Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions, in partnership with Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles and Sasol Oil, has launched a joint project to pilot the use of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) as a cleaner alternative fuel to diesel. This initiative is a first of a kind in Southern Africa undertaken by a supply chain specialist and large fleet operator […]

Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions, in partnership with Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles and Sasol Oil, has launched a joint project to pilot the use of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) as a cleaner alternative fuel to diesel.


This initiative is a first of a kind in Southern Africa undertaken by a supply chain specialist and large fleet operator on a heavy duty vehicle.

Having evaluated various options aimed at reducing harmful emissions, Unitrans elected at this stage to focus on solutions that did not require the use of low sulphur diesel, or additional exhaust treatment additives.


The Mercedes-Benz Actros 2644 LS/33 truck-tractor is equipped with a Version 3 German gas injection system that enables it to run on a mixture of up to 40% LPG and 60% diesel. The main drive behind this initiative is the environmental benefit. LPG is a clean burning fuel, resulting in a significant reduction in emissions.


To accommodate the gas tank on the chassis, the primary fuel tank was replaced with a 320L tank, which combines with the 280L reserve tank to give adequate range.

The side mounted 250L special LPG container can only be filled to 80% of its capacity in use. The gas tanks are manufactured to meet the strictest of European safety standards and each tank is individually pressure tested and stamped.


Gas tank specifications:

  • Dimensions: 950mm length 600mm diam. Mass 82kg.  80% stop filling valve fitted with safety valve.
  • Approval E867R 015246 2009.04   Test Certificate Regulation No. 67.01 EKG ONZ

In standard specification, the Mercedes-Benz Actros 2644 LS/33 complies with Euro 3 emission standards, which exceed the current South African emissions requirement of Euro 2. Running on a combination of gas and standard diesel, the vehicles CO₂ emissions can potentially be reduced by up to 12%, lessening its carbon footprint.

Further reductions are expected on some properties such as hydrocarbons, particulate matter, and smoke outputs, potentially reducing them to levels commensurate with Euro 5 emissions standards. Unitrans is highly conscious of the carbon emissions created by its total fleet, and the use of LPG converted vehicles could provide a real opportunity to run its operations in a more sustainable manner.

The Mercedes-Benz Actros 2644 LS/33 truck will be deployed at one of Unitrans’ national customers in KwaZulu-Natal, where its performance will be monitored continuously. Sasol will supply LPG for this project from the Unitrans depot in KwaZulu-Natal and from its Sasol Retail Convenience Centre in Kempton Park.

Mercedes-Benz offers its innovative FleetBoard system on this vehicle as standard equipment, providing advanced digital tracking of the vehicle’s total performance. Should the pilot tests yield the expected results; Unitrans will consider converting more of its fleet to LPG fuel. The initial testing period will run over six months.

Mercedes-Benz Actros 2644 LS/33
The third generation of the Mercedes-Benz Actros has been designed for achieving the utmost economy, comfort, safety and environmental compatibility. With more than 700 000 vehicles sold in over 100 countries, the Actros model range has long since established itself as the best-selling heavy-duty truck in many countries.

The Actros 2644 LS/33 employs the technically mature OM 501 LA 11,9-litre V6 engine with a power output of 320 kW.  This powerful engine is the engine of choice for the LPG conversion by Voltran® – Alternative Fuel Systems.

Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles division chose the “Mercedes Powershift”, a new-generation automated manual transmission, for all its on-road Actros models.  These six and eight cylinder engines are eco-friendly, Euro 3 emissions compliant and give improved fuel consumption.

In South Africa, Mercedes-Benz offers a communications interface – FleetBoard – as standard across the Actros range. This telematics system offers customers a safe, reliable and economical service to cut costs and to ease the fleet management function.  Up-to-date information is provided in an instant to help fleet managers make informed decisions, which improves the efficiency and profitability of their business.

“The trucking industry is becoming increasingly sensitive to the environmental and safety standards of its transport service providers, and when we were approached by Unitrans to partner in this pilot project, we did not hesitate to support wherever possible.

Although the LPG conversions are not done by our Daimler engineers, but by a reputable conversion firm well versed in alternative fuel systems, we fully support this exciting initiative,” says Kobus van Zyl, Vice President, Sales & Marketing Commercial Vehicles, Mercedes-Benz South Africa.

The standard off-the-shelf Actros previously demonstrated its phenomenal performance capabilities and its outstanding economy during a record-breaking drive at the Nardo test track in the South of Italy.

A semitrailer, loaded up to its 40-tonne limit, covered just under 13 000 kilometres in seven days, while returning fuel consumption figures of just 19.44 litres/100 km – a world record. With a cargo weighing 25 tonnes, this means a fuel consumption per tonne of just 0.8 litres/100 km.

This equates to a mere 20.5 grams of CO2 per kilometre for each tonne of payload. This ultra-clean, ultra-frugal record-breaking truck is therefore the most economical and cleanest truck in the world.

Aerodynamic features of the Actros 2644 LS/33 include a specialised sun screen, which appears to be split into three sections and blends smoothly into the V shape.  The two slanted, transparent outer sections of the sun screen top off the unmistakable face of the Actros.

The sun screen is complemented by special corner paneling with optimised air deflector elements.  Not only do these streamline the aerodynamics of the Actros, they also fuse harmoniously with the dynamic flow of the lines.  The same is true of the new two-part exterior mirror.  These are not only design elements, they contribute significantly to reduced fuel consumption.

The Actros 2644 LS/33 has a warranty of 12 months/unlimited km on the complete vehicle and an extended driveline warranty of 36 months with a mileage of 450 000 km for on-highway applications.

VOLTRAN Alternative Fuel Systems
Voltran is represented in South Africa and the rest of the SADEC through Mazambane Trading. The research and development department of Voltran Deutschland GmbH, together with engine developers of reputable truck manufacturers, software specialists, LPG experts and professors of combustion technologies, participated in the development of Voltran’s new Gas Conversion Kit.

They deploy ground breaking technologies in England and Germany in the area of LPG and diesel combustion, in order to offer advanced innovations at the highest level.  Efficient research and modern production measures are employed.

On the engine test bed, features of equipment and components are tested in order to obtain optimised environmental factors such as lowering the emissions.  Prototypes of new systems are developed on ultra-modern test benches which can simulate analogue to real road conditions during different driving modes.

By a state-of-the-art exhaust gas analysis system, single exhaust emissions are filtered and the parameters obtained are processed in real time, making it possible to manufacture the sophisticated technical innovations.

The truck engine converted to the use of LPG operates as per 4-stroke combustion principle with sequential injection.  In LPG mode the engine also works on the principle of sequential injection by means of individual injector nozzles allocated in each cylinder.  Through these nozzles the exact quantity of LPG is electronically injected into the cylinder.

The electronic control unit (ECU) evaluates all engine signals as well as corresponding vehicle-specific settings.  As a result optimal driving parameters are determined and corresponding evaporator pressure and injection timing is set fully automatically.

The sequential fuel injection system is among the most technically sophisticated equipment for the operation of diesel and liquefied petroleum gas on the market.  The engine can be operated either with diesel/LPG mix or with diesel only.  Should the driver accidentally drive the gas tank empty, he can continue in diesel mode without any problems as the diesel engine has not been modified in any way.

Gerald Ferreira

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Published : Thursday November 10, 2011

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