DAF Trucks and VDL have presented their first electric truck. With a range of 100 km, it was designed for the distribution of cargo in cities, where the need for quiet, emission-free vehicles is the most acute. Electric trucks will be delivered to their first customers late this year.
The technology under the bonnet of the DAF CF Electric VDL E-Power truck is largely based on the electric buses already produced by VDL for the last couple of years, and which are in service in Eindhoven and around Schiphol (also read: ‘Fleet of electric buses around Schiphol’).
A 210 kW (282 hp) electric motor with maximum torque of 2,000 Nm drives the rear axle of the tractor unit. The cab and the chassis are borrowed from the DAF CF, a successful diesel truck from the Eindhoven-based company.
The new e-truck is intended for distributing goods in cities. Thanks in part to regenerative braking, the truck’s 170 kWh battery pack enables it to travel about 100 km on one battery charge when the whole rig is fully loaded (total weight 40 tonnes). That should be enough for delivering goods from outside the city to multiple locations in the city. Fully charging an empty battery takes 90 minutes, while fast charging takes just 30 minutes.
At the moment, the new truck will cost around four to five times as much as the 70,000 to 80,000 euros needed for a comparable diesel truck reports Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad. The price is expected to drop considerably once series production starts. The prices of batteries and the parts of the electric powertrain are also still falling.
A quick cuppa
The names of the first companies set to buy the trucks have not been announced yet, but they include large supermarket chains which want to supply multiple stores in one city from a distribution centre outside the city. 'We sometimes hear that a 100-km range is not that much. However, for this application it’s enough. The truck can go to a few stores fully loaded and with full batteries, before returning to the distribution centre. It can then be plugged in while the next cargo is loaded. The driver can enjoy a quick cuppa, and can then get back on the road again,' says VDL spokesperson Miel Timmers.
The first customers are actually acting as a kind of launch customer: Their experiences with the trucks will help DAF and VDL decide when the truck will go into series production. Depending on the success of the electric truck, both companies will also make electric versions of other trucks, such as waste-collection trucks and container trucks.
VDL is currently also working on an electric drive system with a fuel cell that generates electricity from hydrogen, Dutch news website nu.nl reports. A system of this type with a tank of hydrogen on board would considerably increase a vehicle’s range. 'We’ve already built buses which run on hydrogen. But one thing at a time, as we are now first focusing on this electric truck with battery packs on board,' says Timmers.
The company does not rule out the possibility that the electric truck will become self-driving in the future, something currently being tried out by several companies in the US. VDL is already making automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that move containers autonomously in large ports.
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