Changing the Last-Mile Delivery Market
This is not your usual test drive. Clean Fleet Report usually spends its time in sedans, crossovers and the occasional pickup, reviewing new technologies. We’ve been in a variety of electric vehicles, but the Chanje V8070 is the biggest one we’ve ever piloted.
It’s a lot of electric truck
Piloting is the right term because this is a large truck. Side-by-side with a standard FedEx or UPS delivery wagon, the Chanje V8070 gives up nothing. Its unibody look, a slicker design than the current models on the market, is augmented by a modern cockpit with a 10.4-inch touchscreen that’s as easy to use as the ones found in most modern cars.
Chanje founder and CEO Bryan Hansel said to expect it to “drive like a minivan.” As a longtime minivan owner, I have to say that any 26 ½-foot-long van is going to be challenged to fulfil that promise. It was very maneuverable, with responsive power steering and a fairly tight turning radius, but the length of this white electric beast takes it far out of the minivan category.
Big Because It Needs to Be
That length, sitting on a 194.3-inch wheelbase, offers what Hansel said the medium-duty market is looking for. The Chanje V8070 has 580 cubic feet of cargo storage space inside and is rated to haul up to 6,000 pounds. The roof is tall enough that a six-footer can easily walk through the space, and the rear doors swing open wide. A sliding door offers another point of entry.
Power for the unloaded van was fine for the short, flat test drive. The dual electric motors deliver 198 horsepower and, more important, 564 pounds-feet of torque to the rear wheels. Chanje claims it’s capable of taking on a 30 percent grade while loaded. The electricity is stored in a 70-kWh lithium-iron-phosphate battery (LiFePO4, the same basic chemistry BYD uses). The van comes with a 7.2 kW on-board charger.
The specifications for the unit are built around customer needs in this segment, according to Hansel. Average routes are calculated to be 65 miles and the Chanje V8070 is built to haul 3,000 pounds for 100 miles before needing a charge.
Customers Are Ordering the Chanje
The specs of the Chinese-built utility van have found some early adopters at Ryder, which has started delivery of the first of 125 vans ordered for its North American operations. The company will lease or rent them along with its conventionally powered vehicles. The first vehicles will land in California (San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and San Jose), followed by Chicago and New York.
Chanje uses the same plug-in connections as light-duty EVs
Chanje’s energy solutions business will set up a charging network for Ryder to support the electric vans, using level 2 chargers from Chanje partner eMotorWerks. Chanje vice president of Energy Services Suresh Jayanthi told Clean Fleet Report that Chanje could “map a system of chargers and back-up storage to the needs of the duty cycle” of any fleet customer. He said the goal was for those customers to see Chanje as a “one-stop shop” with vehicles, charging infrastructure and Ryder’s distribution and service.
CEO Hansel, a serial entrepreneur who had earlier electric truck experience with Smith Electric Vehicles, admitted the medium-duty delivery market is “tough.” But he believes the Chanje V8070’s ground-up design as an electric truck for the U.S. market gives it an edge. He added that the evolving economics of this class of fleet electric vehicle should allow it to compete at “price parity” with existing diesel models because of lower operating costs.
This electric van brings some style as well as environmental cred to this market
Once established in the last-mile delivery sector, Hansel sees the company establishing a North American assembly plant (current models are built in an existing Chinese plant) and expanding into the shuttle van, cab-chassis and Class A school bus markets.
There’s no lack of ambition here, but the first product is rolling into the market and should get some quick feedback from the diverse users at Ryder. If electric trucks generate the same reaction that their smaller car brethren have, we expect we’ll be back reporting on this segment again soon.
Final Note: For those of you who might be curious—V8070 can be decoded into: Van-8.0-meter length-70 kWh battery.
Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.
Electrified Powertrain Saves Fuel & Can Provide Power
Power outages are annoying; everyone knows this. Whether caused by unfortunate weather or mandatory maintenance, living without power can become highly inconvenient for those of us who choose to live in or around civilization. Flashlights are always out of batteries, and millennials hardly even know what a candle is.
The California energy provider, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, along with Efficient Drivetrains Incorporated (EDI), think they may have a solution to power problems everywhere, in the form of the utility industry’s first plug-in diesel-electric hybrid (PHEV) Class 6 truck.
The vehicle, developed by EDI with input from PG&E, features a PHEV drivetrain that is capable of up to 50 miles of all-electric driving with an additional 300 more miles of driving range in hybrid mode. The result is a diesel-powered Peterbilt Class 6 truck that can reduce emissions by 80 percent when compared to conventional vehicles of the same class.
The Power Play
However, the truck’s party piece is its ability to export power at a capacity of up to 160kW. By utilizing the power of its on-board batteries, this truck can give power to upwards of 125 homes, potentially eliminating planned outages and shortening unplanned outages.
PG&E Plug-in Hybrid Truck
“These cutting-edge trucks not only will help us reduce our fuel costs as well as our carbon footprint, but in the event of an outage, we would be able use their exportable power capacity to supply electricity to homes and businesses,” said Dave Meisel, senior director of transportation and aviation services for PG&E. “Being able (to) partner with a company that operates a manufacturing plant in the heart of our service area will also help us meet our goal of creating economic vitality in the communities we are privileged to serve.”
