the need for a proper understanding of pure electric heavy trucks

The need for a proper understanding of pure electric heavy trucks

Table of Contents

Recently, the week-long Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo was held in the United States with great enthusiasm, where truck manufacturers and engine companies from all over the world gathered to bring out their latest products for display.

Among them was the International eMV model from Volkswagen subsidiary Navistar, which can travel approximately 216 kilometers on a single charge. In addition to the International eMV, Navistar will also bring an all-electric truck model with a range of more than 800 kilometers to the market in 2025.

What is the biggest constraint for pure electric heavy trucks?

There is no doubt about the advantages of pure electric heavy trucks, not only can they achieve zero emissions and obtain greater license and right-of-way advantages than fuel vehicles; the advantages in terms of daily vehicle costs are also very obvious at a time when oil prices are rising. At the same time, the advantages of pure electric heavy trucks in terms of post-maintenance are also great.

But the shortcomings of pure electric heavy trucks are also very obvious: the range is limited. Since the energy density of lithium batteries is much lower than that of oil, in order to ensure a certain number of range, it is necessary to carry a large number of batteries, which will significantly push up the cost of the whole vehicle.

At present, the range of pure electric heavy trucks is about 200 km after a single full charge, which is not very suitable for heavy trucks that have to run long distances. At the same time, carrying more power means that the cost of the whole vehicle will climb significantly. This is also a bad place for the heavy truck field that values economic effect more.

The second is the long charging time. Electric vehicles take longer to charge, and for pure electric heavy trucks, the charging time is often two to three hours, which makes the utilization rate of pure electric heavy trucks decline significantly. However, now there are swap charging station companies, and when the battery swap stations become popular, this will effectively reduce the waiting time for electric heavy trucks to charge.

the second is the long charging time

For truck drivers, especially those running logistics, it’s usually people waiting for cars, not cars waiting for people, which is why many trucks have two drivers. For pure electric heavy trucks, it is unacceptable for the companies and drivers to stop for two hours after running 200 km.

In addition, although there are charging pile company, the current layout of charging facilities in China is still not perfect, especially for heavy trucks, it is difficult to share the charging pile with passenger cars, and heavy trucks need some space for more parking spaces, so pure electric heavy trucks still face a big challenge in practical application.

Can the technology of battery swapping compensate for the long charging time?

From the technical point of view, replacing the battery can indeed solve the problem of long charging time of pure electric heavy trucks and increase the profitability of pure electric heavy trucks by improving the utilization rate.

But building the swapping station itself is a very big problem. Because the battery swap station itself is an investment that requires a lot of assets, the investment in the exchange station, not only the swap station itself, but also the batteries stored in the battery swap station. In the case of NIO, for example, the investment in a swap station is usually in the tens of millions of dollars. In addition, after the completion of the swapping station, the daily operation level can be profitable also need to put a question mark.

the batteries stored in the battery swap station

Since there is currently no unified standard for power exchange in China, this means that individual companies are unable to connect to each other for exchange services. Therefore, the efficiency of the use of individual companies’ swapping stations is still unknown.

Finally, the layout of the power swap station, how to a more reasonable density to layout the battery swap station to achieve maximum economic benefits, in fact, it is difficult to be a brand by itself can achieve.

Fuel cells are a technology route that cannot be ignored for heavy trucks

In addition to purely electric heavy trucks, fuel cell heavy trucks were also the focus of this expo at ACT USA. Including Daimler, Volvo, HYUNDAI and the newcomer Nikola showed a number of fuel cell heavy trucks, which became a common competition with pure electric heavy trucks.

For heavy trucks, fuel cell technology cannot be ignored and should even be a priority direction for heavy truck companies. Fuel cell not only has high energy density, but also has short hydrogen refueling time, which is no different from fuel vehicles, and is also a zero emission option. However, the biggest shortcoming of fuel cell is that the cost of fuel cell system is too high, and the layout of hydrogen refueling station needs more cost investment.

fuel cell technology cannot be ignored

The fuel cell system can reduce the cost of a single piece by mass production of fuel cell system with scale effect and dilute the investment of R&D to reduce the threshold of purchase; hydrogen refueling station needs unified planning and layout at national level and actively attract private capital investment to improve the market operation efficiency of hydrogen refueling station. However, for heavy trucks as logistics, their driving routes are relatively fixed.

In other words, as long as the hydrogen refueling stations are laid out at several important nodes of the highway according to their driving distance and range, the problem of profitability of the stations and the difficulty of refueling cars with hydrogen can be solved very well. Therefore, compared with the promotion of fuel cell in the passenger car field, the layout of fuel cell in the heavy truck field is a strategic direction.

Currently, Toyota is in the process of entering the Chinese fuel cell commercial vehicle market by transferring a portion of its patents through SinoHytec and re-engineering two local fuel cell technology companies. Through more mature technology deployment, Toyota will build a relatively large commercial vehicle business in China.

For Chinese car companies, especially commercial vehicle companies, the difficulty of how to carry out secondary development on Toyota technology, to get rid of the dependence on Toyota fuel cell technology, and even in the performance of core components to achieve the reverse of Toyota, should not be underestimated.

Therefore, we need to pay attention to the pure electric heavy truck, but we cannot bet all our hopes on the pure electric technology route. We should invest more resources in fuel cell technology for commercial vehicles in order to firmly grasp the huge strategic opportunity of zero-emission commercial vehicles, which should become the consensus of Chinese people.

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