The announcement of Australia’s largest heavy vehicle electrification project shows the transition towards battery-powered and hydrogen-powered electric trucks is under way – and the 2023 Brisbane Truck Show will have a huge line-up of the latest alternative fuel-powered trucks to check out!
If Australian purchase habits have reportedly changed, and the online shopping beast continues to grow, then more trucks will be required to deliver these goods, right?
That’s what the Department of Infrastructure and Transport is saying, forecasting freight volumes to increase 35 per cent by the year 2040.
This is great news for the road transport industry, however, there is a big elephant in the room. What type of trucks will deliver the goods?
The importance of that question cannot be under-estimated, because with all governments in Australia now committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 — and a more ambitious target of 43 per cent by 2035 now adopted federally — a stern gaze will turn to the transport sector and its emissions.
Transport emissions make up 19 per cent of Australia’s total, with 38 per cent of these directly attributable to the road freight sector.
Don’t fret, though, alternatives in this space are growing at greater speeds than ever before.
Rivals Daimler and Volvo are working together on hydrogen technology, Volvo Group Australia intends to build battery-electric vehicles in Australia by 2025, SEA Electric is already up and running delivering vehicles, and Hyzon’s factory in Melbourne is gaining momentum.
The OEMs are not alone. The Federal Government’s renewable energy agency ARENA has invested more than $1 billion into the sector and key logistics companies such as Linfox are running electric Fuso eCanter trucks in their fleets.
The big challenge now is helping and encouraging more operators to begin their journey towards de-carbonisation.
Historically, issues of higher upfront vehicle costs, lack of fueling and charging infrastructure, and range-anxiety created a genuine barrier to change.
However, Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia CEO Todd Hacking believes a zero-emission transition roadmap will help the heavy vehicle industry.
“All community progress is a step-change,” he says. “First and foremost, Euro VI (ADR80/04) needs to be mandated in Australia, this sets the legislative framework for the next generation of trucks.
“Once this is done, a mature conversation needs to be had about incentivising the transition and removing the technical regulatory barriers holding back progress.
“Issues such as truck width and axle-mass concessions are key to ensure operators are not penalised for de-carbonising the fleet.
“We also know that through scaling up, the price decreases, and so options for direct cash rebates up-front, or taxation relief following a purchase including changes to stamp duty, or a temporary relaxation of the Road User Change (RUC), need to be considered,” he adds.
“Or perhaps it is done through an indirect benefit, such as providing greater heavy vehicle access, perhaps by exempting zero-emission trucks from urban curfews could be a start. It could even be a combination of all of these.”
Lastly, there’s a need for complementary regulatory and capital upgrade of the electricity grid and energy market to support the zero-emission transition, Hacking says.
“An operator is not going to purchase EV’s if the energy infrastructure required to recharge them does not exist, nor are they going to invest in hydrogen if the hydrogen supply is unreliable,” he says.
“This is a complex issue, with many moving parts, but it is not insurmountable. We can and will do it.”
With this in mind, here are a few upcoming technologies to look out for at the 2023 Brisbane Truck Show.
Electric Trucks: Mindful Mercedes
Mercedes-Benz Trucks and its parent company Daimler Truck are pivoting hard towards zero-emission vehicles, with the brand announcing its plans to sell only CO2-neutral vehicles in North America, Europe and Japan from 2039.
The German-based giant also launched the eActros late last year in Europe, the company’s battery-powered, near-silent version of its hugely popular Actros model, and the good news is it’s coming to Australia.
Well, sort of … four evaluation units are arriving Down Under in early 2023 for extensive trials, while a single unit will also be trialed across the ditch in New Zealand.
The brand will be keen to see how its battery-electric technology — which is already in production and out on the road in Europe — fairs in Australian conditions.
The eActros is best suited to heavy-duty, short-radius distribution, however, Mercedes-Benz Trucks did just lift the curtain on an all-new ‘Long-Haul’ variant of the eActros with a claimed range of 500km. This could be a game changer.
