Words by Robby DeGraff, photos courtesy of MBtech
Besides the Volkswagen Amarok and Mercedes-Benz’ uber-tough Unimog, Germany isn’t necessarily known as a pickup truck innovator. But MBtech, a subsidiary of Mercedes, is giving it a try with a new eco-friendly concept called the Reporter.
A "green" pickup, you say? Yes indeed, as the Reporter will be a plug-in hybrid that you charge at your home, office or worksite.
At first glance, the Reporter’s styling is far from traditional Mercedes contemporary design, combining swoopy, futuristic looks with cutting-edge technology. It seems to draw inspiration from the 2005 Bionic concept car, whose exterior was influenced by a box fish because the cubelike shape was aerodynamically efficient.
Underneath the Reporter’s futuristic skin, however, is genuine Mercedes technology.
"We want to inspire the viewers, make them curious and invite them to discover the concept study. We also want to demonstrate our self-confidence. That is why we have decided on the bold and unmistakable design," MBtech President Werner Kropsbauer said at the 63rd annual IAA Commercial Vehicles Expo in Hanover.
MBtech is the same company that has also helped Mahindra ready its compact diesel pickup trucks for sale in the U.S.
From its aluminum shell and carbon fiber-reinforced plastics, the Reporter is built with a low overall weight to lower emissions and boost fuel economy.
The Reporter’s gas-electric powertrain, dubbed DualX E-Drive, contains two motors: a 70-kilowatt electric motor and a 1.2-liter four-cylinder natural-gas combustion engine that work together to produce a top speed of nearly 80 mph and travel more than 186 miles before recharging. Conveniently, the engine can also run on regular gasoline. The electric motor powers the rear wheels while the natural gas engine powers the front wheels. The motors can work either simultaneously or alternately, allowing the Reporter to switch between front- and all-wheel drive.
The driver can choose among three different driving modes: 4Dynamic for maximum power and acceleration, which would be helpful for hauling and towing heavy loads; 4Range for low fuel consumption and long-range driving for perhaps country roads or highways; and Eco, which enables the Reporter to run solely on electricity.
The Reporter also harnesses solar energy for some of the pickup’s functions. Atop the roof are tiny bands of flexible solar panels — which are safer than traditional large and firm solar panels — that can generate 266 watts of electricity that can be used to run the truck’s main accessories such as the climate control, stereo and interior lights. This “Solar Top” helps keep the main 12-volt truck battery charged and even recharges it at the same time.
“This reduces the energy consumption and thus the fuel consumption, which, in turn, increases the vehicle's range," Kropsbauer said. The coolest part about the Solar Top is that it is removable, storable and can be used to power just about anything you can plug in. This feature could come in handy at worksites if you need to charge the batteries on your power tools or, as MBtech mentioned, how helpful it could be at a campsite.
Will the Reporter ever reach production? Those at MBtech believe so. "We have great plans for the concept vehicle. The premiere at the IAA is only the conclusion of the first project phase. Two further project phases will follow soon," Kropsbauer said.
From a styling and technology perspective, could this be the future of pickup trucks? Would you drive anything close to this type of truck? Let us know in the comments section below.
[Source: MBtech via GreenCarReports.com, H/T to John Voelcker]