The times, they are changing fast, and anyone who misses this rapid transition towards a better future would be doomed to fail. The biggest change that is knocking the doors of the commercial vehicle business worldwide is the imminent arrival of advanced electric drive technologies in the CV market mainstream. The once prophesized electric revolution has already arrived in the personal vehicle segment, especially in the two-wheelers on car space. And evidently, passenger transport was the next step in the expansion of electric growth. And now, finally, the commercial vehicle segment globally is on the verge of joining the party. It is ironical, but the commercial vehicle industry, especially the trucking segment, has been the last of the vehicles to embrace the electric technology, for this is the segment that globally has been among the biggest consumer of diesel fuel.
Closer home, in India, according to a 2014 study carried out by Nielsen for Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) of Petroleum Ministry, it was found that the transport industry consumes 70% of all the diesel sold in the country. Of this 70%, it is the truck (HCV/LCV) and bus segment that together constitutes a consumption of 37.80% (28.25% and 9.55%, respectively. Now, if you add the 6.39% diesel fuel consumed by three-wheelers into this calculation the overall consumption by the CV industry (only product segments) becomes 44.19%. This is well over half of the whole volume of diesel consumed in the country by the transport industry. That would not be all if we were to include the diesel consumed (8.94%) by commercial cars and UV’s (taxi’s and pick-ups) than it further increases to a whopping 53.13%. This is more than half of all the diesel fuel consumed by the whole of India.
Now, it is a well-known fact that India imports 80% of petroleum and it is by far the highest expense our country makes. And this number is only increasing year on year. This leaves a massive burden on monetary policies. Not to mention the huge detrimental effect on the environment that this burning of diesel fuel causes. According to a recent study, the most polluted cities in the world in terms of worst Air Quality Index (AQI), as many as 8 out of 10 cities are in India. It is no longer a question of if, but it is now an absolute necessity that we embrace the electric future if we have to save the environment. Electric will also help us in increasing our profits since the fuel and the technologies to legally comply with ever stringent emission norms are not going to go any cheaper.
So, with the importance of electric technology clear, we are going to run a series of articles that will cover everything that you would ever need to understand every pro and every con of the electric future that you will be embracing soon enough. And to start with, we are going to explain how an Electric Truck will work and the technology that is behind it.
Battery-Electric Truck – What is it:
Every vehicle needs a power source to help it propel itself and the load it carries. In the case of a traditional diesel-powered vehicle, it is the diesel fuel that gets burn inside the combustion chamber of an internal combustion engine (ICE) that transmits power to the crankshaft through the piston. This power generated is stored in the flywheel that connects with the transmission that sends the energy produced to the differential and the wheels move to create motion.
This is something everybody knows and for over a century, this ICE technology has been the main engine of the world’s growth. And to think of it, we have achieved marvelous advancements in the ICE technology over this period and continue to do so. However, like every idea and technology, the time of the single-handed unchallenged rule of the ICE in the world of mobility is coming to an end. The biggest challenger to the reign of the ICE is coming up from the Battery Electric Vehicles or BEV.
A Battery Electric Vehicle (BEVs) powers an electric motor that turns the wheel though the utilization of electricity that stored in a battery pack. This works mostly on the same format on which other battery-powered devices work, like your phone or your laptop. However, the overall functioning of a BEV is far more complicated than a pure smartphone battery. That said, just like any other battery, the ones in a BEV also gets depleted after a while (due to using or losing charge being in standby) and thus require a recharge using grid electricity. You can also charge your BEV just like any other battery-powered device as well; however, better recharging performance arrives from dedicated charging units that require higher power as compared to the traditional home electricity supply. Thus, lending the BEV’s with the title ‘All-Electric’.
Battery-Electric Truck – Chassis and Body Architecture
A simple chassis and body architecture of a BEV has a battery pack that is generally placed in the lower part of the vehicle and in between the front and rear axle. This is done to lower the Center of Gravity (COG) of the car since battery packs are known to be extremely heavy. This battery pack/s connected to a controller unit that gathers incoming data generated from the driver’s foot and calculates how much power desired at the present moment. This controller further sends the signals to the electric motors that run accordingly. These motors are connected either directly (individual motors for individual wheels), through a central motor that connect to wheels through a differential or a combination of both. The picture below shows a basic chassis layout of an electric truck.
Battery-Electric Truck – Benefits over ICE:
The all-electric BEV technology offers a plethora of extremely significant benefits over the ICE engines. Some of them are as follows:
- Zero Tailpipe Emissions.
- Much cheaper to fuel – Electricity is much less expensive than Diesel per km.
- Negligible maintenance cost. Diesel-powered vehicles need regular maintenance that costs money and time.
- Lower noise pollution.
- Far better and instantaneous torque supply, a hugely significant feature for the transport and logistics industry.
- A scalable power design can be incorporated for different requirements from a single-vehicle.
- Reduced downtime equals to higher profits.
- Better space management since battery packs can be designed to fit customized spaces.
Battery-Electric Truck - Features
- They are designed to minimize wastage of energy; thus, they can turn the vehicle off when stopped and restarting without losing extra fuel.
- A very significant technology that is called Regenerative Braking is designed to charge the battery when the vehicle is under braking. This adds more km to your range and at the same time, utilizes energy that would have lost otherwise.
- The Energy efficiency of electric motors is also inherently much better than that of diesel engines.
- They can be charged at home either by the standard power supply or a dedicated fast charger (with higher power output).
- Smart technologies and scalable battery architecture can easily last a daily transport routine to free up time for a long night charging. Making the vehicle run throughout the day nonstop.
- Much easier and comfortable to drive, there are no gears or clutch system to worry about.
- Instantaneous torque at all times.
- Extremely fast acceleration.
Battery-Electric Truck – Cons
- The initial cost of the purchase of BEV is still extremely high.
- The charging times, even with most advanced superchargers, still run into several minutes if not hours (depends on the battery pack size).
- The range on a complete charge is still on a lower side.
- In the case of India, there is a massive lack of supporting infrastructure for the widespread usage of electric vehicles.
- Even though BEV’s are zero-emission, the way we generate electricity to charge BEV’s is still largely coal power-based and thus not exactly environmentally friendly.
- Cost of battery packs a very high for replacement.