MAN Truck and Bus had a big display including this CitE electric truck concept.
MAN Truck and Bus had a big display including this CitE electric truck concept.
Image: Mark Smyth

It should come as no surprise that there was a focus on alternative fuel vehicles at the Commercial Vehicle Show in the UK.

European legislation on vehicle emissions, London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone and the likelihood of similar zones being implemented in many major cities are forcing companies to look at solutions in their fleets.

MAN Truck and Bus had its CitE concept truck at the show, which a spokesperson told us will go into production in 2022, although you can expect a few design changes. It’s a 100% electric urban truck with a 290kW and 2,100Nm combined output from its motor and 110kWh lithium-ion batteries.

The company is claiming a range of 100km for the truck which has a payload capacity of 6,300kg. There is more tech too in the form of a fully digital instrument cluster including telematics information and cameras and screens in place of wing mirrors, much like those also developed by Mercedes-Benz.

There weren’t many of the big truck companies in attendance at the show, but along with MAN, DAF Trucks also showed an electric vehicle in the form of the CF Electric FT. It has an output of 210kW and its 170kWh battery pack also provides a claimed range of 100km in spite of it appearing to be more of a medium to long-haul cab.

Most of the other trucks on display were for bodybuilders, but again there was a clear focus on greener solutions with electric road-sweeping vehicles, refuse trucks and everything from electric refrigeration units to mobile electric-truck charging vans.

The big trucks were strangely absent but DAF showed its latest CF range including this CF electric.
The big trucks were strangely absent but DAF showed its latest CF range including this CF electric.
Image: Mark Smyth

Vans were the biggest focus at the show though, a reflection on the massive increase in demand for them, up 59% in the UK since 2000. Much of this can be attributed to the rise of online delivery services — something that has not yet really hit SA. But the rise also reflects a global trend and that is the increase in the number of self-employed who need a light commercial vehicle for their business.

Ford, Europe’s biggest player in the light commercial vehicle sector, had the biggest stand. As well as showing off the South African-built new Ranger Raptor, it was our first chance to see the next generation Transit models. These include not just plug-in hybrid vehicles but also fully electric across the entire range of Transit derivatives.

There was also some new tech in the form of Active Park Assist, where the van will park itself much like the technology available in a number off passenger cars today. A spokesperson for Ford Motor Company Southern Africa told us that the new Transit has not yet been confirmed for local introduction.

That is probably the same for Volkswagen, which showed its e-Crafter as well as full battery-electric versions of the Transporter and Caddy.

More traditional combustion engined models were in abundance and the show saw the world debut of the new Opel Vivaro, which is due to arrive in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019. The new Vivaro gets a 20% increase in payload capacity at up to 1,489kg. Opel is also claiming reductions in fuel consumption for its new van.

Design changes are prevalent in the exterior and also in the interior which gets a new infotainment system, revised equipment and a rotary dial for the gear changes. Also at the show and heading to SA showrooms now was the Opel Combo, which was recently awarded the International Van of the Year title. It shares the accolade with the new Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo, both of which are on the same platform with Opel now also being part of the Peugeot Citroen PSA Group.

It was clear from the show that the commercial vehicle market it moving forward with electrification strategies. While this is essential to meet ever stricter emissions targets in Europe, it’s likely that we will see some of these solutions eventually find their way to SA, particularly for fleets which are part of global operations demanding more environmentally friendly vehicles.