The Mercedes-Benz Econic, the advanced, environmentally friendly, low-floor transport vehicle for municipal transportation, consolidation and short-radius distribution applications, continues to dominate in inner-city areas.

The latest example of this success is an order from logistics service provider Simon Loos based in the Netherlands for a total of 30 Mercedes-Benz Econic 1828 NGT chassis with eco-friendly natural gas drive. The first vehicle out of the order for 23 semitrailer tractor vehicles and seven chassis has now been handed over at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Wörth.

Setting standards in technology and cleanliness
The Econic is driven by an EEV-certified in-line six-cylinder 900-series engine in the form of a mono-fuel natural gas drive. The M906 LAG engine produces 205 kW (279 hp) from a displacement of 6.9 litres. The emissions produced by the Econic with natural gas drive do not contain any fine dust or particles. In addition, the gas drive also boasts low noise emissions. As a result, the Econic NGT has earned the right to bear the “Blue Angel” seal of approval. The Blue Angel is part of the association for the “Global Ecolabelling Network”, comprising 26 environmental labelling organisations worldwide.

Thanks to additional in-engine measures, the use of an Allison transmission as well as optimised soundproofing, it has been possible to achieve a further significant reduction in noise emissions down to 72 dBA, thus enabling the Econic to receive approval for round-the-clock operation – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Third-generation logistics company
Now in its third generation, the logistics company Simon Loos has been involved in the transport industry since 1938. The company is headquartered in Wognum, approximately 50 kilometres north of Amsterdam. One of its most important customers is the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn B.V., which has grown from a small grocery store and today forms part of the Ahold Group. Albert Heijn operates full product range supermarkets in the Netherlands, holding a market share of almost 33 percent. The company has four different types of stores. District stores make up the largest proportion, with more than 800 branches, many of which remain open until 8.00 p.m., and some until 10.00 p.m. A number, mainly in large cities, are even open on Sundays, a fact which makes fresh deliveries essential.

Michael Dietz, Head of Sales and Marketing at Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks, highlights the special role played by the Econic as the technology platform for the product portfolio of the Mercedes-Benz Truck Division and Daimler Trucks in the field of environmentally friendly drive technology. “In the future, the Econic NGT will be operated in the Netherlands with liquefied natural gas, LNG. In addition to benefitting from environmentally friendly and quiet combustion, the Econic running on LNG can achieve a very long range, almost equalling that of diesel vehicles. Reserves of natural gas are significantly greater than oil reserves, and many of the world’s countries can only transport their natural gas reserves to consumer countries as liquefied natural gas. In addition, the Econic can also run on renewable biogas, which is a CO2-neutral energy source. With this technology, our customer in Holland is setting new standards in city logistics.”

Refrigerated transport even at night
Maintaining fresh deliveries at all times calls for elaborate delivery logistics using refrigerated transportation, even at night. In the Netherlands, however, as in all highly-developed industrial countries, a great deal of significance is placed on climate protection and the preservation of a habitable environment. European guidelines have been implemented with these very aims in mind, such as the guideline EC 2001/547 which states that between 20 and 23 percent of road traffic must make use of alternative fuels by the year 2020. Noise and emission limits are becoming increasingly stricter, and cities in large, densely populated areas, such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, are only granting access to specific types of vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz Econic is one of these vehicles – with its environmentally friendly, quiet natural gas engine, it is granted access to all zones.

Holland has also implemented the so-called PIEK regulations, which stipulate how loud or quiet vehicles and unloading activities are allowed to be between certain times. While diesel vehicles are able to meet the necessary requirements during the hours of 7.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m., outside of these hours only the Econic with its quiet gas engine, or electric vehicles – which are not yet available in the transport sector – are able to make the grade. Food logistics, for example, is a round-the-clock business. “We are moving towards 24-hour, 365-day deliveries”, explains Director Simon Loos. “This can only be guaranteed with special vehicles”. Even the semitrailers of Dutch body manufacturer Heiwo in Wolwega make use of PIEK-certified refrigeration units from Carrier, sound-proofed loading tailgates from Dhollandia and rubber-wheeled roll cages.