According to PG&E, the PHEV trucks are expected to cut operational fuel costs by up to 75 percent when driving in all-electric mode during typical daily fleet routes of up to 40 miles.
PG&E has already taken delivery of two trucks and, for day-to-day use, will likely use the flat-bed trucks to haul large materials to and from job sites. After recent scrutiny into potential connections with the Napa wildfires (and general public disapproval), PG&E could really use a win in the public relations column, and this new truck could be just what they need to show that the company is changing.
Tokyo Motor Show Venue for E-Fuso Vision One
In what is beginning to look like a good ol’ fashion western shoot out, Daimler outdraws Tesla in the fight to become the first to introduce a big rig battery-electric truck. Daimler Trucks and its subsidiary, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus, debuted the E-Fuso Vision One electric heavy-duty truck at Tokyo Motor Show on Wednesday. It’s part of a plan to electrify all of Mitsubishi Fuso’s large vehicles in the future.
E-Fuso Vision One brings electric drive to the big rig
The E-Fuso Vision One concept is a Class 8 truck with an enclosed cargo area, called a trailerless or “straight” truck. The electric heavy-duty truck concept has a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of about 23 tons and carries a payload of approx. 11 tons, only two tons less than its diesel counterpart. Daimler said it can be fitted with a range of battery packs with capacities of up to 300 kilowatt-hours, which would enable a range of 210 miles on a single charge.
“Our E-Fuso Vision One is an outlook on a feasible all-electric heavy-duty truck. It underlines our commitment to electrify our complete product range,” commented President and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation and Head of Daimler Trucks Asia, Marc Llistosella.
Electric Trucks Have Special Uses
The expected applications for the Vision One include intra-city, regional distribution in mature markets such as the U.S., Europe and Japan “within four years.” It’s also a solution for trucking companies in cities that are set to ban internal combustion engines.
And then there’s Tesla. After several cancelled introduction dates of its electric Class 8 truck, the Silicon Valley company announced it was delayed once again from today (Thursday, Oct. 26) until sometime in November. The reason, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, is the automaker’s severe production problems with the Model 3 and the company’s efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid following Hurricane Maria. Meanwhile, engine maker Cummins showed off its heavy-duty electric powertrain option in August and Toyota has been continuing to test its fuel cell electric Class 8.
E-Fuso Vision One and eCanter are the start of a new division of Daimler Trucks
In addition to the E-Fuso Vision One, Fuso also showcased its eCanter, the first series-produced all-electric medium-duty truck, which was launched in New York City last month. The eCanter has a GVW of 7.5 tons and a range of about 62 miles on a single charge. eCanter has already been delivered to customers in Japan, including the convenience-store Seven-Eleven, and Japan’s largest delivery-logistics provider, Yamato. Customers in the United States that have ordered the electric truck include United Parcel Service (UPS), and several NGOs, including Habitat for Humanity, Wildlife Conservation Society and The New York Botanical Garden.
Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus is part of Daimler AG’s Daimler Truck division, the world’s largest truck and bus manufacturer. Daimler also owns Freightliner and Detroit Diesel in the U.S.
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For the most part, anyone interested in electric vehicle (EV) technology has been focused on the evolution of passenger vehicles. Automakers like Tesla and GM have been front and center, feeling the love for their Model 3 and Bolt EV offerings. But is there another segment of the auto world that should be feeling some EV love? German auto giant Daimler thinks it may have the answer.
Daimler’s Fuso eCanter is the first all-electric truck
Recently, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC), part of Daimler Trucks, launched its new Fuso eCanter truck in New York City. According to Daimler, the Fuso eCanter is the world’s first series-produced all-electric medium-duty truck.
When they arrive in North America, eCanter trucks will have a range of about 62 miles and a load capacity of three-and-a-half tons, according to Daimler. The powertrain will draw its power from six high-voltage lithium-ion battery packs with 420V and 13.8 kWh each. The battery packs are built by Daimler’s Accumotive subsidiary.
Compared to Diesel
According to Daimler, in comparison with a conventional diesel truck, eCanter trucks offer savings of up to €1,000 ($1,182) per 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) on operating costs. In addition to North America, eCanter trucks will be sold in Europe and Japan. While Daimler is only planning to produce about 500 trucks in the next year, it intends to start higher-volume production by 2019.
First on the list to buy three eCanter trucks is the United Parcel Service (UPS). Daimler is also offering eight of its trucks to New York City-based non-profits, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, the New York Botanical Garden, Habitat for Humanity New York City, and Big Reuse Brooklyn.
Trucks can plug in, too, now
“Our new Fuso eCanter now addresses the increasing global demand for products to meet and exceed high CO2 emission standards,” said Marc Llistosella, president and CEO MFTBC and head of Daimler Trucks Asia. “It offers an attractive and cost-effective alternative to combustion engines and makes electric trucks key to the future of inner city distribution.”
