• 2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck

Mercedes beats Tesla to the electric truck game

LISTEN 08:21

Mercedes-Benz has announced an all-electric commercial truck designed to replace

powered trucks on local, short-run delivery routes. It’s called the Urban eTruck and it runs off lithium-ion batteries that power two electric motors at the rear wheels for a clean, quiet, ride with zero local emissions.

The truck is said to have little trade-offs in relation to its diesel and gasoline-powered counterparts. It has a range of up to 124 miles and a maximum payload capacity rivaling diesel trucks. Its cabin comes chocked full of Mercedes’ latest technology from FleetBoard, including real-time traffic information with alternative route planning, driver and dispatcher communications, and emergency route guidance back to home base should the truck run low on its charge.

The Urban eTruck comes with three choices in battery size. The standard setup includes three battery modules with a total capacity of 212 kWh with a range up to 200 kilometers, or 124 miles. Battery modules can be factory ordered for truck with longer delivery routes and those that frequently travel at higher steeds, or trucks with larger payloads but travel fewer miles.

Mercedes says production of this type of truck is conceivable to begin at the start of the next decade. Whether the automaker will achieve that goal is unknown, but knowing how Mercedes generally succeeds at its goals, it’s likely vehicles like the Urban eTruck will become a reality.

This product concept comes on the heels of Tesla’s “Master Plan, Part Deux,” which details the electric automaker’s plans for building all-electric commercial trucks and public transportation. Undoubtedly Elon Musk has to feel the pressure.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck.


2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Exterior
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The Urban eTruck concept is certainly fancy looking. It incorporates Mercedes’ current concept design language seen on other concept vehicles. Sensual purity – that’s what Mercedes says the eTruck’s design philosophy embodies. Its swooping design features a minimalistic appearance with very few seams, making this cabover truck look more like a MacBook Pro than a semi. The satin grey color fuels that thinking a bit, too.

Sensual purity – that’s what Mercedes says the eTruck’s design philosophy embodies.

Up front, a gapping lower grille is filled with LEDs that light up the truck with a futuristic glow. Mercedes says the grille can be used to indicate battery charge, warning status, or other driver/operator information. It can also display attractive shapes like Mercedes’ starburst grille on its passenger cars during normal operation. Above, small LED headlights are both attractive and bright. A curvaceous fascia surrounds the front of the truck and includes a massive Mercedes emblem. Traditional side mirrors are replaced with cameras mounted on horizontal poles protruding from above the doors. This feeds two vehicle screens inside the cab that mimic mirrors. The reduced aerodynamic drag is also a design plus.

More objectively, the Urban eTruck concept showcases what a refrigerator truck would look like. The heavily insulated cargo box is kept cold by an overhead chiller. Other cab and box configurations would be offered as well. The charge port is located on the side of the truck, down low and just ahead of the rear wheels. Not only does this recall the fuel-filler location on conventional trucks, it also provides a short route to the battery packs, located between the fame rails.


2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Interior
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2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Interior
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2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Interior
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Inside the Urban eTruck, Mercedes has combined utility with functionality and technology. At first glance, the cabin looks like a conventional semi-truck environment. The large steering wheel mounted at a shallow angle and driver-centric dash all seems very familiar.

Mercedes has combined utility with functionality and technology.

Noticeably different is the level of technology. The dashboard is comprised of two main screens – one for gauges and the other for navigation, entertainment, and other ancillary functions. Obviously the gauge cluster screen keeps the driver informed of battery and motor statuses, along with speed and other important information.

This 12.3-inch screen, likely borrowed from the E-Class, also displays detailed information regarding the route, including traffic, obstructions, speed limits, and the amount of charge it will take to traverse it. The speed is shown on the left-hand side, with the center portion of the screen shows a visual representation of the road ahead. Shown on the road are any vehicles ahead, their distance from the truck, and their speed. Road sign recognition and 3D maps are also integrated into the system.

The mapping system also works closely with the drivetrain’s automatic drive control, warning the system of braking and acceleration phases and road features like traffic lights. The truck will also automatically adjusts its speed to match the posted speed limits. As you can gather, the Urban eTruck is nearly autonomous.


2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Drivetrain
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Motivating this truck is a bank of lithium-ion batteries that power two electric motors. The batteries are mounted between the frame rails, while the motors are mounted at the hubs of the two drive wheels, making the eTruck a 6X2 configuration.

