Isuzu NQR and FSR models with 200-250km range produced in collaboration with SEA Electric
Australian arm of Japanese giant to takes local battery power punt
I suzu Australia Ltd (IAL) will test two battery electric vehicles (EVs) it has developed in partnership with Melbourne-based EV developer SEA Electric. A purely Australian effort, it is independent of Isuzu’s Japanfocused Elf EV light commercial project EV previewed at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show but comes with the blessing of headquarters in Tokyo.
The EV program is focused on proving the 8-9-tonne gross vehicle mass (GMV) NQR and the 12-14-tonne GMV FSR for urban return-to-base applications.
The NQR will have maximum and continuous power of 130kW (174hp) and 100kW (134hp) respectively, while those for the FSR are 250kW (335hp) and 150kW (201hp). Maximum and continuous torque is 1,500Nm and 800Nm for the NQR and 2,500Nm and 1,230Nm for the FSR.
Both models will carry 132kWh nickel, manganese, cobalt oxide (NMC) lithium-ion (li-ion) battery packs powering direct drive permanent magnet motors, rated to 98 per cent efficiency.
The battery type used, sourced from Canada and China, was chosen for its energy density and ability to stay cooler enough to avoid flaming. It is expected to have a battery life of 8-10 years.
The battery packs are stowed between the chassis rails, in a similar manner as SEA test vehicles transport and logistics firm Kings Transport took up in Melbourne a year ago, though the Isuzus are different beasts from those EVs.
The operating range sought is 200-250km.
“Our research and our experience with CNG trucks over the past 10 or 15 years
has shown that the absolute minimum for just about any application, whether it be return to base or any of that urban-type arrangement, is that Australian operators won’t be comfortable unless they can get at least 200km out of their truck,” IAL chief engineer and product strategist Simon Humphries explains.
Though large-company drivers may believe they drive more than that in cities, Humphries says that “the telematics data suggests that actually 140 to 160km a day is all they do”.
On the advances in battery technology, he has found that roughly every six months, you get 10 to 15 per cent increase in range for the same weight and cost.
“Or, alternatively, once you reach the range you’re after, you then reduce the weight and cost.”
The tare mass is 5 per cent above the equivalent diesel truck, at present. Cost parity with light to medium-duty diesel vehicles is expected in 2021-22.
“Our target was performance that matches or exceeds the equivalent diesel, so we specified the electric motor, the battery pack, everything to provide performance that the driver will not suffer by and that will want to drive this truck,” Humphries says.
Marking local effort out from certain North American recharging strategies, such as Tesla’s, the IAL EV eschews battery charging stations. It features a 22kW on-board charging system and cables, which plugs into a standard industrial 400- 415-volt, 32-amp, three-phase, five-pin socket — a solution that is, however, compatible with the Tesla’s growing local supercharger network. This aims to allow for a six-hour recharge from a near-totally drained pack.
Vehicle production numbers expected to be in the 100s.
“Some of the logistics about the base cab-chassis are still to be determined,” IAL sales and marketing director Andrew Harbison says.
“Once volumes dictate, we will determine where the production is.”
Talks with SEA Electric began “quite some time ago” and development was a separate project, though Harbison notes “SEA has certainly taken learning from that and incorporated them”.
That said, the IAL project was more heavily focused on integrating Isuzu technology into the new EVs.
“We believe we have the technology and the know-how to produce the best electric truck,” IAL director and chief operating officer Phil Taylor says.
“It’s now our challenge to ensure the concept becomes a reality.”
The impetus for the move is the continuing fall in costs and rise in power of li-ion batteries, which the company points out is making its assumptions out of date around twice a year.
It points to projections that show li-ion pack costs per kilowatt hour (kWh) falling from around US$1,000 in 2010 to about US$300 now and close to $100 or less by 2030. This is seen as giving increased urgency to the global uptake of EVs.
“The electric engine of today is now a realistic proposal owing to innovations in energy storage and battery technology and connectivity that all vehicles to operate more efficiently and over vaster distances,” IAL states. “With higher energy and power density and longer lifespan, the introduction of lithium-ion batteries has provided an energy storage solution far superior to most other batteries.
“Cost reduction has been a massive factor. EV battery pack costs reduce significantly between 2010 and 2016, while in that same period, sales of EVs have increased at over 160 per cent.”
Business consulting firm McKinsey predicts the e-truck market share will reach 15 per cent overall by 2030 and up to 25-35 per cent of light-duty truck sales in Europe and China. On the battery technology itself, IAL sees NMC li-ion in the vanguard but ceding ground in the next three to 10 years to high-voltage batteries, solid state versions and those featuring lithium-silicon and lithium-sulphur before lithium-magnesium makes its presence felt in the late 2020s.
Simon Humphries and Andrew Harbison explain the EV strategy