Alternate cur­rent

Lit­tle elec­tric num­bers make their mark on tight and con­gested streets

Herald Sun - Motoring - - WORKING WHEELS -

DRIVE in Europe and you quickly gain an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of driv­ing on nar­row roads in tight sit­u­a­tions. Af­ter all, they built their cities to suit the horse and cart.

With ac­cess to city cen­tres dif­fi­cult at the best of times, com­pa­nies are look­ing at al­ter­na­tives to tra­di­tional trucks.

The is­sue is start­ing to have an im­pact in Aus­tralia, too, par­tic­u­larly in cap­i­tal cities with con­ges­tion added into the mix.

Vic­to­rian out­fit Ve­hi­cle Ecol­ogy is look­ing to cap­i­talise on this de­mand by im­port­ing a range of elec­tric de­liv­ery and ser­vice trucks from Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer Alke.

The trucks come in nu­mer­ous con­fig­u­ra­tions for tasks such as street clean­ing, garbage col­lec­tion and goods de­liv­er­ies.

Owner Chris McIn­tyre says he saw a grow­ing need for a small elec­tric util­ity ve­hi­cle and took the plunge.

“They are prov­ing very pop­u­lar and de­mand is gain­ing mo­men­tum as word spreads,’’ he says. “With city speed lim­its now pretty much at 40km/h, low speed, cheap to run and re­li­able util­ity ve­hi­cles such as th­ese come into their own.’’

Four mod­els are avail­able in vary­ing load con­fig­u­ra­tions (even a tip­per) start­ing from about $45,000. A cab chas­sis version starts at $38,000.

They are plug-in elec­tric ve­hi­cles with re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing to ex­tend the driv­ing range. They use ei­ther lead acid or lithium ion bat­ter­ies, de­pend­ing on buyer choice. So­lar recharg­ing is also avail­able.

The com­pany will cus­tomise trucks for large fleets.

Op­er­a­tional range de­pends on use but they will gen­er­ally cover 150km or run for eight to 10 hours be­fore recharg­ing is needed.

The Alke XT se­ries has two wheel­base op­tions with cargo floors of 220mm and 270mm. Flat-bed load ca­pac­ity is up to 1300kg with a tow­ing ca­pac­ity up to 4000kg.

There are rear-drive and 4WD (per­ma­nent) op­tions, the lat­ter fea­tur­ing three dif­fer­en­tials and dou­ble diff locks for tough off-road ter­rain.

Two vari­ants, fit­ted with a larger ca­pac­ity 26 kWh bat­tery, can reach 140km/h and the other two will do 58kmh. The recharge cy­cle is eight to 12 hours.

Power goes to the wheels through direct drive, for­ward and re­verse. Peak torque is 250Nm, equiv­a­lent to a 1.6-litre turbo diesel en­gine.

The steel back­bone chas­sis sup­ports a com­pos­ite body. Com­fort and con­ve­nience fea­tures in­clude air­con, elec­tric power steer­ing, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, elec­tric win­dows and a seven-inch dig­i­tal dis­play screen. Ad­justable air sus­pen­sion is stan­dard and there are nu­mer­ous op­tions.

McIn­tyre claims the Alkes need vir­tu­ally no main­te­nance and have proven re­li­able in ser­vice.

To sim­plify ser­vic­ing re­quire­ments, Ve­hi­cle Ecol­ogy’s data log­ging tech beams op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion direct to the com­pany.

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