The Urban eTruck comes with three battery packs that offers up a 124-mile range for this 26-ton GVW truck.

Mercedes plans to offer at least three battery configurations with the modular battery pack. In its standard form, the Urban eTruck comes with three battery packs that offers up a 124-mile range for this 26-ton GVW truck. Mercedes says that range should be more than enough for typical local deliveries in heavily populated urban areas – hints the “urban” in the truck’s name. This configuration produces 335 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque.

Fleet managers can also select a different number of battery packs. A two-battery module offers less rage, but greater payload capability thanks to the decreased weight. Likewise, a four-battery module offers a greater range and more power, but at the cost of less payload and more financial investment.

The truck’s drive system also offers three drive modes: Eco, Agile, and Auto. Eco mode makes the most of the battery supply, while reducing power levels and turning off ancillary equipment. Agile mode is designed for mountainous regions or for merging onto highways. It simply provides more power to the motors, but at the cost of range. Auto mode lets the computer pick the best setting for the current driving situation.

The Urban eTruck’s primary form of recharging is by plug-in, but its two motors do offer regenerative braking. This helps recharge the batteries while reducing the wear on the mechanical brakes. This helps cut maintenance and recharging costs.


2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Exterior
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This concept certainly seems promising thanks to the in-depth thought and big resources from Mercedes. Such a truck would perfectly answer the issue of zero-emission city centers, many of which have already been established in Europe. These electric trucks would be able to make local deliveries without falling outside the law or requiring special variances for operation.

While Tesla is still in the planning stages of its all-electric semi-truck and public transportation, Mercedes is already ahead of the game, having this concept built and on display at the 2016 IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Hannover, Germany. Only time will tell if Mercedes can indeed pull this project off, but with the technological advancements the automaker has already made, it seems almost a certainty.

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    • Only a concept
    • Likely requires sizeable initial investment
Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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Press Release

Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz

It makes its way silently through the city with zero local emissions and demonstrates the latest developments in all-electric vehicles in the heavy short-radius distribution sector. It is based on a unique concept: its drive is by means of electric motors adjacent to the wheel hubs, while the power supply comes from a modular battery pack. This puts the Urban eTruck on a par with conventionally engined trucks when it comes to payload and suitability for everyday use. But at the same time, it is far more environmentally friendly, generates zero local emissions and makes barely any noise. The revolutionary technical concept is part of an integrated system for eTrucks with a made-to-measure telematics service in FleetBoard and power supply using stationary battery storage. Standard-production vehicles of this type would be conceivable from the start of the next decade.

2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Exterior
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The Urban eTruck is the answer to urbanisation and environmental problems

Air quality, noise, restricted-access zones – cities around the world want and need to protect their citizens from exhaust and noise emissions. At the same time, the trend towards urbanisation is on the rise. Mercedes-Benz’s response has been compliant with the Euro VI emissions standard, its latest trucks are powered by the cleanest diesel engines of all time, while state-of-the-art gas drives are even less polluting and quieter. The Urban eTruck ushers in the next phase of short-radius distribution in cities: it is powered by an all-electric drive with zero local emissions and is almost silent in operation. The three-axle rigid Urban eTruck from Mercedes-Benz features a tailor-made concept for highly efficient and clean short-radius distribution.

No limitations in payload and suitability for everyday use

Apart from its range, one of the main technical factors behind the success of the electric drive is its weight balance. Electrically powered commercial vehicles need to perform similarly to a diesel-engined truck in this respect, too. The Urban eTruck need fear no comparison with its IC-engined counterparts. The additional weight stands at only 1700 kg. As the EU Commission is in favour of increasing the permissible gross vehicle weight of trucks with alternative drives by a maximum of one tonne, this will more or less cancel out the weight disadvantage of the electric drive.

Innovative solution with electric motors adjacent to the wheel hubs

The outstanding features of the Urban eTruck include its drive with electrically powered rear axle and electric motors directly adjacent to the wheel hubs. The axle is based on the ZF AVE 130 and has already proved its worth in its basic version as a low-floor portal axle in buses from Mercedes-Benz. However, the axle has been comprehensively modified for use in the Urban eTruck. For instance, there is a new axle housing, which is significantly raised to give greater ground clearance. The method of axle attachment has also been reconfigured. Another characteristic of the axle used in this particular application is its super single tyres of size 495/45 R 22.5. The maximum permissible axle load of the drive axle is 11.5 t, which is at the usual level.

