Two Mercedes-Benz Actros 6×4 truck-tractors, fitted with the latest Mercedes-Benz RT440 hypoid rear axles as standard, have achieved significant fuel savings of more than 5% in test runs in the Eastern Cape.
Fuel economy in vehicles can be improved in many ways, including increasing engine efficiency, reducing aerodynamic drag, rolling friction and improving the fuel quality among other things.
Mercedes-Benz engineers have developed a new hypoid rear axle for the current Actros 2644LS/33 and Actros 2654LS/33 6×4 truck-tractors that were tested under everyday conditions along Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s (MBSA) well-known trial routes in the Eastern Cape.
Mercedes-Benz trucks combined the OM 502LA engine with its 540 hp with the RT440 hypoid rear axle in the Actros 2654LS/33 which replaces the other air-suspended 2650LS/33. It now has a 3.583 rear axle ratio.
Christo Kleynhans Mercedes-Benz trucks product manager says: “The new RT440 hypoid rear axles make for the most fuel efficient Mercedes-Benz 6×4 truck tractors of all times In fact, the fuel saving achieved on the 2644LS/33 was 5.67% and on the 2654LS/33 was 5.37%.”
It is an on-going quest in which Mercedes-Benz trucks; the first manufacturer to complete the launch of a full range of Euro VI-compliant trucks in Europe continues to reduce fuel consumption and emissions in South Africa.
However, technological advances by the Mercedes-Benz SA holding company, Daimler AG, in Europe cannot always be implemented locally – a prime example being South Africa’s inadequate availability of cleaner fuel which prohibits the introduction of “greener” and more fuel efficient commercial vehicles.
Kobus van Zyl, vice-president of MBSA commercial vehicles expresses this frustration: “In the absence of the cleaner fuel that is required by our advanced commercial vehicle models already available elsewhere in the world, we can only try to improve the performance and total cost of ownership of the current range of vehicles.”
Clinton Savage, divisional manager for Mercedes-Benz trucks says: “Light, economical and reliable – the range of hypoid rear axles on these trucks offer not just reliable power transmission, but also allows the most economical driveline for any operation.”
Kleynhans points out that South Africa is well-known for its unique operating conditions and the trucking environment which is spread across fleets ranging from first to third world and makes for a testing ground suitable for a wide spectrum of applications. “Due to the outstanding track record of the Mercedes-Benz Testing Department, it was an obvious choice to call on their expertise to perform the comparative test between the new hypoid axles and the existing hub reduction rear axles,” elaborates Kleynhans
During the fuel consumption testing in the Eastern Cape region, the vehicles not only achieved the targeted fuel saving in comparison with the predecessor models but already surpassed all expectations early into the trial by proving to be even more frugal than anticipated.
According to Kleynhans, the drivers at the wheel of the trucks, with standard interlink trailers and gross combination weights of 49 000kg (Actros 2644LS/33) and 56 000kg (2654LS/33) respectively, were not Mercedes-Benz driver trainers, but normal fleet drivers.
Savage interpolates: “The consumption figures of the two new Actros truck tractors are even more impressive in view of the guidelines for the test. Unlike normal fuel consumption tests, the comparative run were not carried out on a test circuit but under everyday conditions on busy roads and at times, under adverse weather conditions.”
Kleynhans says that each vehicle completed 9920 kilometers under some of the most extreme conditions on the Eastern Cape roads. The test route of 620 kilometers started in East London and then followed the N2 over the Kei River back onto the N6 and over Penhoek Pass (1884 meters above sea level and maximum gradient of 10%) before returning to East London. The accumulated climbing height for the total route of 620km is an impressive 9389 meters.
During the comparative drive the test engineers monitored every fuelling of diesel as well as the swapping of the drivers and semitrailers. The aim of the latter was to rule out differences in driving styles and the rolling resistance of the semitrailers which might distort the fuel consumption measurements.
“As in normal long distance operations, the drivers were allowed to travel at a max speed of 80 km/h and overrun to 87km/h on the down hills. All four vehicles were closely monitored on FleetBoard to ensure the drivers followed the testing guidelines at all times. Physical fuel measurements and kilometres readings were also verified against the FleetBoard results,” van Zyl concludes.