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Mercedes reveals electric truck

Power load: Mercedes-Benz hopes to have its Urban eTruck ready for production by early next decade.

Time is right for eTruck in world’s crowded cities, says Mercedes-Benz


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28 Jul 2016

JUST a week after Tesla Motors announced plans for an all-electric truck, Mercedes-Benz has wheeled out a fully-fledged prototype for a battery-powered 26-tonne urban delivery truck with a range of up to 200km.

The German company says it plans to bring the new Urban eTruck to market early next decade to meet an expected demand for such vehicles in the world’s ever-more-crowded cities where diesel emissions and noise are facing increased scrutiny.

Mercedes says it has been working on such electric trucks for years, taking a cautious approach to plans for production.

“Although electric drives long appeared to be out of the question for trucks, the economic viability of battery-electric trucks is now starting to emerge,” the company said in a media release issued at the global launch of the truck at its proving ground in Germany this week.

“This is because of major advances in battery technology: between 1997 and 2025, the costs are likely to fall by 60 per cent. At the same time, the power will increase by around 250 per cent over the same period.” Mercedes says its customers are facing major difficulties in big cities, and have expressed a need for an electric solution for short-radius deliveries.

But while the electric urban delivery truck for supermarket deliveries and similar tasks is being prepared for the showroom, the company has ruled out long-haul electric trucks, saying the weight of the batteries and extended charging times remain a hurdle.

The triple-axle Urban eTruck is powered by a pack of three lithium-ion battery modules with a combined capacity of 212kWh. By comparison, the all-electric Nissan Leaf’s battery packs just 24kWh.

Two electric motors just inside the rear wheels drive the rear axle, each delivering 125kW of power and 500Nm of torque.

While the peak power figures do not compare with traditional big-bore diesel equivalents, the electric drivetrain has the advantage of full torque at minimal revs, delivering a claimed 11,000Nm at the wheel, thanks to gearing.

Mercedes says the batteries can be charged in just two to three hours with a high-power charger.

The eTruck is said to weigh 1700kg more than a regular diesel truck of the same size, mostly due to the 2500kg battery pack and 1000kg drive axle.

However, the batteries can be tucked neatly out of the way between the chassis frame.

Mercedes-Benz has already been trialling electric trucks in both Portugal and Germany via its Fuso subsidiary.

The Fuso Canter E-Cell trucks are being used for a variety of tasks, including tippers, furniture transport and parcel deliveries.

Four of the Fuso vehicles are on the city council fleet in Stuttgart, Mercedes’ home city.

Normally powered by a 3.0-litre diesel engine, the Canter E-Cell has a 110kW/650Nm electric motor driving the rear wheels via an automatic transmission.

Urban deliveries by electric vehicles is nothing new – Britain’s door-to-door milkmen used electric “floats” to deliver bottles of milk to homes up to 80 years ago.

Several vehicle manufacturers such as Renault and Nissan already offer all-electric delivery vans, but Mercedes appears destined to be the first to offer a mass-produced full-electric truck for sale.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk last week divulged that his company is planning to add an electric truck, called Tesla Semi, to its offerings at some point.

Although Mr Musk did not offer any technical details of the proposed vehicle, he promised a concept would be ready to be unveiled alongside other upcoming vehicles by next year.

Among other vehicles on the Tesla drawing board are a pick-up truck and an urban bus.

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