Electric motors: full torque from very low revs

2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Exterior
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For the Urban eTruck, the original low-floor axle has been provided with a liquid-cooled high-speed asynchronous three-phase motor on each side. The rated voltage is 400 V, while the maximum output is 2 x 125 kW. The motors have a peak torque of 2 x 500 Nm. In combination with the gearing, the torque at the wheel reaches 11 000 Nm.

A key advantage of electric motors: as the full pulling power is available from the start, the driving dynamics of the Urban eTruck are on a par with a diesel truck with comparable output.

Battery ensures a range of up to 200 km

An important factor in the everyday practicality of an electric drive is the range, which is decided mainly by the battery capacity. In an Urban eTruck it is of a modular configuration, which means that it can cater for a wide range of different requirements. The Urban eTruck comes with a basic battery pack of three modules with a total capacity of 212 kWh. This provides a range of up to 200 km, which is normally enough for a day’s delivery round. The batteries are of the lithium-ion type. They are powerful and durable in equal measure. The batteries are additionally charged during operation by regenerative braking, i.e. by converting the braking energy into electricity. When braking, the Urban eTruck’s electric motors act as generators and charge the batteries. This also reduces the strain on the service brakes.

The well-thought-out design of the Urban eTruck allows different variants of the battery pack. If a lower range is required, the Urban eTruck can be fitted with a compact battery pack with reduced capacity. Where customers require a longer range, the vehicle can be fitted with an additional battery pack. This enables each user to configure the Urban eTruck to suit their own usage profile and achieve the right balance between range, payload and acquisition costs.

The design of the Urban eTruck: both exciting and practical

The styling of the Urban eTruck is as innovative as its electric drive. It embodies the design philosophy of the Mercedes-Benz brand, which focuses on sensual purity – an expression that applies perfectly to the Urban eTruck. The contours of the driver’s cab are sleek and fluid with minimal detailing and no visible joints.

Across the roof, a three-dimensional spoiler connects the cab with the body of the truck. It has a wide vent at the front, which acts as air inlet for the cooling unit concealed behind the spoiler. Just like the roof spoiler, the aerodynamic skirting panels on the side of the cab fit almost flush with the body. The windscreen has been extended downwards. The mirror cams that replace the conventional outside mirrors are another distinctive feature on the truck.

Black panel grille connects the truck with its environment

The conventional air inlet has been omitted from the Urban eTruck because of the electric drive. Instead, a black panel grille is the branding element that connects the truck with its environment. It is transparent and back-lit by high-resolution LEDs. A number of different visual scenarios are conceivable: the LEDs could be used to recreate the signature Mercedes-Benz diamond radiator grille or to indicate the operating status of the truck or show the charge level of the batteries.

Overall, the Urban eTruck represents the polarity between ’hot & cool’ that is characteristic of Mercedes-Benz design: the sensual contouring of the lines is ’hot’ and provides an exciting contrast to the highly technical ’cool’ design features such as the embedded lighting, mirror cams and black panel grille.

The futuristic-looking driver’s cab is not a radical design study, but a derivative of the cab on the Mercedes-Benz Antos truck.

2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Exterior
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Refrigerated body for short-radius food distribution

Just like the driver’s cab, the body of this three-axle truck is practical for real-life application despite its innovative design. It carries a typical 7.4 m long refrigerated body for use in fresh food distribution to supermarkets and retailers. The side panelling adds to the streamlined feel of the truck and improves its aerodynamics.

A fully connected system that works effectively

The intelligent communication between the truck and its environment, the telematics system and the drive control, and also between the driver and the dispatcher, results in an interconnected system that functions perfectly. Because of its drive control and energy control, the truck can achieve maximum performance and the best possible range for short-radius distribution. The state-of-the-art displays and controls assist drivers in their day-to-day operations.

Revolutionary display and control technology with a central display

Instead of conventional instruments, the Urban eTruck features a completely new display and control system consisting of two screens. The central 12.3 inch display shows the driver a wide range of information in an easily assimilated form. Instead of the usual data for controlling and monitoring the vehicle, the Urban eTruck gives detailed information about the route.

