More and more goods are being transported on the motorways, and there seems to be an ever-increasing number of heavy goods vehicles on the road. The German government anticipates an increase of almost 40 % in freight transport by 2030, but the idea that goods transport might one day be transferred to to the railways remains very much a pipe dream. It goes without saying that this is a source of annoyance to motorists: we all know what it is like to be caught up on overcrowded motorways. And the air quality fares no better, with the increase in CO2 emissions from commercial vehicles adding to pollution.
Let's turn our attention to the urban scene. For the first time ever in human history, more people lived in cities than in the country in 2008. The influx of more and more people into the cities has led to the construction of new houses, new streets and pedestrian precincts which are difficult to access. Infrastructure development cannot always keep abreast of growing needs. Here, too, trucks compete with passenger vehicles for road space. And then there is yet another problem: many of the bridges in Germany are no longer open to heavy goods traffic. The consequence? Time consuming re-loading of the goods into smaller delivery vans.
It is patently obvious that the commercial vehicle industry needs to do some re-thinking. The question is what can be done to produce intelligent, clean vehicles to alleviate the growth of this sector, in which time and optimum capacity utilisation are of the utmost importance?
Work was carried out on a solution for a year. Not, however, by EDAG experts alone, but in cooperation with the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, one of the few universities specialising in commercial vehicle engineering. Mr. Jochen Seifert, manager of EDAG's Competence Centre for Commercial Vehicles approved this subject for a Master's thesis.
The results are astounding. At first glance, it looks like something out of science fiction. But only at first glance. Before very long, one finds oneself asking why no-one has come up with this solution before now.
A carrier vehicle - or parent vehicle - the size of an overland truck houses four autogenous, agile vans that can always be taken along. The shuttle chassis forms the load bearing structure of the parent vehicle. When the parent vehicle reaches the urban area, the vehicle is lowered by a pneumatic suspension, and the shuttles detached. No lifting gear or other equipment is needed. A maximum weight of 12 tonnes and a maximum length of 12 metres form the framework of the concept.
The 4-in-1 truck offers enormous advantages, above all in the city. 78 percent of all goods on the road are transported distances of less than 150 kilometres. The shuttles can be driven by electrical wheel hub motors situated directly in the rim. As they have a range of approx. 20 km, there is no longer any need for manoeuvring long vehicles through narrow streets. They also save the need for time-consuming re-loading or even an additional vehicle. Each shuttle has room for twelve Euro-pallets or six supermarket roller containers which can be loaded and unloaded by means of a lifting mechanism. The driver's cab provides sufficient safety and comfort for short delivery runs. All components essential to move the vehicle, e.g. batteries, exhaust gas treatment, compressed air for the front brakes, and air bellows are housed at the front end. If the carrier vehicle is being moved solo, the rear vehicle section is attached directly to the front end.
The innovators from EDAG and the Technical University of Kaiserslautern have already registered their utility model to prevent imitations.
To conclude, the truck will continue to dominate the movement of goods, whether we like it or not. Commercial vehicles supply every household with 110 litres of milk and almost 500 litres of mineral water and soft drinks a year. In addition, two billion parcels and courier services are delivered in Germany every year - by commercial vehicle.
Even if the EDAG concept is clearly not going to miraculously free us from congested roads in urban areas, it can nevertheless be a cost and time-saving solution wherever inner city access restrictions are anticipated or actually in force. It remains to be seen what kind of an influence it will have on future logistics. EDAG has, however, proved that if the main focus is on a benefit to society, and people manage to break with outdated ideas, then exciting solutions can be created to make our world a little bit better.