ELEC­TRIC DEVEL­OP­MENTS

Two Isuzu pro­to­type elec­tric truck mod­els are cur­rently travers­ing Aus­tralia’s ur­ban road net­work, an­other in­di­ca­tor that the move to­wards elec­tric light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles is quickly gain­ing mo­men­tum. Greg Bush writes

Owner Driver - - Contents #305 -

Two Isuzu pro­to­type elec­tric trucks are cur­rently on trial through­out Aus­tralia’s ur­ban road net­work

ISUZU AUS­TRALIA has of­fi­cially en­tered the elec­tric truck chal­lenge, last month an­nounc­ing the ex­is­tence of two pro­to­type mod­els based on the diesel equiv­a­lent FSR and NQR. The bat­tery-pow­ered trucks, which are still un­der de­vel­op­ment, have been built in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mel­bourne-based elec­tric ve­hi­cle (EV) de­vel­oper SEA Elec­tric. Si­mon Humphries, chief en­gi­neer prod­uct strat­egy, says the tim­ing of the pro­to­type tri­als mir­rors the in­creas­ing in­ter­est from cus­tomers in the elec­tric truck tech­nol­ogy. “It’s al­most an over­whelm­ing in­ter­est,” Humphries re­marks. “There’s not a week that goes by where we get an en­quiry about ‘when are you go­ing to sell us an elec­tric truck?’.”

Pre­vi­ously, the lim­it­ing fac­tor was man­ag­ing the bal­ance of price, pay­load and energy range.

“You don’t want to be ex­pen­sive, you don’t want to be too heavy, but you do want to pro­vide the per­for­mance to do a day’s work,” he says. “Our re­search and our ex­pe­ri­ence with CNG trucks for 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 ur­ban-type ar­range­ment, is that Aus­tralian op­er­a­tors won’t be com­fort­able un­til they can get at least 200km out of their truck.”

“So if we can get some­thing that gives at least a 200km range, we think will work for Aus­tralia. The bat­tery tech­nol­ogy is im­prov­ing at such a rate that roughly every six months you get 10 to 15 per cent in­crease in range for the same weight and cost,” Humphries says.

Elec­tric equiv­a­lents

The FSR and NQR mod­els ap­pear to have been ob­vi­ous choices for the elec­tric truck pro­to­types.

The FSR is rated at 14-tonne GVM, but can also be rated down to 12 tonne. The NQR, the largest of Isuzu’s N-Se­ries mod­els, is rated be­tween 8 to 9 tonne. The NQR EV con­cept boasts 130kW max­i­mum power, slightly less than the diesel equiv­a­lent. How­ever, Humphries adds that the 1500Nm max­i­mum torque in the EV ver­sion is much

more, with con­tin­u­ous torque around 800Nm. On the other hand, the FSR EV boasts a more pow­er­ful mo­tor than the 191kW diesel model, with a max­i­mum of 250kW and 2500Nm of torque.

“We’ve got a well-spec­i­fied pair of ve­hi­cles there,” Humphries says. “The two Isuzu EV mod­els have a per­ma­nent mag­net-type elec­tric mo­tor which is among the most ef­fi­cient. It’s well up around the 98 per cent ef­fi­ciency, which com­bus­tion en­gines can’t even pos­si­bly hope to achieve.”

Isuzu chose the nickel man­ganese cobalt ox­ide (NMC) type bat­tery pack, a sub-class of the lithium-ion bat­tery.

“The lithium-ion class of bat­tery is where all the tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment is at the mo­ment. The NMC type is de­vel­op­ing fast; about every six months we get a 10 or 15 per cent im­prove­ment in energy stor­age for any given size and cost of bat­tery.”

The NMC bat­tery pack’s other sell­ing point is, be­cause it’s more energy dense than some other types, it doesn’t need ex­ter­nal cool­ing.

Per­for­mance tar­get

Isuzu’s over­all tar­get was for a per­for­mance that matched or ex­ceeded the equiv­a­lent diesel mo­tor.

“So we spec­i­fied the elec­tric mo­tor and the bat­tery pack to pro­vide the per­for­mance so the driver will not suf­fer, he will ac­tu­ally want to drive this truck,” Humphries con­tin­ues. “The range on the full charge suits Aus­tralian re­quire­ments and that’s very im­por­tant be­cause what we’ve heard about around the world, some of those trucks have a range of about 50km. If you’re talk­ing range anx­i­ety, if you’re get­ting out of the de­pot on a full charge and you know you’ve only got a max­i­mum of 50km, that would stress me out.

“My low fuel light comes on be­fore then,” Humphries smiles. “So hav­ing the 200 or even 250km range, knowing you can do that in most con­di­tions in Aus­tralia, is im­por­tant for our op­er­a­tions.

“The other thing that’s re­ally im­por­tant is we don’t have wellde­vel­oped elec­tric ve­hi­cle charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture. So these trucks have got an on-board charg­ing unit and the cable supplied; it re­duces the re­liance on EV charg­ing sta­tions be­cause you can plug into a com­mer­cial three-phase power out­let.”

Humphries says the charg­ing unit soft­ware con­trols how fast the ve­hi­cle is charg­ing, turn­ing the process of when it’s fully charged. In­ter­est­ingly enough, Isuzu’s charg­ing unit is com­pat­i­ble with the ex­pand­ing Tesla Su­per Charger net­work, par­tic­u­larly in New South Wales, Vic­to­ria and Queens­land.

“There are Tesla Su­per Charg­ers pop­ping up all over the place, at winer­ies, ho­tels and lots of places you wouldn’t have thought of. And Tesla is quite happy to en­cour­age users of other brand EVs to use their su­per­charg­ers,” Humphries says.

“You don’t need to have a pro­lif­er­a­tion of re­fu­elling in­fra­struc­ture in this coun­try to be able to plug into one of those. Just about every com­mer­cial build­ing, ware­house, work­shop has three-phase power, or can have it in­stalled for very lit­tle cost. It is in­creas­ing ease of be­ing able to charge an elec­tric ve­hi­cle which is coun­ter­ing the dis­ad­van­tages of CNG-pow­ered trucks.

“The lack of in­fra­struc­ture is one big bar­rier to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of CNG trucks. We proved that they’re great, they’re re­li­able and they’re pow­er­ful. They do the job.

“I think every CNG truck that we sold over the past 10 or 14 years is still on the road. But there’s only a hand­ful of re­fu­elling sta­tions in Aus­tralia. CNG never re­ally took off in any great way as in some other coun­tries, so that’s a ma­jor dif­fer­ence.”

How­ever, Humphries warns not to ex­pect elec­tric pow­ered long­haul trucks any­time soon.

“Be­yond that 14-tonne mark it’s go­ing to take a lot more bat­ter­ies to get the use­ful range, and it’s go­ing to take a lot more cost. So there’s still room at the heavy end of the mar­ket to re­main ei­ther diesel or diesel range ex­ten­der with elec­tric drive for a long time yet.”

“These

trucks have

an on-board

charg­ing

unit.”

Above L to R: Isuzu’s FSR elec­tric truck is ex­pected to reach a range of 250km; Ve­hi­cle charg­ing is be­com­ing eas­ier as many com­mer­cial premises have three­p­hase powerOp­po­site bot­tom: Si­mon Humphries – Isuzu Aus­tralia’s chief en­gi­neer prod­uct strat­egy

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