The pace of innovation and technological change is more rapid than ever before, especially for the automotive world. Trying to predict the future is not an exact science, of course, but Scania has been bold in setting out its stall and going public with its vision of the shape of things to come.
The brand’s NXT concept is Scania’s take of what the future for transport in cities could be – a self-driving electric vehicle that can change shape from a bus to a distribution truck to a refuse collector.
NXT was born when a group of Scania engineers came together and rose to the challenge of developing a vehicle that represents one possible vision for the future.
As Henrik Kenricksson, President and CEO of Scania Group, said, “We at Scania can’t redraw the entire transport system for cities. What we can do is inspire change and that is the idea behind NXT – to think about transport and vehicles in a different and sustainable way.”
But even coming up with a broad outline was far from simple, as NXT project manager, Robert Sjödin, explains, “When you ask 10 different people about the future, you will get 10 different answers.
“At the end of the day, no-one knows what will happen in 2030.
“But continuous improvement in small steps has been the hallmark of Scania. We are now taking a giant leap into the future. This vehicle will provide invaluable tangible data in our continued development of electrified autonomous vehicles.”
Scania transport designer, Michael Bedell, adds, “Many of the features have been designed with the future always-online generation in mind. Their lives will be closely intertwined with technology, and we think this concept vehicle will appeal to them.
“From the start, our aim was that it should not be perceived as aggressive, but be assertive and command respect as a vehicle in traffic. At least in the beginning, some may try to provoke the autonomous vehicle to stop, and it should be clear that NXT is on the move.”
The resulting vehicle is based on a modular system – enabling it to change shape for varying urban assignments – but technological and infrastructural advances in electric and autonomous vehicles will be key to seeing prototype become reality.
One of the most important modular designs for Scania is the NXT in bus configuration.
The eight-metre-long bus module is built as one composite unit, substantially reducing weight. The cylindrical cell batteries are placed under the floor, thereby utilising otherwise dead space as well as contributing to better weight distribution. With the low vehicle weight of less than eight tonnes, the range with present-day batteries is estimated at 245 kilometres.
Let’s take a look at some of its features in more detail:
Clear and simple styling: NXT is characterised by a clear and simple styling. The large windows not only provide a pleasant experience for passengers along the route, but the cross-view also helps pedestrians and manually driven vehicles see surrounding traffic through the windows.
Interchangable functional modules: NXT has been designed so separate drive modules that control and steer the vehicle and quickly be attached to functional modules which can be used for different applications.
Low weight: The bus module has the capacity for 20 seated passengers and 55 in total. Without a driver’s area, the entire interior can be used to carry passengers.
Crab steering: Fully steered wheels make the NXT extremely agile on city streets. Crab steering allows the bus to aligh perfectly with the pavement for ease of passenger entry and exit. This feature also gives the NXT a turning circle of just 10.5 metres.
Solar roof: The entire surface of the roof can be equipped with solar panels with the potential to generate nearly 3kW of additional power.
Infrared heating: To save on power-consuming heating, NXT has been equipped with an infrared heating system, which, compared with traditional convection heaters, reduces energy requirements by 60 per cent. The system is substantially lighter as well. Rather than heating indoor air, the infrared heaters keep passengers warm while also warming seat fabrics for added comfort.