In fact, electrified commercial vehicles have been a hot topic this past year. With the launch of all-electric vans from Chinese-backed California startup Chanje; Tesla’s announcement that they will build a fully electric long-haul semi; and diesel engine maker Cummins announcing that it will starting offering an electric powertrain option; there seems to be a general consensus that demand for electrified commercial vehicles is out there. And then there are the fuel cell electric trucks like Toyota’s prototype.
Despite being called “cost-effective,” pricing for eCanter trucks is still vague, but should be clarified sometime next year.
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Move Shows Company Dipping a Toe in New Market
Toyota is synonymous with hybrids in the U.S., but the company has made it clear it has other ambitions in the green car arena. It’s brought the Mirai fuel cell sedan to market and is leading all players in hydrogen-powered car sales. But Toyota didn’t get to be one of the largest automotive companies in the world by thinking small. So, a fuel cell-powered Class 8 truck should only be slightly surprising.
The Toyota Class 8 fuel cell truck has been on the road
Toyota first showed the fuel cell truck early in 2017 at a trade show. At the time it appeared to be a publicity stunt showing the capability of Mirai fuel cell stacks. In the truck, two Mirai stacks produce 670 horsepower and a critical 1,325 pounds-feet of torque. That torque is what makes what Toyota calls the Portal Project to haul an 80,000-pound load, the ticket of entry for regular work in the ports.
Fuel Cell Goes Into Service
Toyota revealed this week that the heavy-duty truck is now going into service later this month (October 2017) in and around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The company also noted that they have put in 4,000 miles of development for the prototype truck. What is clear from that number is the company is serious about moving this truck (or some version of it) towards production.
“Toyota has led the way in expanding the understanding and adoption of fuel cell technology,” said Toyota Motors North America Executive Vice President Bob Carter. “From the introduction of the Mirai passenger vehicle to the creation of the heavy-duty fuel cell system in Project Portal, Toyota continues to demonstrate the versatility and scalability of the zero-emission fuel cell powertrain.”
Under the hood, the fuel cell truck is clearly a prototype
In its work configuration the Portal Project is supposed to be capable of 200 miles of range (in part thanks to a 12 kWh battery backing up the fuel cell). Toyota aims to test how this works in the real world, in what it terms a “demanding cycle.” It hopes to be able to extend that range with longer routes later in the test.
The Toyota truck is clearly a prototype (just look under the hood), but the intent of Toyota may be clearer than many realize. Toyota’s truck subsidiary, Hino Motors, announced late last month that it was investing in a new plant in West Virginia to begin to produce Class 7 and 8 trucks, a new segment for Hino in the U.S. Hino has been the leader in hybrid truck technology; could they be ready to transition to fuel cells?
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U.S. Army Takes a Look at New Technology
General Motors presented its Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), a flexible fuel cell electric platform with autonomous capabilities, at this week’s meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). It is not to be mistaken for a truck; it’s a platform capable of carrying large loads. SURUS is designed to assist in “some of the toughest transportation challenges,” such as natural disasters and global conflicts, according to GM.
GM’s fuel cell platform could have a variety of uses
SURUS uses the company’s newest Hydrotec fuel cell powertrain, giving it zero-emissions green cred and impressive performance. Furthermore, SURUS will incorporate autonomous capability, increasing its attractiveness to the military; drone-style operation could make deliveries in dangerous areas much safer for the operator.
“SURUS redefines fuel cell electric technology for both highway and off-road environments,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Business. “General Motors is committed to bringing new high-performance, zero-emission systems to solve complex challenges for a variety of customers.”
There are a variety of other uses that can be accommodated with SURUS, as revealed by several illustrations. It can underpin light- to medium-duty utility and service trucks, serve as a self-driving cargo hauler or double as a mobile medical unit or power generator. As an open platform not obstructed by a driver’s cabin or other ancillary structure, and with an appearance resembling a skateboard, SURUS’ potential uses are nearly endless.
SURUS is about 16.5 feet long and 7.5 feet wide. With two electric drive units, four-wheel steering, a lithium-ion battery, 400 miles worth of hydrogen storage, and an advanced suspension, SURUS is packed with technology. Some of the benefits of the Hydrotec fuel cell include quiet and odor-free operation, high instantaneous torque and quick refueling time. It is also capable of providing an exportable power source and generating water.
The Army likes the quiet operation of SURUS
This isn’t GM’s first foray into fuel cell vehicles for the military. In 2005, the auto and truck maker supplied a fuel cell-powered Chevrolet half-ton pickup for testing at the U.S. Army base in Ft. Belvoir, VA, outside of Washington D.C. And last April, GM released the Colorado ZH2, an off-road 4×4 truck considered the first ground-mobility combat vehicle using hydrogen fuel-cell technology. Military testing has shown the ZH2 reduced acoustic non-detection distance by 90 percent compared to current military vehicles in operation. This means the ZH2 can get 10 times closer before being detected. Testing will continue through spring 2018.
The SURUS prototype is just a work-in-progress platform, and GM hasn’t actually committed to any official timetable for series production.