Testing Electric Truck Range

testing electric truck range

PowerTorque’s European Correspondent, Will Shiers, attempts to get into the record books while testing electric truck range at the same time as circumnavigating London in a zero tailpipe emissions 16-tonne Renault D ZE.

This is the second part of Will’s journey around London, see the first part of the adventure here. https://powertorque.com.au/circumnavigating-london-with-zero-tailpipe-emissions/ Will’s truck of choice for this electrifying feat is a battery-powered 16-tonne Renault D16 ZE. The truck has a claimed range of just over 200km, and seeing as a lap of the M25 is 190km, it’s definitely doable. However, throw in some congestion and adverse weather conditions (both of which are forecasted), and it’s definitely going to be a close call.

The story resumes halfway around the M25 in London….

The power metre needle moves into the blue section, indicating that I’m now putting power back into the battery. As the speed continues to increase, I intervene, manually engaging the regenerative brake. It’s located on a stalk to the left of the steering wheel, where you’d normally find the engine brake on a diesel-powered Range D. It has five stages, and the first is powerful enough to keep my speed in check on this descent. The needle is firmly embedded into the blue now.

Making good use of regenerative braking is a great way to extend an electric truck’s range. When you use the service brakes you’re wasting heat energy. It’s far better to use the regenerative braking, putting that energy back into the batteries. In terms of other range-extending driving tips, it’s the same techniques as fuel efficient driving in a diesel truck, accelerating gently and lots of anticipation.

testing electric truck range

Suddenly it begins to rain, causing me to turn on the windscreen wipers and headlights, both of which will consume additional battery power. I gaze at the battery display, half expecting to see it depleting before my very eyes, but it’s still on a respectable 80 per cent. They’re clearly not as power-hungry as I thought.

There’s a 30 minute crawl to the Dartford Tunnel, which passes under the River Thames. It’s a great opportunity to play with the regenerative brake. I soon learn to vary my speed accurately using the lever, feeding it in and out, like you would with a conventional brake pedal.

Although the dense traffic conditions are having a slightly detrimental effect on the battery life, it’s nowhere near as bad as I initially fear. In fact, I’m more than a third of the way around now, and have consumed less than 25 per cent of the battery’s power. 

Feeling more confident about my chances of completing this journey under my own steam (and not behind a recovery truck), I start to unwind a bit more. To my great surprise, I’m fast discovering that with range anxiety no longer such an issue, the D ZE’s cab is becoming a rather relaxing and tranquil environment. There’s no diesel engine clattering away beneath me, and no multiple gear changes either. Dare I say I’m actually beginning to enjoy this drive?

There is a £3 ($5.50) toll to use the tunnel, and there’s no reduction for electric trucks. In fact, other than exemption from London’s Low Emission Zone and Congestion Charging Zone, there are no financial incentives for making the switch from diesel to electric. 

testing electric truck range

I’m halfway around now, and still have 70 per cent battery life. The traffic has eased, and I’m feeling more relaxed all the time.

I get a clear run for the next 75km, and then once again grind to a halt. Crawling along beside me is a brand new Porsche Taycan 4S. I give a friendly wave of acknowledgment to the glamorous passenger who’s looking my way, after all, she’s in an electric vehicle too. But she quickly turns away. Perhaps she hasn’t noticed the truck’s livery. Perhaps she simply doesn’t care. I wonder if she’d be more interested if she knew that the Renault costs four times more than her boyfriend’s Porsche!

She’s not alone either, as nobody seems to be paying the D ZE any attention. One of the reasons for this is that it just looks like any other 2-axle rigid truck. But then that’s a good thing. its natural habitat is city streets, where it will inevitably suffer damage to nearside bumpers, panels and steps. Being a regular Range D cab, all the parts are straight off the shelf.

As I pull into Cobham Services, the odometer clicks onto 190km, and incredibly the battery still has 39 per cent life left in it. According to the trip computer, that’s enough to do a further 65km. That’s quite an amazing result considering I’ve been driving for three hours and 22 minutes.

Despite my initial concerns, it’s been a stress-free journey, and has gone a long way to changing my view of electric vehicles. Yes, range anxiety is a very real thing, but with a bit of forward planning, there’s nothing to be scared of.

Besides, these trucks are likely to be carrying out an almost identical number of drops every day. So if they complete their rounds on Monday, they will complete them every other day of the week too. In fact, thanks to Renault’s battery performance promise, they should be completing them every day for 10 years.

Having proved how easy it is to circumnavigate London in an electric 16-tonner, this raises the question of how many trucks operating within the M25 could be battery-powered. There must be thousands of delivery vehicles doing less miles than I’ve just done, all returning to base every night. 

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, as there’s the estimated £320,000 ($600,000) price tag to overcome. I know we all have an obligation to save the planet, but how many operators can afford to?

testing electric truck range

Purchase prices will eventually fall, but until they do, the UK needs a substantial government incentive to kick-start the take-up of electric trucks. Without it only the UK’s biggest operators will gain the invaluable experience of operating them. The others will be forced to wait until they become mandated, and then have to deal with short, steep learning curves.

Unlike the Renault’s batteries, as I pull up at the charger I feel a bit flat. I was hoping for a fanfare and fireworks to celebrate my achievement, but instead all I get is an abusive comment from an electric Audi driver, who doesn’t like that I’m parked over three bays. Next time I’m doing it on two wheels and in reverse.

SPEC SHEET

  • Model: Renault D ZE 4×2
  • Motor: 400V AC synchronous, permanent magnet
  • Power: 130kW continuous, 185kW peak 
  • Torque: 425Nm
  • Batteries: 4 x 66kWh lithium-ion (total 265kWh)
  • GVW: 16 tonnes (plus 700kg dispensation)
  • Payload: 6.9 tonnes (7.6 tonnes)
  • Body: 6.8m box with tuck-away tail lift

testing electric truck range

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