The Fuso eCanter is the type of urban truck we can expect to see going over to electric power when it first arrives in any numbers. Urban small parcel distribution is ideal. The trucks doing this work will spend the day in a stop/go world and never stray too far from home base.
The fact they are never too far from base is an important one. The limiting factor with all electric trucks is range, how far they can go on one charge and how long it takes to charge them up to go out on the road again.
This is where we will see the first electric fleets appearing. Australia Post will be trialling this eCanter and other companies working in the same segment of the market will be looking hard at the latest trends in electric vehicles.
Once electric power establishes itself in this part of the market we can expect the technology to move up the weight range into the heavier medium duty distribution truck, before moving into the heavier rigids plying their trade around the streets of our cities.
The limiting factor is range, the factor which limits this is battery technology. It is possible to build a truck which can travel may hundreds of kilometres between charges, but the mass of the batteries needed would mean there would be little room for paying freight on the vehicle.
It is true that battery technology is moving forward in leaps and bounds, with more storage in lighter units, with faster charging. The other factor is also that with these new batteries being sold in relatively low number, the cost per battery is very high. We are in a chicken and egg situation, the price of batteries will drop when the manufacturers are selling them in the hundreds of thousands and people will buy them in hundreds of thousands when the price comes down.
When will we be going over to electric power?
The question for operators in Australia who are looking at the electric power option is, where do we go from here? Unlike places like Europe, California and Japan, there is very little pressure built into the new regulations in Australia about reducing the trucking industry’s carbon footprint. There is not a legislative drive to reduce the amount of diesel being consumed on roads hauling freight.
Therefore, electric trucks will come seriously into play when the economics around them starts to make sense. This may be some way off at moment. The costs of batteries and really limited range available with the current batteries makes electric trucks in Australia impractical. However, when the numbers being sold in Europe or the US start to ramp up and the manufacturers start t get some economies of scale, then the maths might just start to add up.
Many manufactures seem to be waiting for someone to come up with the magic bullet, which will drastically increase truck range and reduce battery costs. That kind of quantum leap is not currently on the horizon, but battery technology is moving pretty fast and if the eCanter is offering us 100 km range now, we can expect that to double over the next couple of years, and so on and so on.
As a result of global moves by all of the major truck manufacturers, and energy makers, to put a lot of money into electric power, the stage seems to be set for electric tracks to take over the world, in many segments. Long distance B-double interstate haulage looks set to still be handled by 15 or 16 L diesel engines for the foreseeable future, however.
“This is the first series production electric truck developed with the might of the world’s largest truck manufacturer with a global reach,” says Daniel Whitehead, President and CEO, Daimler Truck and Bus Australia Pacific. “It was not bolted together in a shed, but developed and tested by Daimler over a number of years, starting off life as the Canter E-Cell prototype that operated in its first public test program in 2015.
“The eCanter is not available in Australia just yet, but when it is, it will come with all the benefits of being backed by an established truck-maker, including the assurance of parts, service support and warranty coverage provided by our national Fuso dealership network.”
On the basis of this truck test it seems that the transport industry can look forward to an efficient, and an extremely quiet, solution to be on our roads in the future. The basic technology is there and capable of doing the job, all we seem to be waiting for is when the range available from these trucks goes up and the price for these trucks comes down.