The four major developments happening in the truck technology market around the world have become known as the CASE for electric vehicles, an acronym for connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles, shared vehicles and last, but not least, electric vehicles.
Some of these developments are arriving quicker than others. connected vehicles are coming to us one piece at a time, be it adaptive cruise, lane keeping, telematics etc. These will gradually morph into a fully connected vehicle over time.
Autonomous is the big idea from the automotive world, but still remains someway off from being a day-to-day reality. Legislative changes are needed and every accident involving an autonomous vehicle creates a storm in the global media. This will arrive, but gradually.
Shared vehicles are with us today, and becoming a reality in cities like Melbourne and Sydney, in the car space. Individual car ownership is likely to diminish over time as these kinds of app-based schemes get better and the number of customers reach a critical mass. If it can work for car ownership, why not in the truck space? Do you need a truck 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
Electric vehicles are a reality now and becoming more of a reality on an almost weekly basis. The concept is proven, the technology exists and is developing fast. The only constraint on fast take up of electric power is battery capacity which can limit vehicle range. This is getting progressively better and every time it improves more tasks open up to the electric alternative.
Why are Isuzu in Australia entering into the electric truck fray right now? According to Simon Humphries, Isuzu Chief Engineer Product Strategy, there is a wave of interest in electric vehicles and the performance, in most applications, matches that of diesel. He reckons Australian fleets are showing more than just a passing interest.
“Not a week goes by when we don’t get a call asking us when we will sell an electric truck,” says Simon. “But, a lot of the electric trucks which have been produced have quite a limited range. The balance of payload and range is an interesting balance to manage.
“Our research, has shown the absolute minimum range for any application is 200 km. The telematics data tell us the urban delivery vehicles in big fleets travel about 140 to 160 km each day. The battery technology is improving at such a rate, every six months you get roughly 15 per cent increase in range for the same cost. Alternatively, once you reach the range you’re after, you can reduce the weight and cost. In the light to medium truck space in Australia, we are looking at cost parity between diesel and electric coming along around 2021 to 2023.”