Additionally, validation trials will also begin in early 2023 for the new Mercedes-Benz all-electric eEconic. The eEconic has been designed from the ground up to work in densely-populated urban areas, with waste collection its bread and butter.
Electric trucks are gaining traction with local councils around the country due to their lack of noise, a sure-selling point of the eEconic.
“Waste collection represents the perfect application for a near-silent electric truck that produces zero local emissions as these vehicles operate on the doorsteps of our community,” Mercedes-Benz Trucks Australia Pacific Director Andrew Assimo says.
“We are excited to work with our Australian and New Zealand customers to validate the remarkable zero-emission eEconic, which is also fully-loaded with the latest Mercedes-Benz Trucks active safety technology.”
The eActros and the eEconic share the same electric twin-motor drivetrain pushing out a maximum 442hp (330kW). For battery capacity, the eEconic offers three lithium-ion battery packs at a combined 336kWh, while the eActros offers an option of a fourth battery pack totaling 448kWh.
Daimler Truck has not yet announced which versions of the eActros we will inititally see in Australia and New Zealand. It’s hoped the Mercedes-Benz eActros will be launched Down Under shortly after trials finish. The Actros is an immensely popular truck in Australia, and as EV and hydrogen technology demand increases, the eActros is sure to be a popular model.
At the same time, Mercedes-Benz Trucks has signaled its intention to expand its range of vehicles to include series-produced trucks with hydrogen-based fuel cell drives in the second half of this decade. The first prototypes of the GenH2 truck – which is based on the conventional Actros long-haul truck in terms of payload, range and performance – are already undergoing rigorous testing in Europe, both on its in-house test track and on public roads.
Fitted with two special liquid hydrogen tanks with a combined capacity of 80 kilograms of hydrogen, and a particularly powerful fuel-cell system, the development goal is a range of up to 1,000 kilometres and a payload of 25 tonnes at a gross weight of 40 tonnes, making the truck suitable for heavy long-distance transport.
Location: Stand 44, Hall 4
Electric Trucks: Hydrogen For DAF
Powered by a hydrogen internal combustion engine, PACCAR‘s DAF XF H2 Innovation Truck was recently unveiled and subsequently won the ‘Truck Innovation Award 2022’ at the Solutrans Truck & Transport Exhibition in France.
While many of the big car and truck OEMs are developing hydrogen fuel cell technology, DAF has taken a different route, developing instead an internal combustion engine that runs on hydrogen.
DAF believes a ‘green’ hydrogen combustion engine eliminates the need for large energy storage systems as well as the lower cooling capabilities needed and lower sensitivity to hydrogen purity.
However, using hydrogen to fuel trucks also means that in many areas, we can make use of existing fuel distribution networks, an interesting prospect for Australia.
“H2 internal combustion engines means that in many areas, use can be made of an existing distribution network of fuel stations.
“Hydrogen technology may become a very interesting option for the future, next to battery-electric solutions which we already offer today and hybrid trucks which we have under development,” DAF Executive Director of Product Development Ron Borsboom says.
“Being honoured with the ‘Truck Innovation Award 2022’ also demonstrates that there is still a promising future for the internal combustion engine for which new generations of carbon-neutral fuels are on the horizon.
“It is important to understand that bringing an end to the use of fossil fuels should by no means automatically result in a ban on internal combustion engines, especially in the heavy-duty long-haul transport segment.”
Location: Stand 40, Hall 4
Electric Trucks: Kenworth ZECT and FCEV
DAF’s North American sibling, Kenworth, has also been experimenting with new technologies. Parent company PACCAR teamed up with Toyota a few years ago to develop and trial the Kenworth ZECT and the FCEV, two zero-emissions T680 trucks that are powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
Kenworth became the first company to scale Pikes Peak in Colorado with a fuel cell truck. The Kenworth T680 FCEV, which features a Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain offering 470hp, has a claimed range of 560km and a 15-minute refuel time. Could we see similar technology from Kenworth here in Australia soon?
