Custom Tailored Trucks get the eEconic ready for Australia.
The conversion professionals at Mercedes-Benz Custom Tailored Trucks once again have a special order: an eEconic is needed for the Australian market that does not yet exist in this form. The expansion of e-mobility always presents our colleagues in Molsheim with exciting challenges – but impossible? Neither this order nor the next ones are, they say.
A rare guest.
Like all eEconic, the vehicles featured in this article come from the assembly line of Europe's largest truck factory – the Mercedes-Benz plant in Wörth. However, they are given their final shape 100 km further south, in what some might call the sleepy part of tranquil Alsace. The bustling workshops of Mercedes-Benz Custom Tailored Trucks (CTT) can be found in Molsheim, a town of just under 10,000 inhabitants.
CTT traditionally works to build the future. This time, however, the forward-looking focus is on a vehicle that has only rarely been found on the stands in their prototype workshop: an eEconic.
The reason for the rare guest's visit at CTT is that the clocks tick differently in Australia. Not only in terms of the time difference, but also with regard to traffic regulations. There is a lot at stake in the conversion: ultimately, the aim is to enable Australian waste disposal companies to switch to e-mobility.
A new concept, built on experience.
The crux of the matter is that waste disposal companies in Australia cannot utilise the maximum payload with the standard eEconic due to deviating calculation principles. Until now, the containers have been transported with diesel-based Econic with two driven rear axles (6x4). As of today, however, the eEconic is only available with a 6x2/4 wheelbase as standard.
The solution: a trailing axle with dual tyres. A concept that the CTT professionals adopted from the A-series – more precisely from the eActros – which usually occupies the sites in Molsheim. The new axle makes it possible to distribute the load of the superstructure in such a way that it fulfills the requirements of the Australian authorities.
Technical challenges: solved.
However, the double tyre trailing axle is not the only modification to the new eEconic. To make the vehicles fit for Australia and the waste containers, the CTT team has also extended the wheelbase of the eEconic from the standard 4 m to 4.6 m.
Due to the previously rare modifications to the eEconic, the conversion did present the Molsheim mechanics with certain (electrical) technical challenges. But they were also able to draw on their knowledge of the A-series – i.e., Actros, Arocs, Antos and Atego – in which they have specialised over the years.
More than 300,000 conversions have been completed.
This eEconic with a trailing axle with dual tyres is just one of ten. That's how many vehicles the Australian customer has ordered in total. When the prototype is finished in the so-called proto-studio, the meticulously documented "building instructions" in the form of codes and drawings will in this specific case be sent back to Wörth and multiplied by the colleagues there. Normally, this also takes place in Molsheim.
Work such as that on the eEconic has now been carried out at the CTT plant for almost 23 years. Around 22,000 truck axles have been installed in the small Alsatian town since CTT was founded in 2000. In 2023, the Molsheim plant celebrated its 300,000th converted vehicle.
The advantage for the customer is obvious: Time-to-market. Enquiry – delivery.
Alain Hirtz, Team Leader Marketing and Special Conversions, Daimler Truck AG
The CTT principle.
Why do we need CTT in Molsheim in the first place? The team leader of the Marketing and Special Conversions department, Alain Hirtz, explains the advantages of the manufacturing process compared to series production: “When you develop a new vehicle, you need a very long period for industrialisation. You have to organise this development in such a way that it is suitable for an assembly line producing 400 vehicles per day.”
The situation is different at the plant in Alsace: “At CTT, you also have development time, you also have to produce and test prototypes, and quality must be ensured,” Alain Hirtz clarifies. “But we don't need this long period of industrialisation, we can do it in a very short time. The advantage for the customer is obvious: time-to-market. Enquiry – delivery.” That is the CTT principle.
Agile in the mobility shift.
As much as the engineers and mechanics at CTT have been able to draw on their wealth of experience with the eEconic, the challenges posed by the paradigm shift towards e-mobility are just as diverse. CTT only began the first conversions of e-vehicles last year. And the adaptation of the combustion engine portfolio to zero-emission vehicles will continue to accompany the Molsheim-based company for some time to come.
“We will now approach the markets on a day-to-day basis, and the markets will also come to us and ask for solutions that they can't get from series production,” explains Alain Hirtz. The Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) is available in different variants, but of course there are not enough for every global specification. “And that means we will be adding to the overall product portfolio for BEVs.”
Accustomed to change.
The amount of work involved should not be underestimated. The new electrical components mean that thousands of assembly instructions and samples (around 2,800 codes) that have been collected over the years are suddenly obsolete. “We're starting from scratch in some places,” says the team leader of the Marketing and Special Conversions department.
And that's not all: in the new year, the series will also be adapted to the Global Safety Regulations (GSR) – a completely new electrical architecture in which the most diverse and complex sensors are installed, with which everyone still has to gain experience.
For Alain Hirtz, there is no question that CTT will master this upheaval. After all, the professionals for customised vehicles have already been confronted with a general overhaul of their portfolio during the transition to the Strategic Future Truck Program (SFTP) – and have also delivered reliably. Like the Econic.