Fans of Swedish automaker Saab have something to be happy about this week, because the brand’s trucking division, Scania, has just revealed a radical new transportation concept that promises to change the way governments and municipalities think about mass transit. It’s called the NXT, and it has all of the fun, hip buzzwords going around the auto industry these days– that’s right, kids. This one’s modular, electric, AND autonomous!
That’s a lot to take in, for sure, but it comes down to a fairly simple concept. Basically, Scania is going to produce axles that are, in themselves, self-contained vehicles. Think of them like giant Segways, if you want. Between these two axles (or, presumably, three or four axles), a fleet will be able to put whatever they need– whether that’s a passenger pod, a cargo pod, or even a dumpster!– and get to work.
What’s most revolutionary about this concept is the modularity of it. If a city needs an extra bus or two for a big event, they can easily and quickly convert a cargo-hauler to the task. If a school bus is out of repair, it’s a simple task to replace the malfunctioning “Segway” with one it good working order, you know?
So, all of that modularity– especially combined with the environmental friendliness involved in replacing diesel vehicles with electrics– is awesome. What’s even better, to me, is seeing the Saab logo back on the front of SOMETHING that may be coming to a city near me, soon. That’s just my take, though- what about you? Take a look at the photos and factory press release, below, then let us know what you think of the new Scania NXT concept in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Taking urban transport to the NXT level – a new concept from Scania
Welcome to the NXT future! Scania’s new battery electric self-driving urban concept vehicle is designed with the flexibility to shift from ferrying commuters to and from work in mornings and evenings, delivering goods during the day and collecting refuse at night.
In a bold display of innovation, Scania’s engineers have taken the company’s DNA – the modular system – to the next level in developing a concept vehicle that can change shape for varying urban assignments.
Countless cities are now catalysing change in urban transport, driven by the need for lower emissions and less congestion. Technological and infrastructural advances in electric and autonomous vehicles will be key enablers for cities when shifting to a sustainable transport system.
A vision of the future for transport
“NXT is a vision of the future for transport in cities. 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,” says Scania’s President and CEO Henrik Henriksson. “NXT is designed for 2030 and beyond while incorporating several cutting-edge features that are already available.”
In NXT, the front and rear drive modules can be fitted to a bus body, a distribution truck body or a refuse collector. The bus module of this innovative concept vehicle is on display at the UITP Global Public Transport Summit in Stockholm, 10–12 June.
Sharing and more flexibility
To achieve real change in the transport ecosystem, vehicles play an important part but more needs to be in place. Significant development of infrastructure is required to cater both for electrified and autonomous vehicles. Additionally, the 24/7 flow of people and goods in cities needs to be coherently addressed rather than disparately planned.
Commercial transport in many ways constitutes the pulse of a city. It is how we get to work or school. It is how food reaches shops and restaurants, how medicines are delivered to hospitals and how refuse is collected and removed. Currently, flows in cities are far from being optimized as goods are delivered during the morning rush hour while most people are also on the move. Meanwhile, commercial transport is largely barred from city centers during nights when people are asleep.
Henriksson: “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.”
Higher degree of automation
Public transport has always meant sharing. That now needs to be taken to the next level. With a higher degree of automation, it will be simpler to introduce greater flexibility in public transport.
“This is something new, something very different. Yet flexible design and modularised units lie very much at the core of Scania,” says Robert Sjödin, NXT Project Manager.
The eight-meter-long bus module is built as one composite unit, substantially reducing weight. The cylindrical cell batteries are placed under the floor, thereby utilizing 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 kilometers.
“Continuous improvement in small steps has been the hallmark of Scania,” says Sjödin. “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.”