Gas2 Week in Review, November 12: Electric Trucks, and Buses, and Vespas — Oh, My!
Electric trucks are only one category of large commercial vehicles that are making the news as they slowly transition to electric power. Long-haul truckers typically cover 400 to 600 miles a day, and freeing big rig trucks and other large vehicles from their reliance on petroleum fuels is an enormous challenge. Because these oversized trucks need more energy than cars to move their mass and cargo, it’s harder for them to rely on batteries, which are less energy-dense than diesel fuel. Development of fully electric trucks have not seen the same trajectory as have fully electric consumer vehicles, yet, with prices of lithium batteries that power them coming down, there is increased hope in the marketplace for electric trucks and other large electric vehicles to become more common soon.
It is essential to electrify vehicles that rely most significantly on diesel engines if we hope to lower greenhouse gas emissions and gain important environmental rewards. So this week on the “Gas2 Week in Review” we’ve looked to EVs beyond the mass commuter market. Electric trucks are the talk of the EV town, with Loblaw taking the lead in Canada by adding a Class 8 electric truck to its fleet. Daimler’s new Jouley electric school buses will be a welcomed relief to families who cringe as their children inhale clouds of diesel fumes at bus stops. Workhouse’s Nex-Gen delivery truck has an optional — and fascinating — drone that will accelerate delivery schedules. For those who steer clear of big public transportation, Waymo seems ready to bring commercial EVs to the self-driving market, and then there’s the little Vespa and its newest iteration, the electric Elettrica (no, it’s not one of the new electric trucks on the market, but it was such a good story we couldn’t resist including it).
Here are those stories and more in this week’s edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review.”
Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, attended the unveiling of a 53-foot, fully electric Class 8 truck from Loblaw Companies Limited. These electric trucks are capable of making commercial grocery deliveries with zero carbon emissions. Canada’s largest retailer specializing in food and pharmaceuticals, Loblaw announced its commitment to move its corporately-owned trucking fleet to electric vehicles. The electric trucks will be produced by BYD, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles and a global leader in battery electric buses and trucks.
Loblaw acknowledges it is one of Canada’s largest energy users in its role as the country’s food and pharmacy leader and largest retailer, which gives it a critical role to play in helping Canada reach its carbon reduction targets. Loblaw will work with partner BYD for sustainable solutions to reduce its carbon footprint 30% by 2030, with a definitive commitment to limit transportation emissions to 0.087 gCO2 e/t-km. By 2030, Loblaw intends to reduce emissions associated with electricity consumption by 35 per cent, transportation by 25 per cent, and refrigerants by 50 per cent. It will also improve waste diversion to 80 per cent in stores and 95 per cent in distribution centers.
With two short routes per day and long breaks for recharging, school buses are ideal candidates for the switch to EVs. Daimler and its Thomas Built Buses division have revealed the Jouley, the first generation Saf-T-Liner® C2 electric bus. It’s named after the joule unit of energy. Company statements boast that it’s “emissions-free, noise pollution-free, and fossil fuel-free.” It can save operating costs, is well-suited for in-town routes, and has a 160 km (100 mile) all-electric range. If operators need more range, they can add another battery pack.
The Jouley can pack up to 81 kids, who’ll be pretty delighted that it’s equipped with both 120 volt and USB charging ports for laptops and cellphones. Our future generation of leaders will likely also become comfortable with the experience of riding in a clean, quiet electric school bus during their early years, which may decrease their tolerance for smelly, noisy cars later in life. That could be the greatest benefit of all within the process of electrifying school buses.
With a low-delivery platform, the N-Gen electric delivery van from Workhorse features a low 19-inch floor to maximize cargo space, which will reduce knee injuries and enhance its ease of operation. That’s important in electric trucks like delivery vans for worker safety, health, and retention. The N-Gen also has an electric range of 100 miles with an optional range extender engine that can add another 75 miles of range. Workhorse has an agreement to test and operate N-Gen vehicles in several cities across the U.S. The van can be configured for municipal or local delivery use and will be available in late 2018. Larger 700 cubic foot and 1,000 cubic foot versions of the electric trucks will also be available.
The N-Gen can be equipped with the HorseFly™ UAV Delivery system, which, according to the company’s website, is a “custom built, high efficiency octocopter-based delivery UAV” that is fully integrated with their line of electric/hybrid delivery trucks. Designed to conform to the FAA guidelines for UAV operation in the U.S. for targeted integration with delivery trucks, the system is configured with advanced telematics. These allow the drone to complete last mile deliveries quickly and at low cost while the delivery van continues down the road. Once the delivery is completed, the drone will locate the van and return to it autonomously so it can be used again and again during the work day. Now those are electric trucks with a plus!
Waymo has been looking for early riders in Phoenix, Arizona to use their self-driving cars to go to the regular places they go everyday — work, school, movies, whatever. Those early riders have shared their thoughts and experiences to help the Waymo team shape the future of how their self-driving cars will work. As the company drives more than 25,000 autonomous miles each week, Waymo’s months of testing seem to be paying dividends. The subsidiary of Alphabet (which also owns Google) says it will soon be provide ride hailing services to paying customers in the Chandler suburb of Phoenix. The plan is to eventually extend the service to the entire Phoenix area.
Customers will use the Waymo app to summon a self driving Chrysler Pacifica to their doors and to communicate directly with a member of Waymo’s customer service staff at any time. At first, each Pacifica will have a Waymo employee on board, just in case an emergency stop button needs to be engaged. Soon afterward, however, the company intends to transition to Level 4 autonomy in which the only humans in the vehicles are customers. The total Waymo Pacifica fleet is nearing 500 vehicles.
Okay, so the Vespa line isn’t close to electric trucks in its ability to convert devastating fossil fuel pollution into a cleaner environment. But readers really respond to stories about the little company that could. The newest edition to the Vespa catalog is the Elettrica, an electric scooter with a 62 mile range that’s a good fit for city environments. The electric scooter has a four hour battery charge from a “normal wall outlet,” which in Italy is 220 volts. The battery is good for about 50,000 to 70,000 kilometers and is expected to have 80% capacity remaining after 1,000 charging cycles.
To be current with all that is electric in transportation, the Vespa Elettica has a 4.3 inch touchscreen with displays for speed, range remaining, and battery state of charge. A smartphone app connects to Bluetooth to access texts and incoming phone calls, includes a map feature, and makes diagnostic information available to the driver. The Elettrica’s Bluetooth-enabled helmet has a built-in microphone and speakers for hands free communication.
One savvy reader commented, “Anyone having lived in Italy will know that it’s about time Piaggio did this. Will be a certain seller as loads of kids want a fast short distance get-around-town machine.”