Electric Truck Race Has Started
When it comes to electric trucks, Silicon Valley’s Tesla Semi has gotten the lion’s share of attention, but they aren’t the only one developing battery-powered heavy-duty haulers. Instead of long-haul semis, Mercedes-Benz parent, Daimler, is focusing on electric urban delivery vehicles.
This week, the automaker best known in the U.S. for its luxury cars and SUVs, introduced the eActros, the production version of the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck concept that first appeared in 2016. An initial test fleet of 10 trucks will be deployed with customers in Europe in a few weeks. Mercedes plans to begin full-scale production of the eActros in 2021.
Mercedes-Benz is putting electric heavy-duty trucks on the road
While Mercedes isn’t attempting to build an electric semi-truck like Tesla, the eActros shows that the company wants to scale up from small, local-delivery vehicles to larger models. The company plans to spend $3.2 billion on research and development for its truck division through 2019, focusing on developing electric mobility, connectivity and automated driving technology for commercial vehicles. Meanwhile, Mercedes will launch electric versions of its Vito and Sprinter vans and an electric bus over the next two years.
Electric Motors and Batteries
The structure for the eActros is provided by the frame of the standard Actros diesel truck. Both two- and three-axle versions with a gross weight rating of 18 to 25 metric tons (39,000-55,000 pounds) depending on the variant will be evaluated by customers.
The drive system comprises two electric motors located close to the rear-axle wheel hubs. These three-phase asynchronous motors are liquid-cooled and operate with a nominal voltage of 400 volts. They generate an output of 170 horsepower (125 kilowatt-hours) each, with maximum torque of 358 pounds-feet of torque (485 Nm) each. The gearing ratios convert this into 8,113 pounds-feet (11 000 Nm) each, resulting in driving performance on a par with that of a diesel truck.
It has a claimed driving range of 125 miles (200 kilometers), provided by two lithium-ion batteries with an output of 240 kWh. The batteries are accommodated in 11 packs: three of these are located in the frame area, the other eight are to be found underneath.
The high-voltage batteries do not just supply energy to the drive system, but to the vehicle as a whole. Ancillary components such as the air compressor for the braking system, the power steering pump, the compressor for the cab air-conditioning system and, where relevant, the refrigerated body, are also all electrically powered.
A full recharge takes three to 11 hours, depending on the power of the charging station. Recharging of the prototype trucks will be provided by portable rechargers.
Two Years, 20 Test Customers
“We are now passing both two- and three-axle variants of our heavy-duty electric truck, the Mercedes-Benz eActros, into the hands of customers. Initially, the focus will be on inner-city goods transport and delivery services—the ranges required here are well within the scope of our Mercedes-Benz eActros,” said Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
The eActros battery pack can charge in 3-11 hours
The range of requirements means that the vehicles are fitted with a variety of bodies—refrigerated box bodies, tankers or tarpaulin sides are used. The drivers of the eActros are trained specially to work with the vehicle.
The first 10 pilot customers, including German supermarket chain Edeka and parcel delivery service Hermes, will be testing the vehicles in real-life operations for 12 months, after which the trucks will be going out to a second set of customers for a further 12 months.
A Poke At Tesla
Daimler cast doubt on Tesla’s plan to deliver electric heavy trucks next year, saying its more modest goal to start selling battery-powered big rigs by 2021 is more realistic, according to trade publication Automotive News.
As the largest global truckmaker, Daimler has the most to lose should Tesla succeed in producing a semi-truck with a 500-mile range for delivery starting in 2019.
“If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks—one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by,” head of Daimler Trucks Martin Daum said. “But for now, the same laws of physics apply in Germany and in California,” he added.
Who Will Win the Race?
Daimler and rivals including Tesla, Volkswagen’s MAN, Volvo AB and U.S. truck maker Kenworth and engine maker Cummins are all racing to bring electric trucks to market to cope with a push to shift from fossil fuels to greener vehicles and reduce pollution and greenhouse gases. At the moment, Daimler is at the front of the pack while Tesla can boast of 100s of orders for its future truck.
The eActros can be configured to haul up to 55,000 pounds
In October of last year, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, part of Daimler Trucks, launched its new Fuso eCanter in New York City, the world’s first series-produced all-electric medium-duty truck. First on the list to buy three eCanter trucks was the United Parcel Service (UPS).
A few days after the New York introduction, Fuso showed off a Class 8 electric truck at the Tokyo Motor Show. The E-Fuso Vision One concept, called a trailerless or “straight” truck with an enclosed cargo area, carries a payload of approximately 11 metric tons (24,000 pounds) with a driving range of 210 miles on a single charge.
So, while Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, talks (brags) about a big electric truck, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Fuso already have two being driven by customers and the eActros arriving in a few weeks.
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Europe To Get Electric Trucks Next Year; the U.S. Later
Last year, beverage industry giant Anheuser-Busch InBev announced that, by 2025, it would purchase only 100 percent renewable electricity; proving that corporations are beginning to realize that fish don’t drink beer and rising sea levels could be very bad for business. This year, InBev followed that commitment by placing an order to receive 40 of Tesla’s new electric semi-trucks (whenever Tesla gets around to making them). But Tesla is not the only automaker looking to capitalize on the green corporate shift.