Most recently, Kenworth has also moved into battery-electric truck production, unveiling its zero-emissions Kenworth T680E battery-electric vehicle at the Las Vegas CES 2022 show.
It’s the company’s first heavy-duty battery-electric truck and features a 396kWh battery. Its Meritor 14Xe powertrain pushes out 536hp, has a reported range of 241km and a claimed charging time of three hours.
Location: Stand 40, Hall 4
Electric Trucks: Fuso eCanter
Fuso’s electric variant of its popular Canter truck, the eCanter, was a head turner at the 2021 Brisbane Truck Show.
As the first production electric truck available in Australia, Daimler Truck‘s eCanter highlighted the fact that electric trucks were no longer just engineering concepts.
This was evident with retail giants Coles and Bunnings adding eCanter’s to their fleets as well as Australia Post placing an order for some 20 eCanters.
Despite global announcements regarding the next-gen Fuso eCanter, Daimler Truck Australia is being tight-lipped about its arrival Down Under.
“There is a lot of excitement around the next-generation eCanter and we look forward to updating our customers about this when it is set to arrive locally.
“Our priority is to undertake a rigorous test and validation program in local conditions as a first step,” a company spokesman says.
With the Mercedes-Benz eActros and eEconic arriving here for testing, Daimler Truck Australia will have all bases covered in the electric truck market.
Location: Stand 44, Hall 4
Electric Trucks: SEA Electric
Hopefully by now, many are aware of SEA Electric and the progress it’s made in its electrification journey.
If not, you should because this local company created the first Australian-made electric truck — the SEA300 — out of its Dandenong facility.
The company’s flagship SEA 300 and 500 series vehicles are based on Hino 300 and 500 light- and medium-duty trucks, sharing the same chassis and cabin.
If SEA Electric’s debut at the 2021 Brisbane Truck Show highlights anything, it’s that the company means business and has no plans to be shadowed by bigger players in the market.
Location: Stand 57, Hall 1
Electric Trucks: Volvo Group Australia
Volvo has worked hard to become a leader in the EV truck space. Just recently, Volvo Group Australia President Martin Merrick announced the group’s intentions to build battery-electric vehicles at its Brisbane facility by 2025.
With five electric models on the market (two currently available here in Australia), the Swedes have positioned themselves at the forefront of EV technology.
The current models available in Australia include the Volvo FE Electric, a 300hp (225kW) rigid, that runs a dual-motor driveline with a two-speed gearbox with three to four batteries; and the FL Electric, a medium-duty truck designed for city rigid work that’s powered by a single electric motor with a two-speed gearbox.
The range for the FE is up to 200km and its gross combination weight pushes up to 26 tonnes and comes in 4×2 or 6×2 axle configurations.
The FL claims a 300km range and pushes out 174hp (130kw) from its single electric motor. The FL also boasts GCW of up to 16 tonnes and has four battery packs at 265kWh.
This is the same truck that Linfox recently put through its paces delivering beer in Melbourne. In total, the FL clocked over 6,000km and more than 5,200-kilowatt hours of work.
Charging time takes 11 hours with Alternating Current (AC) and two hours with Direct Current (DC) charging.
Environmental sustainability has always been front of mind for the Volvo Group, so it’s no surprise to see it ready for the next phase of truck propulsion.
However, VGA’s E-Mobility Solutions Manager Tim Camilleri says the internal combustion engine will live on for some time, especially in Australia.
“Hydrogen fuel cell is still a way off and will require a refueling network to be built, while battery electric will undoubtedly cater for our urban transport applications,” he says.
“Off the beaten track and on interstate highways, we’ll still see the internal combustion engine living on for some time, though the fuel they run on will most likely change along the way.”
Location: Stand 49, Hall 3
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