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Mercedes puts electric truck on trial

Power load: Mercedes-Benz’s Urban eTruck is edging closer to mass production, with a 12-month trial of prototypes starting this year designed to knock off the rough edges.

Toe-in-the-water test set to shape Mercedes Urban eTruck ahead of 2020 launch

Mercedes-Benz logo16 Feb 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

MERCEDES-BENZ has announced plans for a 12-month electric truck trial in Europe starting this year as it gets ready to launch headlong into the plug-in urban load-lugger business in 2020 – the same year as its passenger car division plans to start mass production of EVs.

The company says it is talking with 20 potential customers representing various trucking industries to take part in the trial of the 18- and 25-tonne Urban eTrucks to collect real-world data and user feedback to help fine-tune the vehicle for series production within three years.

Although this initial trial is set to be confined to Europe, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific head of public relations for Daimler Truck and Bus, James Stanford, said he could not rule out an electric truck trial for Australia in future.

“It is definitely something we are interested in, but there are no plans at this stage,” he said.

Mr Stanford did not say how many trucks would be built for the European trial, only that it would start with a “low two-figure number of units” for German customers.

The Urban eTruck – revealed in concept form at the International Commercial Vehicle Show in Germany last September – can carry a 2.8-tonne payload over a range of up to 200km.

Designed for urban conditions where diesel trucks are increasingly being frowned on by authorities looking to cut diesel and noise emissions, the trucks will be built with a variety of bodies, including refrigeration, dry box and platform to test various scenarios.

Each truck will come with a special charger to speed charging of the lithium-ion batteries.

Global head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks Stefan Buchner said customer reaction to the eTruck concept at last year’s show had been outstanding.

“We are currently talking to around 20 potential customers from the disposal, foodstuffs and logistics sector,” he said. “With the small series we are now rapidly taking the next step towards a series product.

“By 2020 we want to be on the market with the series generation.”

It is unclear what the customers will pay – if anything – to be involved in the trial.

The company predicts that the cost of batteries will continue to come down and their energy density will go up towards 2025, making such trucks increasingly viable.

An even bigger fleet of all-electric trucks from Daimler subsidiary Fuso is also headed out to customers in a similar trial.

In this case, 150 light-duty eCanters are going to customers in Europe, Japan and the United States.

Company-wide, Mercedes is working on a family of 10 electric vehicles, all based on purpose-built architectures.

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