The star turn at this year’s Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show was without doubt Volkswagen’s new 1,000kg-payload pick-up. Making its global debut at the sprawling German exhibition in 4x4 double cab guise, and to be assembled in Argentina at a rate of up to 100,000 units a year, it will go on sale in Britain in 2010.
The show pick-up was kitted out as a concept Search-and-Rescue vehicle for use by lifeguards, complete with GPS, life jackets, blankets and a defibrillator.
It wasn’t the only 4x4 VW was promoting. Also new was the Caddy 4Motion with four-wheel drive, which kicks in automatically whenever it is needed. The package includes Electronic Stability Programme and Hill Hold, which stops you rolling backwards if you’re moving away on a steep incline.
Over on the Ford stand the wraps were pulled off the new Fiesta Van. With a 1.0m3-plus cargo area and based on the latest Fiesta car, it will be in dealerships early next year.
Fiesta Van is produced with three different engines; an 82hp 1.25-litre petrol, a 68hp 1.4-litre diesel and a 90hp 1.6-litre diesel with a particulate trap. ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution comes as standard as does electric power-assisted steering. The diesels are both said to offer average fuel economy of 67.3mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions set at 110g/km.
A half-height bulkhead is standard as are driver and passenger airbags, with a knee airbag to protect the driver figuring on the options list. That’s an industry first for this segment of the light commercial market, an excellent idea, and What Van? would like to see it included in the basic price of all vans of this size. The newcomer also gets Ford’s EasyFuel capless refuelling system, with a mis-fuel inhibitor that protects against the risk of the wrong nozzle being inserted.
The Big Blue Oval also announced the availability of a 115hp 2.2-litre diesel for front-wheel drive Transits married to a six-speed gearbox — it supersedes the 110hp/five-speed gearbox package — as well as the introduction of the 4x4 Transit AWD. It’s aimed mainly at customers who may have to tackle icy roads or dirt tracks but who aren’t proposing to cross deeply-rutted terrain.
Married to the 140hp 2.4-litre diesel plus a six-speed gearbox, the four-wheel drive system can be specified on vans and chassis cabs of all sizes grossing at from 3.3 to 3.5 tonnes. All diesel Transits can now be ordered with particulate traps, with retrofit Ford Motorcraft traps available for some models.
Virtually every manufacturer was touting various ways of achieving clean, or even zero exhaust emissions and enhanced fuel economy. LDV’s lithium-ion-battery-powered Maxus was but one example. The Maxus ECV1 is due to go on sale next year and examples are already on trial with fleet operators, including a well-known home delivery company.
Fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox to give the driver access to ECV1’s maximum torque at all speeds, the version it has taken has a payload capability of up to 1,446kg and a top speed of 55mph. It takes just four hours to charge up the battery pack fully, with 80 per cent of the capacity available if you put it on charge for two hours. Maximum range between recharges is 85 miles. If you don’t feel you need the five-speed ’box then you can opt for a simple forward and reverse system instead.
Also on show on the LDV stand was a Maxus 3.5-tonner with an extended frame chassis. It lengthens the existing long wheelbase chassis cab by 750mm.
LDV aims to broaden its presence in the market with the addition of a new light van to a line-up that at present consists solely of Maxus and its various derivatives, says marketing director, Guy Jones. No launch date has been announced. The newcomer will either be developed in partnership with another manufacturer or be a re-badged version of a vehicle already in production. “We’ve got several options on the table,” he observes. Production volumes could total at least 100,000 units annually, he predicts, and LDV’s Russian parent GAZ might even be prepared to acquire an entire factory from another manufacturer to allow it to build the van it needs.
Earlier this year it bought a 50 per cent stake in Italy’s VM Motori, which produces the diesel engines fitted to Maxus, which means it is now working in partnership with General Motors. One possible solution might be for GAZ to work with GM on a replacement for the ageing Vauxhall Combo.
The future of Maxus is not being ignored. Due for a facelift within the next two years, it is set to be replaced in 2012 by a new vehicle being developed in Russia and referred to as the Gazelle 3. It will be produced at weights grossing at from 2.8 tonnes to at least 5.0 tonnes. Also destined to replace the existing GAZ Gazelle model marketed in Russia, like the current Transit it will be produced in both front- and rear-wheel drive guise. The latter variant will appear first and will be marketed alongside Maxus, with all the existing models replaced by 2014.
The Maxus badge that adorns LDV dealer premises is to be given a lot more prominence, with the LDV badge gradually fading away. The latter means nothing on the Continent and many of the associations it has in the UK could be viewed as unfortunate by prospective customers given the marque’s recent history. The re-branding will be rolled out across the network during 2009, with LDV hoping that Maxus will be viewed in the same way as Mini is in the car world, or as Land Rover was in earlier times.
What will not be fading away in favour of a transfer of assembly to Russia however, Jones insists, is LDV’s Birmingham factory. “The cost of exporting vans from Russia to Britain means that it would make no sense to shut it,” he states. Output should in fact rise from 11,000 units this year to 15,000 in 2009 as exports build. A plant will open in Russia in 2010 which will produce around 45,000 Maxus light commercials annually, but they will be sold in the domestic market and surrounding states.
Returning to environmentally-friendly vehicles, VW was displaying a BlueMotion long-wheelbase high roof Crafter 3.5-tonner that meets the forthcoming Euro-5 exhaust emission regulations. That’s in part because it is equipped with heavy-truck-style SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) technology, which requires the periodic topping up of a tank on the vehicle with a mixture of urea and water commonly known as AdBlue. It’s injected into the exhaust gases.
