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Radical Innotruck showcases emerging transport technology


April 18, 2012

The striking Innotruck vehicle is designed to be a testbed and demonstrator for experimental vehicle technologies (Photo: TU München)

The striking Innotruck vehicle is designed to be a testbed and demonstrator for experimental vehicle technologies (Photo: TU München)

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Last November, Mercedes showed off its futuristic Aero Trailer concept at a transport truck show in Belgium. While it certainly looked quite sleek and efficient, it certainly wasn’t as eye-popping as the full tractor/trailer combo that will be on display later this month in Germany. Known as Innotruck, the bizarre vehicle is part of Technische Universität München (Technical University Munich)’s Diesel Reloaded project, which “aims to demonstrate how paradigm shifts in automotive, energy, and information technologies can help to address major societal trends and needs.”

Innotruck is intended to serve as both a testbed and a demonstration vehicle for a number of emerging technologies. These include drive-by-wire operation, car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications, and plug-and-play applications.

The electric vehicle also has displays and controls that can adapt to each driver’s capabilities, and to constantly-changing conditions such as traffic flow and driver alertness. This ensures that the driver will never be deluged with more information than they need for the task currently at hand, but will also automatically receive data as it is needed.

Energy management is another major focus of Innotruck. Described as a “micro smart grid,” the vehicle is able to manage the energy flow not only from its battery pack, but also from onboard solar cells, wind turbines and regenerative brakes. It even features electrical outlets along its sides, so other vehicles can recharge from it when it’s stopped, and so it can release energy into the municipal grid.

The truck’s distinctive looks come thanks to noted automotive designer Prof. Luigi Colani – it definitely bears at least a passing resemblance to the eleMMent recreational vehicle, which is based on one of his designs.

Innotruck can be seen at the MobiliTec international trade fair at the Hannover Messe, from April 23rd to 27th.

Source: Technische Universität München

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

About the dumbest piece of design I ever saw.


I hope they don't grant that thing permission to use the roads.

I can't imagine how stupid one would have to be to think that facing outwards when going around a corner was a good idea.

Let alone spend money building it.

Looks like visibility while turning would be a complete nightmare, you'd need to crane your head around. Hate to think what motion sickness it would also cause. Reminds me of the Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses...


The looks are not original. Somehow it reminds me the trucks on the TV series "Highwayman". I would not worry too much about corners. Being a drive-by-wire i think there would be plenty of cameras to avoid any blindspots

Marco Gonzalez

Colani has always been an "artiste" first and foremost. Attention-grabbing looks are his stock in trade. Functionality is not high on his list of priorities. This particular design is clearly his homage to the Concorde, and that aircraft had more than its fair share of practical shortcomings.


of all the concepts I have seen on Gizmag this is by far the best. Normally I think concept vehicles are complete waste of money, but this is pretty good.

I have said many times that truck are not aerodynamic. I remember seeings similar design on a tv show many years ago. If they start making this it will change the trucking industry for ever.

Michael Mantion

It looks like something that came out of or used in a scifi movie. I don't think it would be practical for driving on roads; maybe if it is just highways turnpikes.


Oh dear, has not Prof. Luigi Colani noticed that almost the entire transport of the world is now CONTAINERISED. Ports, loading bays, storage, refrigeration, ships, cranes... all are designed around the standard shipping container. Its the reason why trucks are the shape they are, because it is more important that streamlining and offers greater financial return .

Dirk Scott

Actually it looks like Concorde without the wings, and is probably about as practical!

Dirk Scott

'The Homer' car at last has a truck equivalent.

Mmmmmm. Pointy....


That would have to be one of the nicest looking trucks I have ever seen.

Slightly overdone in the aerodynamics dept but very good none the less.

As my good friend Carol Shelby once noted about the supersonic aircraft style ducting and body work on the Formula One cars.... "The F1 cars operate in the same speed range as a DC3. We need the guy who designed the DC3 to do the aerodynamics of the F1 cars, not the people who designed the super sonic jet fighters."

It's quite nice in it's own way but if you try to drive that into some of the truck loading bays with steep entrances and exits, the nose will hit the front tractor.

So in some respects, it's not bad, but it's also a bit dumb from the practical vehicle point of view. The designer is in love with the flowing lines, not the practical realities of driving trucks.

Mr Stiffy

Mr Stiffy, your friend Carol Shelby might be more honored if you named him correctly, Carroll. Sort of lends dismissal to your thoughts, unfortunately. You need to get your facts correct if you want to have credibility. On the other hand, I like this entry into the truck boxes we have today. Probably isn't the best however, due to the fact it doesn't lend well to a driver in control turning corners, but, it does have merit. So in that statement Mr Stiffy, I agree with your last sentence.


Absolutely the stupidest idea I have seen in a long time. If this is Siemen's idea of the future they better get used to being bankrupt.

Guy Macher

just a showcar.. noone in their right mind would use such a vehicle for transport.. just another colani-sculpture. and btw, regarding aerodynamics: the rear-end and the gap at the trailer propably increase drag beyond today's production-trucks'

Trux Tee

Apart from the obvious advantages of reduced drag it does not look very practical. However I am surprised at the belated criticisms of Concorde which actually was the most successful aircraft ever flown. Yes it had "teething troubles" in the early days but then it was the most advanced technology in the world so hardly surprising! It was constantly overbooked unlike most scheduled flights even to-day which often fly with many empty seats.


