Shock of the new
The future is not all about computers – batteries and how they are handled are crucial
W“The electric revolution is amping up for prime movers, too”
ith automotive advancement, society’s gaze has been on autonomous vehicles and that is understandable. Computers have been in people’s vehicles and part of their lives to a growing extent for decades now and the promise of driverless automation has pushed past the science fi ction into facts on the ground, albeit as working proposals.
Even when Tesla’s fi rst car arrived with an outsized digital screen in the dash, it was accepted as a natural progression, given the popularity of tablet personal devices – just as the fi rst screens were echoes of mobile phones.
What more primitive life form would be without such things at its fi ngertips? And why wouldn’t future generations plug themselves into their vehicles if that means a more profound and, one hopes, safer experience?
Speaking of plugging in, advances in electric propulsion has been running in parallel with computers, though the demands of physics have proved more difficult to overcome than the high-powered data crunching enabled by ever-shrinking computers – that said, peta- data storage still requires heft y infrastructure, as Amazon Web Services’ 40-foot container-sized Snowmobile, which we reported on in December and January, showed.
It must be acknowledged that pure battery-powered vehicles have more than a century of history but have failed to entirely convince on a personal, let alone business, level.
Weight, up-front cost, charging time and, especially, range have been the major obstacles but the tilt at overcoming them is edging closer than ever to a tipping point.
How close that point is will be defi ned in no small part by Kings Transport’s use of SAE Electric’s vehicles, just as Toll’s experiment a few years back with the UK fi rm Smith’s 10-tonne rigid in 2013 showed how much further on all levels such vehicles needed to go.
It will help SEA’s push that the fi rm shares many of the people involved with Smith and that will be aided by the advice of Kings, so the vans and smalland medium-rigids have commercial customer input.
SEA’s view is that its comparable vehicles will out-perform the Smith truck by about a third on most important measures.
Kings believes it has the routes and tasks to make the test a success on its terms.
These terms are limited by range, an issue international express operator DHL says gave it headaches when using Renault electric delivery vans in Sydney, where 100km over up to four hours on the road was found to be restrictive due to that city’s sprawl.
With King’s SEAs in Melbourne service, an extra 80km-plus over the Sydney distance will come in handy.
Beyond what big-banger buffs view as vehicular white-goods, the electric revolution is amping up for prime movers, too.
Those with diesel coursing through their veins will have need of their obviously strong constitutions if, as seems likely, line-haul- capable prime movers start gaining momentum in the northern hemisphere.
This edition of ATN contains a detailed examination of what may be confronting the US market with Tesla’s Semi. Readers can be forgiven for taking large capsules of salt when reading such analysis, given that so much is supposition and the reality looks so far off.
It’s difficult, too, to see how the infrastructure needed to make the Semi or the Nikola One a business proposition in this country in a hurry.
After all, if it does prove a hit in the northern half of the world, the manufacturers will be fl at out catering for their own backyard.
And the supporting infrastructure is crucial, as the proponents of gas propulsion are only too aware.
Whatever Tesla and others actually come up with, writer Randy Carlson’s examination of the likely design of chassis, battery handling, both in vehicle and out, power choices and possible cost quotients make for fascinating, thoughtprovoking reading.