Despite the demonstrable savings, commercial vehicles have been slower to electrify than passenger cars, and the majors have mostly left the field open for start-up firms such as Motiv Power Systems and Wrightspeed. However, as performance improves and emissions regulations tighten (some European cities are making noises about someday banning ICE trucks from city centers), Daimler Trucks is experimenting with the technology.
The German giant recently presented the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck, a fully electric delivery truck with a total weight of up to 26 metric tons. Daimler says it is “conceivable” that it could bring an electric truck to market by 2020. The company has been involved in trials of the Fuso Canter E-Cell light delivery truck since 2014.
The Urban eTruck is based on a heavy-duty, three-axle short-radius Mercedes-Benz distribution truck. The legacy drivetrain has been replaced by an electrically driven rear axle developed for the Mercedes-Benz Citaro hybrid bus, featuring motors directly adjacent to the wheel hubs. The battery pack consists of three modules, and is expected to enable a range of up to 200 km, enough for a typical daily delivery route.
The EU Commission has indicated that it may increase the allowable gross vehicle weight of trucks with high-tech drives by up to one ton, which would more or less cancel out the additional weight of the battery pack.
“Electric drive systems previously saw extremely limited use in trucks,” said Daimler Board Member Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard. “Nowadays costs, performance and charging times develop so rapidly that there is a trend reversal in the distribution sector: the time is ripe for the electric truck. We intend to establish electric driving as systematically as autonomous and connected driving.”