This is based on a road sign recognition system and on three-dimensional maps with all the essential information about the journey, including the physical features and bends. This information is connected to the drive control of the Urban eTruck.

The middle section of the central display shows the speed on the left-hand side. The central display shows a visual representation of a road and combines a great deal of information, starting with the route. The shape of the road on the display reflects the actual course of the road ahead, including any bends. It also shows the vehicles in front, their distance from the truck and their current speed.

Thanks to the stored map data, the automatic drive control also receives prior warning of braking and acceleration phases and road features such as traffic lights. The Urban eTruck automatically adjusts its speed in line with the road sign recognition system.

The battery capacity is always in the driver’s field of view

2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Interior
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On the upper section of the display, a coloured horizontal line shows the driver whether the actual battery capacity corresponds to the planned capacity. Should it fall below a predefined tolerance level, the colour of the display changes from green to red. If this happens, the Urban eTruck can automatically introduce countermeasures and change the driving strategy. If the power reserves fall to such a level that there is a risk the truck won’t reach the next charging station, an additional warning light comes on. Both the driver and the vehicle co-ordinator can intervene in good time and set the engine management system to eco mode, which is geared towards maximising range. The vehicle co-ordinator can also optimise the route schedule.

Tablet provides information on the flow and consumption of energy, and the vehicle range

An additional tablet – similar to the well-established DispoPilot.guide tablet from FleetBoard – gives the driver a wide range of other useful information. For example, it provides details about the delivery run prior to setting off. It identifies the calculated driving times to charging stations and the expected duration of the stop. The driver’s prescribed break time is also entered on the tablet.

Range potato: range information in the form of a map

The planned journey is presented on a local map with a clever graphic known as the ’range potato’, which shows the driver the maximum range based on the current level of battery charge. This dynamic display is continually updated based on real-time road conditions and the terrain. As a result, the driver will know how far the truck can travel based on the current power reserves.

Realistic forecast of the energy requirement for the entire journey

The third graphic presents a dynamic forecast of the energy required during the delivery run. It shows a target range marked by two lines. As long as the electricity consumption level moves between these two lines, the Urban eTruck will have sufficient energy to complete the journey. Colours are used for clarity. If the truck stays within the green area, it means there are no risks. Should the actual energy requirement move outside this band, the red markings warn the driver. These calculations are being made continuously based on the current operation strategy, the three-dimensional map, the route schedule and the traffic conditions.

Auto, agile or eco: choice of three modes depending on driving strategy

The Urban eTruck can operate in three different modes, which optimise the way in which it is driven and the use of the energy available. On a standard journey, the Urban eTruck is set to ’auto’. This regulates the energy consumption so that the truck can complete the specified journey without any problems. The settings in this mode constantly change depending on the actual energy consumed. This ensures a balance between the range and the available power. The driver is able to change several parameters in auto mode. Changes to the cooling system of the body, however, are off-limits to ensure that the cold chain of the cargo is not subject to interference.

The second mode is ’agile’ and it is a ’power’ setting. In this mode, full power is available. This can be useful in hilly regions or if the speed needs to be increased to meet the time schedule, provided there is sufficient energy available.

The energy-saving ’eco’ mode is selected if maximum range is required – for example, in the event of unexpectedly high energy usage. In this case, the torque of the electric motor is considerably reduced to achieve minimal consumption and maximum range. Energy recuperation is increased, i.e. energy is recovered through braking. Electrical accessories are also shut down.

At the touch of a button, the driver can also see a detailed picture of the energy flow. A number of displays combine to indicate the current status of the battery capacity: they show the energy in kilowatts used to cool the body of the truck, to power the electrical accessories in the driver’s cab and, most importantly, to power the two drive motors.

Truck connectivity and the FleetBoard for urban distribution telematics service

2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Interior
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The information displays are based on intelligent networking mechanisms which involve connecting all the components and the people involved so that delivery, route and range are all in sync. Daimler FleetBoard makes an essential contribution with its innovative FleetBoard for urban distribution telematics service. The Daimler subsidiary is one of Europe’s leading providers of telematics solutions. At present there are around 180 000 vehicles using FleetBoard in operation with around 6000 customers. The FleetBoard for urban distribution telematics service connects driver and dispatcher via the FleetBoard app on the tablet. This allows the driver and the dispatcher to communicate in the usual way using the FleetBoard system. This includes the sending of messages, route plans, loading information and the truck navigation.

