European manufacturers in the race to bring electric trucks to market

Practical trials of electric trucks from Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Renault, DAF and MAN for inner-city distribution and waste management are underway in Europe by fleet operators in preparation for mainstream adoption in 2019

 Hermes is the first of 20 customers that will integrate the Mercedes-Benz eActros trucks, a 25-tonne version, into their fleets and test it for a year.
Daimler AG
Hermes is the first of 20 customers that will integrate the Mercedes-Benz eActros trucks, a 25-tonne version, into their fleets and test it for a year.

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Mercedes-Benz eActros

Mercedes-Benz Trucks is starting practical trials for its all-electric heavy-duty eActros truck. Retail and logistics service provider Hermes is the first of 20 customers in different sectors that will integrate the electric truck into their fleets. Each customer will use a near-series 18 or 25-tonne truck in their normal operations for one year to test it for day-to-day suitability. The aim is to realise locally emission-free and quiet operation of heavy-duty trucks in cities. The test series is divided into two phases with ten customers each, and covers a period of around two years.

Every type of customer operation will make specific demands on the eActros. Hermes will test a 25-tonne truck mainly on a 50 km long route between Bad Hersfeld and the Hermes logistics Center in Friedewald, northern Hessia. The route passes through hilly landscape and is covered six to eight times each day. This makes at least one charging process necessary between tours. The range of the eActros is up to 200 km. The vehicle was handed over to Hermes in Bad Hersfeld in September 2018.

The frame of the Mercedes-Benz Actros is used as the basis for the eActros. The vehicle architecture has been configured specifically for an electric drive system, with a high proportion of specific components. The drive axle, for example, is based on the ZF AVE 130 that has already proved its capabilities in hybrid and fuel-cell buses from Mercedes-Benz, and has now been fundamentally revised for the eActros. The drive system comprises two electric motors located close to the rear-axle wheel hubs. They have an output of 126 kW each, together with a maximum torque of 485 Nm each. The gearing ratios turn this into 11,000 Nm each, resulting in a performance that is comparable with that of a diesel truck. The maximum permissible axle load stands at the usual 11.5 tonnes. The energy comes from lithium-ion batteries with 240 kWh. Depending on the available charging capacity, they can be fully charged within two to eleven hours (at 150 and 20 kW).

Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, said: “The practical trials with the eActros are an important milestone on the way to series production. We want to use the comprehensive findings to realise electric trucks that are economically comparable to diesel trucks for inner-city distribution from 2021. Our focus is on the operating range and cost of the batteries, and also on the infrastructure necessary for operations in our customers’ commercial fleets.”

Since last year, Daimler has had its first series-production of fully electric trucks, the Fuso eCanter light-duty truck, in the market. The first eCitaro buses will be delivered from the end of the year and will go into practical operations in the context of so-called customer-oriented driving trials. In the van sector, the eVito from Mercedes-Benz Vans has been orderable since November 2017 and deliveries will commence after the 2018 edition of the International Commercial Vehicle Show (IAA) expo. The eSprinter will follow in 2019. Hermes has already had the immediate predecessor to the eCanter in operation for twelve months as part of customer trials, and also cooperates with Mercedes-Benz Vans where electrified vans are concerned.

Volvo FE and FL Electric

Volvo announced that the company would start selling electric trucks in Europe from 2019. The Volvo FE Electric is designed for heavier city distribution and refuse transport operations with gross weights of up to 27 tonnes. The Volvo FL Electric is designed particularly for urban distribution and refuse operations.

The first Volvo FE Electric, a refuse truck with a superstructure developed together with Europe’s leading refuse collection bodybuilder, Faun, will start operating in early 2019 in Hamburg, Germany, which in 2011 was named European Green Capital of the EU and has worked to enhance green and sustainable urban development.


Volvo FE Electric refuse truck

The Volvo FE Electric refuse truck will start operating in Hamburg, Germany in 2019.

Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Siechau, CEO of Stadtreinigung Hamburg, points out the environmental benefits of electric trucks for the city of Hamburg.

“Today, each of our 300 conventional refuse vehicles emits approximately 31,300 kg carbon dioxide every year. An electrically powered refuse truck with battery that stands a full shift of eight to ten hours is a breakthrough in technology. Another benefit is the fact that Stadtreinigung Hamburg generates climate-neutral electricity that can be used to charge the batteries,” said Siechau.

Claes Nilsson, president, Volvo Trucks, said: “The Volvo FE Electric opens the door to new forms of cooperation with cities that target to improve air quality, reduce traffic noise, and cut congestion during peak hours since commercial operations can instead be carried out quietly and without tale-pipe exhaust emissions early in the morning or late at night.”

The first trucks in the Volvo FL Electric range are entering regular operation with customers in Gothenburg, Sweden. Sales and series production of the new model will start in Europe next year.


Volvo FL Electric truck

The Volvo FL Electric is entering regular operation for urban distribution in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“With this model we are making it possible for cities that aim for sustainable urban development to benefit from the advantages of electrified truck transports. An electric truck without any exhaust emissions can be used in indoor terminals and environmental zones. Their low noise level creates opportunities for doing more work at night, thus reducing the burden on the roads during the day.,” said Nilsson.

Volvo Trucks’ sister company Volvo Buses has sold more than 4000 electrified buses since 2010. The technology used for propulsion and energy storage in the Volvo FL Electric has been thoroughly tried and tested and is supported by Volvo Trucks’ network for sales, service and parts supply.

Renault Z.E.

For over ten years, Renault Trucks has been field testing electric trucks with its customer-partners in order to garner crucial information about usage, battery behaviour, charging facilities and specific maintenance requirements. These real-world tests have enabled Renault Trucks’ customer-partners to help their own customers come to an acceptance of electric technology.

Renault Trucks recently unveiled its second generation of all-electric vehicles: the Renault Master Z.E., Renault Trucks D Z.E. and Renault Trucks D Wide Z.E., ranging from 3.1 to 26 tonnes suited for city use.

Renault Trucks D Wide Z.E. truck

The Renault Trucks D Wide Z.E. will come in a 26t version for refuse collection.

The Renault Trucks Master Z.E. is designed for last-mile deliveries. The battery of this all-electric utility vehicle takes six hours to charge. Its loading volume is the same as a conventional diesel Renault Master as the batteries are mounted under the front seats. The Master Z.E. range comes in six variants (four panel vans and two platform cabs) designed to meet the requirements of urban environments.

The Renault Trucks D Wide Z.E. will come in a 26t version for refuse collection. A specially designed 16t version of the Renault Trucks D Z.E. will be available for urban and controlled temperature deliveries.  Rapid DC charging enables the Renault Trucks D Z.E. and Renault Trucks D Wide Z.E.’s lithium-ion batteries to bee fully charged in one to two hours via the 150 kW Combo CCS connector. For overnight AC charging, the time to fully charge a 300-kWh battery is 12 hours. In this case, a three-phase 380V 32A industrial power socket is sufficient.

The Renault Master Z.E. will be available in 2018, and the Renault Trucks D and Renault Trucks D Wide Z.E. will be manufactured in the Renault Trucks plant in Normandy, France, and will arrive on the market in 2019.

MAN eTGM

The first nine MAN electric trucks were handed over to member companies of Austria’s Council for Sustainable Logistics (CNL) in September 2018. The CNL is an initiative involving eighteen of Austria’s largest retail, logistics and manufacturing firms have united to take steps forward in the area of sustainable logistics.

The test vehicles based on MAN TGMs were designed specifically for each customer and prepared for practical testing. During the test drives, which will last for several months, the participating companies will use fully electric 26-tonne MAN TGMs in regular logistics operations.