Volvo’s not saying which model, but here’s one likely candidate already in the city
Not to be outdone by the playground upstart, industry giant Volvo Group announced this week that it will also sell electric trucks in North America; but it’s not saying when. While Europe will get electrified medium-duty Volvo trucks in 2019, the auto maker has not released a firm timeline for bringing its trucks across the pond.
“By using electrically powered and quieter trucks for goods transport in urban areas, we meet several challenges simultaneously,” said Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks. “Without disturbing noise and exhaust gases, it will be possible to operate in more sensitive city centers.”
Urban Delivery Focus
However, urban truck mobility is not the only positive electrified trucks would bring. Less noise means trucks can operate during more hours of the night, reducing the number of trucks on city roads during daytime rush-hour traffic.
The first electric semis will likely be found making short runs in town
Electric range and mandatory recharge periods could also help prevent driver fatigue, a problem that has been blamed for causing many accidents involving semi-trucks. But the path to electrified product transportation could be a long one; especially in the U.S.
“Enabling long-term sustainable transport is a complex issue that requires a holistic and wide range of measures,” said Jonas Odermalm, Head of Product Strategy for Medium Duty Vehicles at Volvo Trucks. “We are working closely with customers, cities, suppliers of charging infrastructure and other key stakeholders to create the necessary framework for electrical trucks.”
Potential range, powertrain specifications and price have not yet been released.
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Electric Truckin’ War Heats Up
Thor is the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder and lightning as well as a fictional superhero appearing in Marvel comic books and movies. Now, Thor has become the name of a Los Angeles-based startup that plans to bring its heavy-duty Class 8 electric truck to market before the battery-powered Tesla Semi hits the streets in late 2019.
Coming at you–maybe before Tesla?
Thor Trucks came out of stealth mode last Friday and introduced its prototype called the ET-One. The prototype also has aerodynamic fenders and a one-piece wraparound windshield.
The young company used established trucking components in order to get the demonstrator vehicle on the road quickly. The chassis comes from a Navistar commercial truck. It uses heavy-duty Dana axles and an off-the-shelf motor from supplier TM4—a motor used in a variety of heavy-duty applications, including buses, that puts out an estimated 4,700 pounds-feet of torque. A one-speed transmission simplifies the driving process.
Thor is building its own battery modules from cells and packs purchased from LG Chem for the 800 kWh battery pack, and mounts them to both sides of the chassis under side skirts. The company says its battery design “is different in its layout and cooling process to most electric batteries,” and is more energy-dense than any other on the market.
The ET-One will go for $150,000 for a 100-mile range version and $250,000 for the 300-mile version. Both have a top speed of 70 mph. The electric big rig recently demonstrated its towing capacity in a short drive around Los Angeles, pulling around 60,000 pounds of cargo. The plan is to test the Class 8 load limit of 80,000 pounds soon.
A Very Small Start Up
A pair of 25-year olds, Dakota Semler and Gio Sordoni, co-founded Thor Trucks in 2016. Its development has been funded entirely by the profits from some of Semler’s other commercial ventures.
In the cab plenty of comfort awaits
At the moment, Thor has a team of just 18 employees, but what the small truck company lacks in manpower it makes up for with experience. Sordoni says Thor has brought onboard the engineering talent to develop a chassis of its own and will be building trucks from the ground up beyond the prototype. Among the company’s 18 employees is John Henry Harris, who had stints at electric car company Faraday Future and Boeing. He now serves as Thor’s senior mechanical engineer. Priyankar Balekai, who joined Thor from BYD Motors, and also spent several years at Navistar, is the company’s chief product officer. Thor recently hired Jarod Doran away from green vehicle developer US Hybrid as lead electromechanical engineer.
While that sounds like a nice starting lineup. Thor needs some additional heavy weights.
Facing Off Against the Big Boys
Thor is tiny compared to its well-capitalized giant competition. In August, diesel engine maker Cummins revealed the AEOS, its first electric semi-truck. Cummins says the AEOS will offer a 100-mile range that can be optioned up to 300 miles with additional battery packs. Nothing has been said about price, but it’s known that the maximum payload will be about 44,000 pounds.
Another big boy looks to beat Tesla to market
Meanwhile, Germany’s Daimler says the E-Fuso Vision One will have slightly more than a 200-mile range and will be able to haul up to 22,000 pounds. Its Freightliner division has showcased autonomous and electrified class 8 trucks.
Then there’s the elephant in the room—or in Palo Alto, CA—Tesla Motors. Tesla says its battery-electric Semi will have up to a 500-mile range and will haul up to 80,000 pounds. Pricing is expected to be between $150,000 and $180,000 (depending on battery pack/range) and the Silicon Valley company has already snagged more the 300 pre-orders for the truck, which it has said will launch in 2019.
Beyond the above, there are hydrogen-powered electric Class 8 rigs planned from Toyota and Nikola Motor Co.
Thor says it will build a scaled-down, medium-duty truck, too. Its target market will be short hauls between a port and an urban center.
“A lot of players are coming in the commercial EV industry, because it’s a good time to get into it,” Sordoni said. “In comparison to other folks, I think what we’re talking about is all super reasonable. We’re not promising thousands of charging stations and millions of trucks. What we’re offering is scaled down and realistic.”
While that sounds like a good business plan, Thor, like many startups stubbed its toe by introducing its electric truck before rounding up funding. That’s a misstep that could lead to an early down fall.
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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.
Mitsubishi Fuso Brand Medium-Duty Work Truck
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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