When it comes to electric trucks, Silicon Valley’s Tesla Semi has gotten the lion’s share of attention, but they aren’t the only one developing battery-powered heavy-duty haulers. Instead of long-haul semis, Mercedes-Benz parent, Daimler, is focusing on electric urban delivery vehicles.
This week, the automaker best known in the U.S. for its luxury cars and SUVs, introduced the eActros, the production version of the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck concept that first appeared in 2016. An initial test fleet of 10 trucks will be deployed with customers in Europe in a few weeks. Mercedes plans to begin full-scale production of the eActros in 2021.
While Mercedes isn’t attempting to build an electric semi-truck like Tesla, the eActros shows that the company wants to scale up from small, local-delivery vehicles to larger models. The company plans to spend $3.2 billion on research and development for its truck division through 2019, focusing on developing electric mobility, connectivity and automated driving technology for commercial vehicles. Meanwhile, Mercedes will launch electric versions of its Vito and Sprinter vans and an electric bus over the next two years.
Electric Motors and Batteries
The structure for the eActros is provided by the frame of the standard Actros diesel truck. Both two- and three-axle versions with a gross weight rating of 18 to 25 metric tons (39,000-55,000 pounds) depending on the variant will be evaluated by customers.
The drive system comprises two electric motors located close to the rear-axle wheel hubs. These three-phase asynchronous motors are liquid-cooled and operate with a nominal voltage of 400 volts. They generate an output of 170 horsepower (125 kilowatt-hours) each, with maximum torque of 358 pounds-feet of torque (485 Nm) each. The gearing ratios convert this into 8,113 pounds-feet (11 000 Nm) each, resulting in driving performance on a par with that of a diesel truck.
It has a claimed driving range of 125 miles (200 kilometers) is provided by two lithium-ion batteries with an output of 240 kWh. The batteries are accommodated in 11 packs: three of these are located in the frame area, the other eight are to be found underneath.
The high-voltage batteries do not just supply energy to the drive system, but to the vehicle as a whole. Ancillary components such as the air compressor for the braking system, the power steering pump, the compressor for the cab air-conditioning system and, where relevant, the refrigerated body, are also all electrically powered.
A full recharge takes three to 11 hours, depending on the power of the charging station. Recharging of the prototype trucks will be provided by portable rechargers.
Two Years, 20 Test Customers
“We are now passing both two- and three-axle variants of our heavy-duty electric truck, the Mercedes-Benz eActros, into the hands of customers. Initially, the focus will be on inner-city goods transport and delivery services—the ranges required here are well within the scope of our Mercedes-Benz eActros,” said Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
The range of requirements means that the vehicles are fitted with a variety of bodies—refrigerated box bodies, tankers or tarpaulin sides are used. The drivers of the eActros are trained specially to work with the vehicle.
The first 10 pilot customers, including German supermarket chain Edeka and parcel delivery service Hermes, will be testing the vehicles in real-life operations for 12 months, after which the trucks will be going out to a second set of customers for a further 12 months.
A Poke At Tesla
Daimler cast doubt on Tesla’s plan to deliver electric heavy trucks next year, saying its more modest goal to start selling battery-powered big rigs by 2021 is more realistic, according to trade publication Automotive News.
As the largest global truckmaker, Daimler has the most to lose should Tesla succeed in producing a semi-truck with a 500-mile range for delivery starting in 2019.
“If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks—one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by,” head of Daimler Trucks Martin Daum said. “But for now, the same laws of physics apply in Germany and in California,” he added.
Who Will Win the Race?
Daimler and rivals including Tesla, Volkswagen’s MAN, Volvo AB and U.S. truck maker Kenworth and engine maker Cummins are all racing to bring electric trucks to market to cope with a push to shift from fossil fuels to greener vehicles and reduce pollution and greenhouse gases. At the moment, Daimler is at the front of the pack while Tesla can boast of 100s of orders for its future truck.
In October of last year, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, part of Daimler Trucks, launched its new Fuso eCanter in New York City, the world’s first series-produced all-electric medium-duty truck. First on the list to buy three eCanter trucks was the United Parcel Service (UPS).
A few days after the New York introduction, Fuso showed off a Class 8 electric truck at the Tokyo Motor Show. The E-Fuso Vision One concept, called a trailerless or “straight” truck with an enclosed cargo area, carries a payload of approximately 11 metric tons (24,000 pounds) with a driving range of 210 miles on a single charge.
So, while Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, talks (brags) about a big electric truck, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Fuso already have two being driven by customers and the eActros arriving in a few weeks.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy: More Electric Truck News
News: Tesla Semi Reveal
News: Daimler Shows Off Electric Truck at Tokyo Motor Show