s 19-tonne D WIDE Euro VI model and is supposed to showcase how best-in-class technologies from various industry segments could be combined to optimise efficiency.

Developed in cooperation with Valeo, Lamberet, Michelin, BeNomad, INSA Lyon (LamCoS) and IFSTTAR (LICIT), Urban Lab 2 focuses specifically on optimising aerodynamic and tyre performance, as well as the drive chain and vehicle connectivity.

To reduce the aerodynamic drag of the truck, French body builder Lamberet and Renault Trucks adapted the cab, chassis and refrigerated body to the recommendations of aerodynamic specialists, for example, all while meeting the regulatory and operating requirements of controlled-temperature transport in Europe.

“The refrigeration unit is normally located above the cab”, explained François Savoye, Energy Efficiency Strategy Manager at Renault Trucks. “On Urban Lab 2, we decided to position it in the wheelbase of the vehicle to free up space overhead and optimise the body/tractor link to lower the body and improve airflow.

“This meant we could incorporate a roof deflector shaped to provide seamless continuity with the body.”

Re-designing the interior architecture of the refrigerated body has made a marked improvement in the shape of the roof, Savoye added, without adding to the height.

As for the sides of the vehicle, these are fitted with textile side deflectors. “We have used a PVC-coated textile for the first time”, he said. “When stretched and fitted on the side protectors, it provides a light, effective and economic system.”

To reduce fuel consumption, Urban Lab 2 was reportedly fitted with a system combining Stop & Start and micro-hybrid technology, developed in partnership with Valeo.

While the Stop & Start system cuts the engine when the vehicle comes to a halt, the micro-hybrid system recovers ‘free’ energy, such as energy generated during foot lift or braking, via a high-power (48 V) reversible electric machine.

To improve connectivity, Renault worked with BeNomad to develop a special navigation software that proposes the route that is the most efficient and uses the least fuel – estimating both the predicted journey time and fuel consumption.

“The software has been configured to take not only fuel consumption into account, but also, and above all, the operational constraints of a distribution vehicle,” Renault said.

The software is also connected to infrastructures to optimise driving through green lights. When Urban Lab 2 approaches traffic lights, it receives information from the lights and the system calculates if it is more efficient to brake or accelerate, when conditions and regulations allow it to do so, Renault explained.

Lastly, Michelin developed a set of energy-saving tyres specially designed for distribution vehicles. “The objective of these tyres is to further reduce rolling resistance, without negatively impacting other performance criteria, such as safety, grip or longevity”, explained François-Jacques Cordonnier, Truck Pre-development Manager at Michelin.

Urban Lab 2 is the result of the EDIT (Efficient Distribution Truck) project, financed by a range of French industry funds.

The vehicle was tested for the first time on a closed circuit in November and will be road-tested in Bordeaux from February 2017.

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