Handover of relay deliveries at city limits
In order to comply with such regulations and avoid emissions in urban districts, the “architects of transport” Simon Loos Logistic, as the innovative Dutch transport company likes to be known, devised a type of relay delivery: a so-called “LZV” (“Lang Zwaar Voertuig” in Dutch = literally a “long, heavy vehicle”) is an articulated vehicle comprising two close-coupled 2-axle semitrailers measuring 25.25 m in length, and with a gross vehicle weight of 50 tons, used to transport goods from logistics centres located outside the city to the city boundaries, from where subsequent distribution can take place.

On reaching the city limits, the semitrailers are uncoupled and then taken over by Mercedes-Benz Econic NGT vehicles for transport to the various inner-city markets. The semitrailers are designed for city-centre traffic, which can be very restricted in parts, and include such features as a steered rear axle. The gross vehicle weight of the Econic truck/trailer combination is up to 30 tons.

Two years of test operations
“We discussed the concept with our loading agents and Mercedes-Benz”, explains Simon Loos, whose fleet includes 425 towing and 645 towed vehicles. Trials and test operations began back in November 2009.
“Since 2005, we have been changing our towing vehicles, a good 75 percent of which are Mercedes-Benz, over to Euro 5. In the case of our latest acquisitions, we discussed with our customers what their goals are, something which we always make a point of doing. It quickly became clear that the primary requirement was for maximum environmental acceptability”, explains logistics expert Loos. “Euro 6 will not be available until some point in the future, so we focused on EEV. The Econic NGT ultimately emerged as the natural choice based on our considerations. The natural gas engine complies with EEV and is powerful enough to cope with the expected transport demands to be placed on it”.

Enhanced image thanks to zero-emission commercial vehicles
According to Simon Loos, the entitlement to access cities is likely to be restricted even further, something which will give the Econic with gas engine an additional edge. In addition, there is also the fact that the gas version of the Econic can also run on biogas – which can be fermented from left-over food – without any changes having to be made to the vehicle. Discussions have apparently already taken place with foodstuff producers in this respect. Using biogas from a regenerative source enables the Econic to operate as a CO2-neutral vehicle, helping to enhance the image of the transportation sector. Furthermore, the transportation company can take on a pioneering role when it comes to “low-emission” logistics. Loos is able to compensate for the additional cost of the Econic NGT with longer daily operating times – something which would not even be possible in this particular field of application without the Econic.

Positive driver feedback on safety and ergonomics
The Econic has long been the benchmark for vehicles with low-floor cab. It features a large wraparound windshield and a co-driver’s door which opens automatically at the push of a button. The cab has a level floor and provides plenty of headroom. The low entry is ideal for applications which involve having to frequently get in and out of the vehicle. The automatic transmission fitted as standard enables the driver to concentrate fully on the traffic conditions. Furthermore, the driver sits practically at eye level with pedestrians and enjoys optimum visibility – features which are praised by the drivers at Simon Loos. This is also a big advantage in the old town districts of Amsterdam in particular. And pedestrians often stand and look at the quiet trucks in amazement, given that they are so different to regular trucks.

Econic – a success story
The story of the Econic began in 1998. The low-entry vehicle design was ahead of its time, and today’s success of the model series is testament to its suitability for a variety of applications. In the meantime, the Mercedes-Benz Econic range has come to comprise a complete modular system with 2, 3 and 4 axles. The Econic is used widely in large cities, both nationally and internationally – whether in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Paris, Stockholm, Athens, or Valencia. The design benefits of the Econic are even in high demand in Singapore and Mexico. Due to the increasing unit quantities and high customer demand for Econic vehicles with natural gas and biogas engines, in 2009 production was completely relocated to the Special Vehicles product division in Wörth am Rhein.

Source: Daimler AG