Is the vehicle a bus? Or a truck?
What if it’s both, depending upon requirements?
That’s the thinking behind Swedish truck maker Scania's new NXT concept vehicle – a modularly designed, self-driving electric vehicle that can change configurations to meet varying urban fleet requirements. The NXT features front and rear drive modules that can be fitted to a bus body, a distribution truck body, or a refuse collector. It can be a commuter bus in the morning and evening, for example, and a refuse truck overnight, and handle next-mile delivery during the day.
The 8-meter (26-foot) bus module is built as one composite unit, substantially reducing weight, Scania said. A bank of cylindrical cell batteries are placed under the floor to make use of otherwise dead space while contributing to overall weight distribution for the vehicle. The NXT tips the scales at less than 17,600 pounds. Scania said the range of it present-day batteries is estimated at 150 miles on a single charge.
Scania designers said the concept vehicle is a way of calling attention to the 24/7 flow of people and goods in cities, which the OEM said needs to be coherently addressed rather than disparately planned. Currently, Scania said, logistics flows in cities are far from being optimized, because goods are delivered during the morning rush hour while most people are also on the move.
Meanwhile, in Europe, commercial transport is largely barred from city centers during nights when people are asleep to keep noise levels down. Scania believes that a new generation of vehicles, like the NXT, based on common chassis and powertrains that can be quickly reconfigured to switch from different applications based on fleet needs or the time of day, is one way of addressing these problems while decreasing congestion and enhancing fleet optimization.
"NXT is a vision of the future for transport in cities,” said Scania President and CEO Henrik Henriksson in an announcement. "Several of these technologies have yet to fully mature but for us it's been important to actually build a concept vehicle to visibly and technically demonstrate ideas of what is within reach. NXT is designed for 2030 and beyond while incorporating several cutting-edge features that are already available."