The use of such a system is highly unusual on a 3.5-tonner and it’s the first time one has been fitted to Crafter. Fuel consumption is cut through the use of a redesigned radiator grille that gives the wind less surface area to catch hold of and a rear spoiler among other measures.
Something else that keeps diesel usage down is regenerative braking. In other words, the energy generated when the driver slows down is used to help recharge the battery. Cruise control and tyre pressure monitoring are fitted too. Under-inflated tyres are bad news for your mpg figures.
In the same vein Mercedes-Benz was exhibiting its BlueEfficiency Vito. As well as a six-speed gearbox and a package of aerodynamic improvements it boasts an ECO-Start system that cuts the engine when the driver is stationary; waiting at traffic lights for example.
BlueEfficiency is packaged in various different ways according to whether the customer is using it for urban delivery work, medium-distance runs, or regular long-distance hikes.
Fiat was promoting a Fiorino and a Ducato that are both capable of running on compressed natural gas — Mercedes has developed a cng Sprinter as well as a plug-in hybrid version and is working on a hybrid Vito — while Iveco was extolling the virtues of its electric Daily. It is exploring hybrid and cng technology too so far as Daily is concerned — a hybrid Daily will go into volume production in 2009 — and is also trialling a hybrid Eurocargo.
EcoCraft was displaying a couple of electric light commercials — the EcoCarrier ES and EL with payload capacities of 370kg and 700kg respectively — employing lead-gel batteries and an aluminium space frame. They’ve been on sale in Germany since early spring. EcoCarrier’s WISDOM online diagnosis and service system allows faults to be diagnosed rapidly over the mobile phone network.
Heimer IDC was exhibiting a compact electric van and chassis cab under the TEAMO — True Electric Auto Mobility — banner. Employing lithium-ion batteries that take around eight hours to charge up fully, the little load luggers have got a range of roughly 75 miles. Top payload is approximately 500kg.
Not to be outdone by any of the foregoing brands, Mitsubishi Fuso was offering up a stunning-looking Canter concept tipper with hybrid drive under the Eco-D banner. Nissan was showing off a hybrid Cabstar that should become available in 2012.
New for Hanover was a Cabstar with an automated six-speed manual gearbox developed in conjunction with ZF. It should help drivers achieve fuel savings of up to five per cent when compared with the vehicle’s five- and six-speed manual transmissions says Nissan. From next April all Cabstars equipped with the ZD30 3.0-litre diesel will be available with particulate traps as standard. Armed with one of those they should be able to meet Euro-5 says the manufacturer.
With the exception of Cabstar and the NP300 pick-up — Navara is not handled by the company’s light commercial team — Nissan’s LCV line-up has been dominated by re-badged Renaults. All that will start to change in a year’s time with the UK launch of the NV200, a high-cube light van that will replace the Kangoo-derived Kubistar in the Nissan line-up. A concept version was on display at Hanover.
“We’ll be the first European market to get NV200,” says a clearly delighted LCV sales and marketing director, Tony Lewis, who spent many years at LDV before he joined Nissan earlier this year.
Elsewhere, Peugeot was exhibiting a passenger-carrying Expert Teepee with a Vagabond badge and sporting a four-wheel-drive conversion courtesy of Dangel. It was a stone’s throw from an Expert transformed into a pick-up by Durisotti, with a rear load area door hinged to the left, a highly-varnished wooden cargo bed and finished in metallic gold paint.
Interesting conversions were to be found on other stands too. Citroën was displaying a Jumper van — Relay is sold as the Jumper in Continental markets believe it or not — equipped with highway maintenance crews in mind. It was fitted with a roof-mounted pop-up electronic display board courtesy of Schumoteg designed to warn motorists that there are road works or other hazards ahead.
UK representatives on the Citroën stand announced that a version of the latest Berlingo with a 1.6-litre engine that will run on liquefied petroleum gas is being made available on this side of the Channel. It’s a conversion executed by Nicholson McLaren and the vehicle is exempt from the London congestion tax.
Over on the Opel stand — General Motors uses the Opel brand in Continental Europe rather than the Vauxhall badge — was a Movano chassis cab equipped with a body by Ewers with full load area access from each side. The body’s alloy sides are split horizontally, with a chain-driven mechanism allowing the top half to swing upwards and fold above the roof while the bottom half drops downwards and flattens itself against the chassis. Top payload capacity is 1,300kg.
Turning to load handling equipment, found on the Ford stand attached to a Transit van was a clever rear-mounted loading system called a Hubiboy. Made by Stakraft, it employs hydraulically-operated arms linked at the top by a cross-piece.
A pallet truck can be wheeled up to the back of the van complete with its cargo and attached to the cross-bar. The arms then swing the truck and its load off the ground and into the vehicle. Weighing 125kg and drawing its power from the van’s battery, Hubiboy will handle a 600kg payload. It costs €3,000 (around £2,400) excluding the pallet truck. A version is available for Transit Connect too.
Best-known for producing big-capacity engines for trucks, buses and coaches, Cummins was showing off a couple of new ISF four-cylinder common rail diesels designed for use in light commercial applications.
The 2.8-litre generates up to 163hp with peak torque of 360Nm while its 3.8-litre stablemate pumps out up to 167hp with a top torque of 600Nm. They’ll be built in China and both offer competitively-low weights. The 2.8-litre tips the scales at 214kg while its bigger brother weighs a modest 300kg. Both engines have been developed from the manufacturer’s B Series platform.
Usually referred to as the IAA for short, the Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show covers vans, trucks, buses and coaches and takes up space in many of the available halls as well as a massive outdoors area. It’s not the easiest of places to get to from the UK — direct flights aren’t all that regular and it’s a long drive — but if you’re prepared to put yourself out when the Hanover exhibition rolls round again in 2010, we doubt you’ll be disappointed.