The Cold Can’t Hurt Daimler’s Electric Trucks

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Medium and heavy duty trucks are essential for a variety of industries such as construction, transportation, and logistics. They are used to transport goods, equipment, and materials over long distances. These trucks need to work under all conditions because industries that rely on them cannot afford any delays or downtime.

On top of that, these vehicles are often responsible for completing time-sensitive tasks. For example, delivery trucks need to transport goods to their destination on time. If a delivery is delayed due to a truck malfunction, it can cause significant problems for the customer and the company. If it’s something perishable, the whole load could need to be pitched. Similarly, construction trucks need to work under all conditions to complete projects on time and within budget.

They aren’t free, either. Medium and heavy duty trucks are expensive assets that need to be utilized efficiently to generate revenue. The cost of any payments on them, their insurance, and other fixed costs don’t go away when the weather gets bad. Any downtime due to mechanical issues or adverse weather conditions can lead to lost revenue and decreased productivity, and maybe even lost profits for the company.

So, it is critical to ensure that these trucks can work under all conditions to meet the demands of the industry they serve.

Daimler seems to get this. The company knows that its diesel trucks need to work under all conditions, and it doesn’t assume that electric truck buyers have any room for BS in their budgets. So, Daimler has been putting its trucks to the test.

The Mercedes-Benz Truck winter tests in Rovaniemi, Finland, served as significant endurance tests for several of its vehicle models this year. Trucks from various series, including prototypes of the battery-electric eActros LongHaul, with series readiness scheduled for 2024, were put to the test in challenging climatic conditions. The conventionally powered Actros L with a diesel engine and the battery-electric eActros 300 tractor unit were also tested on these trips. Temperatures got as low as minus 25 degrees, while icy roads and harsh winds also put the models to the test. The objective of the development and test team was to test each model rigorously in order to identify areas for further development and optimization.

“Testing our product range under extreme winter conditions is also an essential part of our vehicle development in terms of alternative drives,” said Dr. Christof Weber, Head of Global Testing Mercedes-Benz Trucks. “Haulage companies must be able to rely on our electric trucks in a highly competitive environment at any time of year, just as they are used to from conventionally powered vehicles. For this reason, our test engineers in Finland put the vehicles through their paces for six weeks.”

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They’re testing for more than whether the truck will keep going. During the test trip to Finland, Mercedes-Benz Truck development engineers conducted a thorough evaluation of all the features and systems in practical use on its vehicles. For instance, the company scrutinized the Active Sideguard Assist’s lane-changing support and the Actros L’s Active Drive Assist’s active lane guidance. Given that the trip involved crossing several national borders, the engineers also assessed the influence of country-specific lane markings, traffic signs, and digital map data on the performance of the trucks’ assistance systems. Furthermore, the trucks were tested throughout the day, enabling a comprehensive assessment of driver’s seat comfort.

But, testing multiple systems doesn’t mean they don’t still have to pay a lot of attention to the batteries.

Mercedes-Benz Truck’s experts focused on testing the battery properties and electric drivetrains of the eActros LongHaul and the eActros 300 Tractor in harsh weather conditions. During the test, various elements, such as the drivetrain’s starting properties and its ability to withstand low temperatures, were tested. Similarly, the software and interfaces associated with the drivetrain were evaluated. Thorough testing was also carried out on the thermal and energy management systems to ensure that both the drivetrain and driver’s cab remained temperature-controlled and energy-efficient even at low temperatures.

The tests conducted revealed that the eActros LongHaul can heat the cab faster than a diesel truck due to its smaller heating circuit with higher output. However, the energy required for heating is drawn from the vehicle’s batteries, which can reduce its range. So, just as with EVs, it’s a good idea to pre-condition the electric truck at a charging station before you head out, to optimize its battery usage and not depend on the pack for the most energy-intensive part of the heating cycle. Pre-conditioning the eActros LongHaul will result in less reduced range, even under extremely low temperature conditions.

“We are very satisfied with our test results. The tests of the batteries and electric drivetrain properties at extreme temperatures or of the vehicle’s driving properties on slick, icy roads show: Even in very wintry conditions, our battery-powered trucks are fully operational,” said Dr. Weber.

Additionally, the winter tests encompassed a wide range of driving and braking tests on different surfaces with varying degrees of grip. The effectiveness of the sensors of driver assistance systems was also tested in challenging conditions, including the impact of slush. The Trailer Stability Assistant was evaluated to determine how it could reduce the risk of skidding for tractor-trailers during cornering or evasive maneuvers on winter roads. Furthermore, the MirrorCam’s performance was tested in handling different contrast conditions on ice and snow.

Production Isn’t Far Off

Mercedes-Benz Trucks plans to commence the series production of the eActros LongHaul for long-distance transport operations in 2024. The electric truck concept prototype was exhibited at the IAA Transportation in Hanover last year. The series-production eActros LongHaul is expected to deliver a range of approximately 500 kilometers after a single battery charge, with high-performance charging capability. The eActros LongHaul was honored with the “2023 Truck Innovation Award” by the “International Truck of the Year” jury at the IAA exhibition.

Even after production, the truck should continue to work great for a long time. This electric truck model’s battery pack uses lithium iron phosphate (or LFP, LiFePo) cell technology, which should be great for service life and increased usable energy capacity over time (less degradation).

Featured image provided by Daimler Trucks.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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