MAN eTGM electric truck

Nine CNL member companies in Austria have started testing the MAN eTGM electric trucks.

The scope of testing includes MAN TGM 6x2 vehicles with refrigerated trailers, swap containers, beverage bodies and a semitrailer combination, in order to represent the most common distribution transport tasks in urban logistics. The nine electric vehicles include four 6x2 chassis with refrigeration units and liftgates; three 6x2 chassis with swap bodies for haulage; one 6x2 chassis for beverage transport; and one 4x2 semitrailer tractor for plant logistics applications.

The MAN electric trucks’ chassis are based on the conventional MAN TGM. The electric motor, located in the centre of the frame, outputs 264 kW and delivers up to 3,100 Nm of torque to the drive wheels without a manually operated gearbox. The lithium-ion batteries are fitted beneath the cab on the side of the frame. In the 26-tonne solo chassis version (MAN TGM 6X2-4 LL), a total of 12 batteries are installed; these allow for a range of up to 200 kilometres (more than 120 miles), depending on the body configuration, type of use and driving profile. Up to eight battery packs can be used in the four-wheel semitrailer tractor version (MAN TGM 4X2 LL); consequently, the range can reach as high as 130 kilometres (around 80 miles), depending on the usage profile and type of semitrailer.

All the vehicles also have air suspension on the front and rear axles, guaranteeing adaptability to every loading scenario in urban areas. Comfort-enhancing features and vehicle functions like the air-conditioning system, steering and air compressor are also electric-powered. The same is true for body functions such as the liftgates and cooling units. Brake energy is recovered when decelerating the vehicle’s motive energy is converted into electrical energy and fed back into the battery. A display in the cockpit informs the driver about the batteries’ current energy level. It is possible to charge the batteries with either AC (22 or 44 kW) or DC (150 kW). The charging interfaces are CCS Standard Type 2-compliant. Sensible and efficient vehicle routing and usage planning is crucial for the choice of charging infrastructure.

The joint tests with the member companies of the Council for Sustainable Logistics are part of MAN’s eMobility Road Map, which also includes plans to present a prototype bus version of a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) in late 2018. Its market entry will follow in 2020, with an incremental increase in output over time. The practical tests conducted by the CNL companies, which are now underway, will form the basis for future electric truck projects and the resulting mass production development.

DAF CF and LF Electric

The DAF CF Electric is developed for heavy duty urban distribution requiring higher payloads and volumes. This includes applications where single or double axle semi-trailers are the standard.

DAF Trucks is partnering with Dutch company VDL Groep to release the first series of CF Electric trucks into operation with leading customers in the course of this year. The vehicles feature VDL E-Power technology for zero emissions and low noise. These field test trucks will be manufactured by DAF and the full electric installation will be completed by VDL Groep.


DAF CF Electric truck

The DAF CF Electric for heavy duty urban distribution is being developed in partnership with VDL Groep.

The CF Electric is a 4x2 tractor unit for up to 37 tonne GCW applications. The centre of the powertrain is the 210 kW/286 hp (peak: 240 kW/326 hp) electric motor, which gets its energy from a 170 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The CF Electric has a range of approximately 100 kilometres which is appropriate for high volume city distribution applications. Quick charging of the batteries can be performed in 30 minutes or a full charge can be accomplished in 1.5 hours. Freight loading and unloading time can be used to charge the battery pack.

The DAF LF Electric is a 19 tonne fully electric truck for medium-duty city distribution. The truck features Cummins technology with a 195 kW/266 hp electric motor (peak: 250 kW/340 hp). The motor is powered by a battery pack of up to 222 kWh, providing a range of up to 220 kilometres when the truck is fully laden. The battery pack is modular and capacity can be scaled to the range required by customers. Field tests are planned for the LF Electric in 2019.


DAF LF Electric truck

Field tests for the the DAF LF Electric medium-duty city distribution truck is planned for 2019.

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