Launched earlier this year, Mercedes’ first fully electric truck is the all-electric ‘Urban eTruck’, based on a three-axle Mercedes Antos distribution chassis (complete with a heavily camouflaged cab) which was duly described as, “The first fully-electric truck for heavy distribution operations.” Less than two months later, up popped the Urban eTruck again, only this time sporting a smart curvaceous futuristic cab, and in pride-of-place at the centre of Mercedes’ IAA show stand. Electric heavies are suddenly big news.
In place of a conventional drivetrain, the 6×2 rear-steer rigid has an electrically-powered drive-axle (derived from a similar unit originally developed for Merc’s Citaro hybrid bus) with the electric motors sited directly adjacent to the wheel hubs. Motive power is provided by a 212 kW/h battery-pack consisting of three lithium-ion modules housed inside the chassis frame which give the Urban eTruck a range of up to 200 km. “Enough”, says Merc, “for a typical daily delivery tour.” Arguably more significant is the fact working to that operating range an Urban eTruck would have a load-capacity of an equivalent diesel-engine truck.
Naturally, it’s early days yet Mercedes insists: “In the future, heavy trucks [like Urban eTruck] will take part in urban distribution operations with zero local emissions and hardly a whisper.” It goes on to say, “The market launch of this technology is conceivable for Daimler Trucks at the beginning of the next decade”. That’s less-than four years away.
Furthermore, referring to the extra weight of the Urban eTruck’s battery pack, Mercedes reports, “As the European Commission is in favour of increasing the permissible gross vehicle weight of trucks with ‘alternative drives’ by up to one tonne, this will more-or-less level out the weight surplus of the electric drive”.
This will raise the permissible gross vehicle weight of the Urban eTruck from 25 to 26 tonnes, which will bring the original extra weight down to 700 kg compared with a directly-comparable diesel-powered truck. Whether Brussels delivers on this green trade-off remains to be seen. But so far the signs look encouraging.
Not that Daimler is a stranger to all-electric trucks. Since 2014, its Fuso Canter E-Cell six-tonner has been running in extended operator trials in Europe and at the recent IAA Hanover Truck Show it announced plans for a small series production run for delivery to customers in Australia, Europe, USA and Japan from 2017. However, Urban eTruck is something altogether different.