Shock of the new

The fu­ture is not all about com­put­ers – bat­ter­ies and how they are han­dled are cru­cial

Australian Transport News - - News -

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.

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