Reading the latest about new trucks around the world, we can be in no doubt that electric trucks are the future and it is simply a matter of how long until electric power predominates.
The amount of investment by all of the major manufacturers in electric power technology is running at a rate which means they all believe in an electric future.
There have been a number of stories about developing electric power in Australia. SEA are putting electric power systems into trucks in Dandenong, Victoria. Customers buy a conventionally powered model, remove the diesel engine and replace it with the new powertrain.
Daimler Trucks are the first to have a truck designed to run on electric power in a truck on the roads of Australia. This Fuso eCanter was first seen on display at the Brisbane truck show back in May and has remained in the country to be tested by prospective big fleet customers, to examine the new truck’s potential in our market.
At first sight the Fuso eCanter looks just like any ordinary small truck delivering goods in any city in Australia. There is a distinctive blue piping around the grille and some other components to give hints about the different power plant under the cabin.
In fact, the truck tested here is a typical Canter, a test bed for the concept and being used as a proof-of concept for etrucks in this market. Engineers have taken the design and changed those components needed to make an electric truck, but left some others which would normally appear in a diesel truck. As an example, the dashboard still has a fuel gauge with a small image of a fuel bowser on it, but the needle indicates the level of charge left in the battery.
In essence, the powertrain forward of the linkage between gearbox and drive shaft has been removed. In the space usually filled with diesel engine is a cooling system and the components which control the power and distribute the electricity, plus two batteries stacked one on top of the other. Behind this, where the gearbox normally lives is an electric motor and a direct drive transmission. There are another four batteries slung on the side of the chassis, where you would normally find the fuel tanks.
This is a very simple driveline, electrical power from the batteries spins the electric motor and that motive power is transmitted to the rear wheels via the drive shaft. No gears, no noise and no exhaust.
The electric motor being used is described as an AC synchronous electric motor and this is coupled to a single speed reduction drive. Although the batteries can be charged in less than two hours with the preferred charging system, the DC CHAdeMO type, there is an alternative AC charging system, the J1772 type1, which will charge the batteries in four hours.
The six batteries are sourced from elsewhere in the Daimler empire and are liquid cooled lithium ion battery packs. The batteries run at 360volts and have total storage capacity of 82.8kWh (as a comparison, the Tesla Model S car with a 85 kWh battery has a range of 510 km). At the moment, Daimler reckon the eCanter’s range is ‘over 100km’.
If electric trucks are the future, the electric driveline also offers a two stage regenerative braking system alongside the electro-hydraulic braking with the dual calibre discs on the eCanter.
In terms of power in the eCanter, 184hp (135kW) is available all of the way through the rev range. Similarly, the 390Nm (288ft lb) of torque is also available any time the driver puts their foot on the pedal. These simple numbers do little to explain the different experience this is to the normal run-of-the-mill diesel truck.