Yes, we may have missed it a bit. Maybe it’s because the people of Koprivnica don’t talk much about their work. In any case, she deserves to be tipped off, albeit a symbolic one.
For almost two and a half decades, Tatra has produced “only” heavy trucks. Coincidentally, this year marks forty years since the start of serial production of the trambus truck T 815. It can be said with certainty that this vehicle has become the basis of the current success of trucks from Kopřivnice. If it weren’t for the eight hundred and fifteen, we wouldn’t be able to see even the most modern cars of the Tatra Phoenix Euro6 or Tatra Force series driving on and off the roads today.
While the models of the first series use the design and business synergies of Tatra and selected world-renowned manufacturers and suppliers, the second series of vehicles is truly a pure Tatra product. From the chassis and cabin to the complete drivetrain. In order to be 100 percent truthful, I must say that, in the case of a customer request, Tatra Force cars can also be equipped with a part of the drive train of foreign origin – an engine and a main gearbox. In order to properly appreciate the importance of the Tatra Force model series, it is necessary to look at its original purpose. An insight into its design roots.
Special customer project
Exactly twenty years ago, in the fall of 2003, Tatra began to open the second American chapter in its history. Over the next three years, the Terex Corporation of the USA was able to cut the “fat meat” in places to the bone in the car industry, which was important for the company’s survival.
In addition, the Americans introduced several new elements to the business strategy of the car company from Central Europe. One of the most important was the ability to participate in foreign tenders against global competition. The result was – perhaps episodic for some – participation and work on a special customer project LVSR (Logitic Vehicle System Replacement) for the USMC (US Marine Corps).
In the end, Tatra withdrew from the almost won tender as part of another change of owners. However, a significant result was the subsequent decision to develop a completely new series of special highly mobile Tatra vehicles with the possibility of air transport by standard NATO means – i.e. with a low cabin. This created a unified military special with the type designation T 815-7, designated Force since 2016.
The first generation of vehicles of this series entered the market in 2007. After the modernization of the chassis in 2012, four years later, in 2016, the second generation was presented with a reconstructed cabin. Within a few years, the original military vehicles found their way into the civilian sphere. Probably the most famous are the Force cars in the service of the HZS CR or specials for the mining and oil industry.
The first joy of 2023
The third generation of Tatra Force vehicles was presented in the first world premiere as part of this year’s international trade fair Pyros 2023 at the exhibition center in Brno. At first glance, the third-generation Force vehicles have a completely new cabin. Its shapes, including the interior, were designed by designer Lukáš Taneček. It is the first time in its history that Tatra has commissioned work of such a complex scope to an external specialist. The cab boasts an unrivaled low height, low step-in and easy modification thanks to simple manufacturing. The highly resistant space frame ensures space for the crew to survive in the event of an accident, beyond the scope of legislative standards.
The cab has an integrated ROPS system in all its variants. For the two-door version, the FOPS system can also be integrated into its roof. It is the safest cabin of its type on the automotive market. However, the design changes that move the third generation of vehicles to the level of a completely new product are mainly hidden “inside”.
The car’s electronic and electrical architecture meets Cyber Security and GSR requirements. The electronic instrument panel combines classic switches and control via the display and also offers control of the display functions using a rotary selector with a touchpad function. The function control system enables very safe and efficient off-road driving. The interior of the cabin is unified for all its versions. Surface and cover parts have a new design. The new four-door “crew” variant offers full space for the rear row of seats according to EN 1846-2 in the basic variant for a crew of 1+5, optionally arranged for a crew of 1+7.
The second joy of 2023
As part of the automotive industry’s megatrends towards the gradual disappearance of the so-called carbon footprint and emission-free operation, Tatra decided to use the Force model series as a basis for the development of alternative drives. Tatra Force e-Drive vehicles are ready to help both the company’s own car company and, above all, split customers to achieve all given goals within the Green Deal project.
On the occasion of the H2 Forum conference in Ostrava in October, Tatra Trucks presented the Tatra Force e-Drive vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells to the general public in this year’s second world premiere. For Tatra vehicles, from the point of view of their primary purpose, the FCEV (hydrogen fuel cell) option appears to be advantageous.
It is an electric drive with the fact that the fuel cell produces the necessary electrical energy from hydrogen directly on board the car. In addition to the Danfoss traction electric motor, traction batteries and Ballard fuel cells (2 x 100 kW), the vehicle is equipped with hydrogen gas pressure tanks (6 x 5 kg) located on both sides of the vehicle’s wheelbase.
Apart from everything else, the advantage of this system is the very short filling time of the hydrogen tanks. The entire procedure, depending on the technical configuration of the filling station, takes about 15 minutes. However, all the advantages of hydrogen vehicle propulsion will emerge only when an effective hydrogen infrastructure is available, which is to some extent a political matter, with its importance and level of investment exceeding the borders of individual countries.
The basic philosophy of the development and construction of the hydrogen Tatra is 100 percent preservation of Tatra-Mobility, i.e. the chassis of the Tatra concept up to the integrated additional/downshift gearbox. A commonly available electric motor is connected to the main transmission and drives the wheels of the vehicle through an auxiliary/downshift transmission.
The advantage, in addition to the already mentioned preservation of the Tatra chassis, is the location of the traction electric motor in a protected zone above the backbone tube, without affecting the rigidity of the entire chassis structure, the possibility of combination with a multi-stage gearbox. Traction batteries with a total capacity of 171 kWh use Li NMC (lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide) technology and have the option of charging from an external source (Plug-in).
Two world premieres of vehicles of the same brand in one year, you really don’t see it that often. Nevertheless, it is not only possible, but completely realistic. And we can be pleased that it is the Czech brand Tatra that has achieved something like this this year. Since development and research in Kopřivnica is working at full speed, I think we won’t have to wait extremely long for further news.
Author: Milan Olšansky