The SST-esque nose is a misapplication of pointiness and of no use at highway speeds. When will vehicle designers realize the importance of the back end.


A far better and more logical alternative is the Aqua=Terra T.W.I.N.S. (Trans-Web Infrastructure Network System) Projects for land and sea (www.invention.net/aquaterra).

Creating an interlinked local, national, and international single-standard infrastructure and transportation system is the way to go. Much like an InterNet however, a TransNet.

Separate transportation systems as we have today are limited, time consuming to use, inefficient, costly, somewhat risky, needed to be maintained indefinitely and are always effected by climatic and environmental changes to the point of being inoperable until things clear. The T.W.I.N.S. projects consider all these points and has been designed with all this in mind in solution to the present global economic and social condition.

The only thing needed is government support and approval. No tax payer money is to be used to build T.W.I.N.S. projects. All is to be financed by the investment community since a substantial ROI is anticipated.

Aqua=Terra Planetary Holdings, LLC

Attaching the drivers compartment to the front of the trailer has some aerodynamic advantages but it makes changing trailers difficult and I have seen plenty of loading docks where the trucks had to jackknife in or bobtail to leave the road unblocked. People have got to stop taking these fools designs seriously.

The Concorde's problems were that it was built by people with no understanding of economics, and was based on a modified delta wing instead of a wing and tail that would have supported high lift devices for take offs and landings. the Russians stupidly copied the layout instead of letting Tupolev make a clean paper design.


This configuration lacks practicality and safety. Where are the windshield washer blades? Crash protection totally lacking. A front end head on into that bird beak – outch.

Bryce Guenther

There are some funny comments. "Facing out on corners is a bad idea". Stop in the middle of a sharp corner, straighten the wheel and hit the gas. You've been facing out in corners all the time. The nose reminds me of a Formula 1 nose, so I expect that the aerodynamics make a lot of sense. If they are going to mess about so much with the BS hybrid technology then they could spend ten minutes reducing wheel drag too, for the look if not for massive savings. The could have covered the gap ahead of the trailer too.

I am surprised by the resistance to change in the comments and by the unfinished state of the vehicle. Why not stick the driver down at the front? Fix the visibility issues with cameras now that screens are cheap compared to vehicle costs. There's an FJ Crusier with seven cameras which show rear views and hidden views for rock crawling. The experimental truck could get the same sort of views and remove the need for a space age and exposed seating position.

But it's an interesting vehicle and not a bad set of experiments. I wouldn't be surprised to see tractor unit aerodynamics evolve this way, even if the result isn't a 100% replica of this.


Seems like he copied the profile of the American bomber XB-70. If functionality is not a requirement to good design then, fantastic, else, epic fail. EPIC! The first function of a transport vehicle is to maximize usable payload space and weight capability. This design does none of this. I suspect this guy is on drugs. This isn't genius. Not by a long shot.


The Xb-70 did everything it was intended to do, but by the time it was ready for production soviet SAMs and the Mig-25 were thought to have removed its sanctuary, changing it from a capable deep penetration bomber into a very expensive target. NASA still flies the XB-70 to do high altitude mach 3 tests.


Slowburn, that would be a neat trick since the only surviving XB-70 has been a museum piece since 1969 and hasn't taken to the air since then. Besides, even NASA says the two XB-70 prototypes spent fewer hours at Mach 3 throughout their entire lifetimes than an SR-71 might log in one flight.


re; Gadgeteer

How time flies. Thinking about it, It was twenty years ago that I read the article I found in a pile of old magazines. I hate it when that happens.


How many of those who have posted seriously negative comments about this vehicle actually bothered to read the complete article before jumping in? Nowhere does it say that there is an intention to move to commercial production. It is a concept vehicle, and will be used to test and demonstrate new technologies. To be able to demonstrate someting to an audience first you need to attract that audience's attention - and there is absolutely no doubt at all that this is an attention grabber. The fact that this article quickly became one of the most commented on is surely proof of that. If you were at a commercial vehicle show and caught just a glimpse of this thing could you ignore it, or would your curiosity get the better of you and force you to go find out WTH it was? Rather than the EPIC fail that it has been branded as by one contibutor, I see this being an epic success.


re; A'Tuin

If I was at a commercial vehicle show looking for the trucks I was going to replace my current fleet with I most certainly would ignore something that absurd.


Hey everybody,

I'm a member of the team behind the vehicle and I'd like to reply to some comments.

The Innotruck is a research vehicle we use to test a large number of concepts and ideas in the areas of human-machine interface, driver assistance, system architecture, sensor fusion and energy management (particularly in the drive train).

The usability was definitely not in project focus, as many of you noticed. This vehicle is not meant to be sold as an end product. We are mainly interested in technology transfer between the Innotruck and other research projects. We are also interested in the feedback from our industry partners, which can take our results and go into serial production with their own projects.

At the end of the project lifetime the Innotruck is going to be turned into a science club on the campus of the Technical University of Munich.

I would be happy to answer any additional questions.

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