Powered with natural gas, the Econic NGT with Allison transmission allows for quieter and more environmentally friendly transport.For more than a year, a Mercedes Benz Econic NGT equipped with an Allison fully automatic transmission, has been tested at the Magna Steyr factory supply transport firm in Graz, Austria. The Econic, owned by the Austrian transport company Frikus, is the first of its type to enter service in Austria.This vehicle is part of a research project entitled ‘Clean Heavy Duty’ under the direction of Professor Dr Ernst Pucher, from the Vienna University of Technology. Final testing has just concluded with impressive results: The Econic NGT 1828 tractor showed considerable reductions of air pollutants (for CO2, around 20 per cent less and for NO2, 30 per cent less), as well as a reduction in fuel consumption (10 per cent) and fuel costs (around 20 per cent). Noise emissions are also 50 per cent lower than those produced by a comparable diesel vehicle. As a result, Magna Steyr has decided to initially replace 30 diesel trucks with the Econic NGT model.Magna Steyr is one of the largest factories in the region. Around a hundred trucks travel every day between the plants and the rail terminals, collecting crucial parts and supplies. Each of the hundred trucks travels 320 km per day, all together a distance of around 32,000 km every day, which consumes approximately 10,000 litre of diesel. This has a significant impact on the area surrounding the plant. It was felt the use of environmentally friendly and quiet vehicles could offer advantages to Magna Steyr and the local community. The Econic with a natural gas engine has an EEV certification and therefore can be operated even in environmental protection zones. This helps to meet the trade law requirements for noise level and emission levels helping to assure the local production for the long term. Even the reintroduction of a three shift operation, with night shifts, is easier to achieve with the quiet, environmentally-friendly Econic powered with natural gas. Indeed, without deploying this type of vehicle, Magna Steyr would not have been able to consider a third shift, which it is aiming to reintroduce.The Econic NGT uses the 6.9 litre OM 906 LAG natural gas engine, which produces 205 kW (279 hp) and is exclusively equipped with an Allison 3500R six speed fully automatic transmission.Despite already being considered a quiet truck, the noise level was further reduced from 77 dBA to 72 dBA, thanks to engine, transmission and noise enclosure optimisation. These figures make the noise emitted by the Econic NGT comparable to those of a passenger car cruising.Econic vehicles are available in two axle, three-axle and four axle configurations with gross vehicle weight ratings of 18, 26 and 32 tonne, respectively. Depending on the chassis, the drivetrain is either an in-line six-cylinder OM 906 LA with power ranging from 175 kW (238 PS) to 210 kW (286 PS) or, the OM 926 LA with 240 kW (326 PS). Since 2002, an alternative to the diesel drivetrain has been available, with the natural gas engine OM 906 LAG offering 205 kW (279 PS).The Allison 3000 Series fully automatic transmission (with optional retarder) has ensured quiet, reliable and efficient power transmission for the Econic since its debut in 1998. “Allison transmissions are characterised by high efficiency, with minimum and easy maintenance; that’s why we decided to make them standard in the Econic. They have been very conducive to the success of the Econic,” says Michael Dietz, Head of Sales, Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks, at the delivery of the 10,000th Econic in February 2011 in Woerth.By multiplying the engine torque at vehicle launch, the Allison torque converter technology effectively compensates for a natural gas engine’s weaker torque profile and delivers superior vehicle startability and acceleration. In addition, Allison transmissions feature helical gears designed for a smoother and quieter operation.The research project ‘Clean Heavy Duty’ receives financial support from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, the territory Styria and the Office for the Environment of the City of Graz. The Vienna University of Technology, the energy agency Graz, Mercedes-Benz Austria, Magna Steyr and the transport company Frikus are also involved in the project.Allison Transmission is the world’s largest manufacturer of fully automatic transmissions for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles, medium and heavy tactical US military vehicles and hybrid propulsion systems for transit buses. Allison transmissions are used in a variety of applications including on highway trucks (distribution, refuse, construction, fire and emergency), buses (primarily school and transit), motor homes, off-highway vehicles and equipment (primarily energy and mining) and military vehicles (wheeled and tracked).