Renault Trucks: a positive first appraisal for the Renault Trucks Premium Distribution Hybrys Tech undergoing tests with Colas
23 February 2011
For a little over six months, the Colas Group has been testing the Renault Trucks hybrid vehicle (Renault Premium Distribution Hybrys Tech) under actual operating conditions. After covering over 12,000 km and fulfilling standard functions, the first feedback is extremely positive, from both drivers and fleet managers:
- fuel consumption savings in excess of 20%,
- flexibility in use,
- comfortable driving and
- silent operation.
Very much involved in environmental protection, the Colas Group has supported Renault Trucks in its development of hybrid technology from the outset. Just over six months ago, the company began operating this hybrid Premium Distribution vehicle for delivering loads of aggregates and other building materials around Lyon to tradesmen, public works contractors and even private individuals.
Completing an average of six return trips per day with a payload of 9 t, this hybrid vehicle is able to carry some 54 t of materials every day within a range of 40 km. Operating this vehicle under real working conditions is of great importance to Renault Trucks, for the valuable information supplied by the Group's staff helps the manufacturer perfect the hybrid system's reliability and further improve the vehicle. The data collected concerns both the purely technical aspects of the vehicle and the drivers' reaction to it. For computer simulations or trials on a test track can never replace the information gathered from those who actually work with the vehicle on a day-to-day basis.
One response to environmental issues
After being operated for just over six months and covering nearly 12,000 km, the time has now come to make a first assessment. It must be said that this is highly positive: Renault Premium Distribution Hybrys Tech has earned a place of respect within the Colas fleet by not only winning over the fleet managers and drivers, but also local residents.
"When it's waiting at traffic lights, there's no noise, no exhaust gases and no vibration!" explains Gilles Vaillé, the Colas Group's fleet manager for the South East region. "This makes it very pleasant for drivers and especially for those living in the vicinity."
An impression confirmed by Marc Privas, a driver with 33 years' experience surprised by the effects the vehicle has on customers: "Manoeuvring carried out noiselessly on customers' premises or in town creates a lot of surprise," he says with amusement. "That leads to people asking questions about the truck and improves customer relationships!".
Apart from reduced noise pollution, the Renault Premium Hybrys Tech also delivers a significant cut in consumption. Drivers and fleet managers have been able to see this for themselves: "Our first measurements made on almost 10,000 km of standard use for delivering aggregates around Lyon, show a 24% fuel saving compared with an equivalent vehicle fitted with a manual gearbox," confirms Didier Fracchetti, the Colas Group's assistant fleet manager for the south-east region. A figure higher than the one announced by Renault Trucks when the vehicle was delivered.
Flexibility of use as evidenced by the drivers
As far as handling is concerned, drivers' overall reactions are generally highly positive. Gérard Dubois, a driver with eight years' experience explains: "I am a versatile driver, comfortable driving all kinds of vehicles on a daily basis. The hybrid truck is very surprising to drive at the beginning, but you soon get used to it, even if it takes a little longer to anticipate the driving compared with a conventional diesel vehicle. But there are no really big differences. I very much appreciate the robotised gearbox, as well as the vehicle's silent operation in electric mode. Marc Privas has a similar reaction: “The hybrid vehicle is more manoeuvrable, quieter and smoother to drive," he stresses. "Furthermore, the electric motor and internal combustion engine are extremely well synchronised and you get the benefit of the electric motor's dynamic power at start-up!".
In the course of these few months, Renault Premium Hybrys Tech has not had to cope with any major problem or extended technical downtime. This cooperation with Colas strongly encourages Renault Trucks' to pursue its development in this field. It has enabled its teams to validate, for example, the solutions implemented for switching from the electric motor to the diesel engine and further improve the changeover process from one to the other. Similarly, a great deal of work over the past few months has been devoted to improving the electrical power steering. For next winter, work will now be focused on cold start operation.
The Renault Premium Distribution Hybrys Tech vehicle operated by the Colas Group is based on a Renault Premium Distribution with a 4x2 configuration and tipper body. It is equipped with a DXi7 Euro V 310 hp diesel engine associated with an electric motor, the Optidriver+ gearbox and an electrical assembly located in the wheelbase, which includes the traction batteries, control electronics, power distribution circuits and the cooling system.
Parallel hybrid technology
Thee so-called "parallel" hybrid technology combines the use of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. They supply power to the wheels according to different distribution scenarios: either with both in parallel, or separately.
The principle of this technology developed by Renault Trucks is very straightforward: the vehicle's kinetic energy is recovered during braking or deceleration phases and converted into electricity. This is stored in the traction batteries which therefore operate perfectly independently and do not need to be recharged.
The idle shut down function enables the internal combustion engine to be automatically switched off when the vehicle is at a standstill. When the vehicle is started up again, the energy stored in the batteries is used to power the electric motor. At a speed of 20 km/h, the diesel engine starts up and takes over. It is then only used when it consumes the least, i.e. apart from at start-up and during powerful acceleration phases.
The electrical energy is also used to power the safety and comfort functions which are usually connected to the internal combustion engine, such as the power steering or the cooling system for the electrical equipment.
Renault Trucks is currently the only manufacturer putting vehicles on the road which automatically switch to electrically-powered mode. All of this results in the vehicle's overall consumption and CO2 emissions being reduced by around 20%. Apart from reducing emissions, hybrid technology also appreciably reduces noise due to the quieter electric motor.
Clean Tech Label
To raise awareness of these vehicles using alternative propulsion modes, Renault Trucks is now applying the Clean Tech label, with a specific logo featured on the bodywork, to all its hybrid, electric and NGV vehicles. The manufacturer has also started issuing labels to its repairer network so that customers can be confident of obtaining the quality of service required by these new technologies, particularly in terms of skills, team training and the use of specific tools.