The drive towards electrifying Australia’s trucking industry has led to changes in federal regulations and trials in various states, including accommodating and testing wider and heavier electric class 8 vehicles. I reached out to Scania and Volvo in Australia to find out how the local industry feels about the transition away from petrol and diesel. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive attitude and forward thinking of these companies.
In a telephone interview last Friday with Alexander Corne, public relations manager of Scania Australia, Alexander was candid with his comments and generous with the information he provided.
Scania is currently trialling three battery electric semi-trailers — two are in Western Australia’s Pilberra region undertaking general servicing duties on a mine site, and the other is used as a demonstrator, based in Melbourne. These are the 25P models. They have plans to launch an electric bus in South Australia as well. Scania is looking forward to a national strategy in Australia which will ease the transition to electric. Alexander tells me that the “legislative landscape is still unclear.” Discussions are still being held about front axle weight and overall truck width. As an aside, it is possible that the Australian regulations limiting the width of semi-trailers was more to protect Australian bus body builders than to protect the roads.
“There is a growing level of serious interest in the market,” Alexander tells me. “It is the transport operator’s customers that are driving the movement, as they seek to cut downstream emissions.”
“Regarding the legislative scene, Victoria has just announced some changes to the front axle weight limits for BEV vehicles which will undoubtedly provide a benefit for all manufacturers looking to offer BEV trucks to the market,” he added in a recent email.
At the moment, Scania can offer a BEV truck, but in Australia it is three times the price of a diesel equivalent and can only carry half the payload. This doesn’t make business sense. However, it may make sense to councils and other organizations looking to lead on climate solutions that are showing some interest in the 25P imported from Sweden — this is the Scania with the smallest cab size and a 250 km range.
Alexander tells me that it will be a proposed change to the front axle weight limits that will be the deal maker. An electric axle for the trailer is under development by ZF, which would mean batteries could be spread across the prime mover and the trailer, reducing the front axle weight burden. Scania is producing its third-generation electric trucks in Europe. These should be available in Australia within 18 months. Scania’s October 19th press release provided more detail:
- All trucks are fitted with green battery cells supplied by Northvolt and with packs produced in Scania’s smart battery assembly plant in Södertälje.
- Production is commencing in Sweden, for trucks with 400 or 450 kW (circa 610 hp) of engine power.
- Scania’s next level of regional battery electric trucks gross train weights can be up to 64-tonnes, with a range of up to 390 km. The charging capacity is up to 375 kW.
- Range will vary with weight, operation, weather, driving style and so on, but a 27-tonne city tipper with six batteries can expect up to 350 km between each charge. One hour of charging will then add 270 km of range. A 130 kW charger will add 100 km of range in one hour for a truck that uses 1.3 kWh/km.
“We are a bit stuck on the concept of always filling from 10% to 100% as we do with diesel,” says Fredrik Allard, Senior Vice President and Head of E-mobility at Scania. “With battery-electric vehicles the mindset should be to charge for the required range instead: if you have 120 km to go to your home depot charger, it would be unnecessary to charge for more than that distance with some small extra margin. When we analyse operational patterns, it often becomes evident that the vast majority have all the range they need.”
Scania’s Northvolt batteries have the capacity to power trucks for 1.5 million kilometers while reducing their carbon footprint to one third of other battery brands. Northvolt has a whole of life responsibility which includes battery recycling, called Revolt.
The Northvolt batteries employed by Scania can be charged repeatedly to 100% without reducing their lifespan, thus securing a low total cost of ownership. They charge at a constant rate, even when nearing full capacity, giving a predictable charging time. This is what the Australian trucking industry has to look forward to.
Scania’s electric buses are available for purchase in Australia. However, charging infrastructure is not always available and is proving complicated to sort out. Scania has a Chinese partner that builds school and charter buses at a factory which then mounts these bodies on Scania drivetrains. Alexander offered the opinion that electric trucks are now at the place where electric cars were in 2010. However, I expect it will take less than the projected 13 years for electric trucks to reach the same proportion as electric cars (currently 10%) due to the rapid development of technology and the need to transition an aging fleet.
“Operating zero-emission trucks is no longer a privilege for the chosen few,” says Allard. “Scania’s offer now covers a wide span of applications and customer demands, while offering services that are lowering the threshold for a transformation towards fossil-free transports for the many.” Scania aims for 50% of sales to be electric by 2030.
After we had covered the subject of electric trucks, Alexander asked me if I wanted information on their diesel lineup. I politely declined and pointed out that diesel begins with the letters DIE. Of course, we might have to make sure that a noise maker is included to warn the kangaroos on outback roads that a silent electric Scania is heading their way.
As a final note: for the conservative diesel sniffing sceptics amongst us, Scania also has an electric fire truck!
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