However, FleetBoard for urban distribution does even more: for the first time, the telematics system and the control for the drive train are interconnected. This means that the driver, the truck and the dispatcher are becoming more integrated than ever as a single unit. It starts with the scheduling: instead of the conventional fixed delivery runs used in food logistics, the Urban eTruck and FleetBoard for urban distribution offer a flexible system. It ensures that all the planned haulage work for the vehicle fleet can be completed without overextending or underutilising the range of the trucks.

Transport runs are compiled from scratch every day by vehicle co-ordinators. When planning the day’s deliveries, they have to factor in a range of variables including pallet space on trucks, loading weight, the range of the fleet and the permitted driving times of the drivers. If the calculations result in several possible alternatives for different trucks, the telematics system suggests an order of priority. The vehicles that are best suited for a particular journey are marked in colour on the co-ordinator’s screen.

The system even incorporates weather data in the precise planning process. The outside temperature and the time taken to open the doors of the load compartment are important for the energy consumption of a fresh food truck – the warmer it is, the higher the cooling requirement for the cargo on board.

The telematics system operates with an additional programme - a virtual monitor. This intervenes if the range changes due to unforeseen circumstances, such as unexpected return loads. When such circumstances push the the truck’s range to its limits, the virtual monitor outputs a warning. The additional requirement is either transferred to another truck with sufficient range or is firmly scheduled for the next delivery run.

Competitive overall costs with smart energy services

Up to now, electric drives have failed to make a breakthrough in the distribution sector because of their overall cost as well as their limited range. Supplying their eTrucks with power is an important factor for the cost calculations in hauliers’ operations. Daimler Trucks analyses the entire energy cycle and calculates the most economic solution for each individual customer.

The price and supply of electricity is a very complex issue. The deployment of trucks cannot be dependent on the times of day when electricity tariffs are lower – refrigerated vehicles have to supply goods to a tight schedule. To complicate matters further, if vehicle fleets charge the batteries of several electrically-powered trucks at the same time, the company’s power supply can come under pressure. If you are looking at a charging capacity of up to 150 kW per vehicle, 10 vehicles will require a total of 1.5 megawatts – that is equivalent to a small power plant.

smart energy services: lower costs, better availability

The most straightforward way of supplying power to electric vehicles is also the most expensive. Anyone who simply connects the Urban eTruck – or any other electric vehicle – to their power supply as and when it needs charging may end up paying premium rates for their electricity. A far more cost-effective solution is for operators to employ regulated ’smart’ charging to avoid times of peak demand by using defined charging cycles.

In some cases energy bills can be reduced even further if regulated charging is combined with a stationary battery storage unit. Such a device can be charged on a continual basis when electricity costs are at their lowest. The batteries for the truck fleet can then be charged as and when required. This means lower costs and better availability. Regardless of whether a battery storage unit makes sense in an individual case, the costs of an electric vehicle can be far lower than those of a diesel-powered truck when used together with smart energy solutions.

Trucks and energy storage from one company

Daimler develops customised solutions for stationary battery storage units to fit any requirements. Its newly established company Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH acquires the energy storage units from the Daimler subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive. The storage units contain high-quality lithium-ion batteries that can be individually configured, depending on the intended use and power requirement.

Batteries from electrically-powered vehicles can also be redeployed as ’second-use batteries’. These retain approximately 80 percent of their output capacity. Although they may have reached their limit for electric mobility, they can still be used in stationary storage units for many years to come.

Reducing electricity costs - becoming an energy service provider

The use of stationary battery storage units opens up a world of opportunities. They act as a buffer during expensive peaks in demand to lower electricity costs. This is particularly significant if a whole fleet of vehicles require charging at once.

What’s more, a company using battery-powered electric trucks can operate as an electricity provider itself, for example at weekends or on public holidays, when the trucks are not in use and do not require charging. This can involve using either the batteries in the vehicles – known as ’vehicle2grid’ – or any stationary storage units that may be available to earn money by providing energy services. It means that even stationary vehicles are able to generate income.

2016 Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck High Resolution Exterior
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Furthermore, it is possible to charge stationary storage units not just from the national grid but also using electricity generated by solar panels fitted on large warehouse roofs. This allows transport companies to charge some of their fleet with energy they have generated themselves, giving them much greater flexibility.

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