In 2016 Mercedes-Benz Trucks became the first manufacturer in the world with a heavy-duty electric truck. The technology pioneer is now taking the logical next step: putting its electric truck, the eActros, out on the road with customers.
In coming weeks 10 vehicles in two variants, with a gross vehicle weight of 18 or 25 tonnes, will be handed over to customers, who will test their everyday feasibility and economic efficiency under real-life conditions.
Martin Daum, the Daimler AG board member responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, says Daimler Trucks is synonymous with innovation, particularly when it comes to electric mobility.
“We are beginning this process by creating an innovation fleet and will be supporting its testing in the day-to-day logistics environment of our customers. This will enable us to establish just what remains to be done, in terms of technical matters, infrastructure and service, to make our Mercedes-Benz eActros competitive.”
Initially the focus will be on inner-city goods transport and delivery services as they have ranges that are well within the scope of the Mercedes-Benz eActros.
Participating in the fleet test are 10 customers from a variety of sectors in Germany and Switzerland. The companies are: Dachser, Edeka, Hermes, Kraftverkehr Nagel, Ludwig Meyer, pfenning logistics, TBS Rhein-Neckar and Rigterink from Germany, and Camion Transport and Migros from Switzerland.
These customers all distribute goods via the road network – but in very different sectors and categories, ranging from groceries to building supplies and raw materials. The vehicles are being used by customers for tasks that would otherwise be completed by vehicles with conventional diesel engines.
The vehicles are fitted with a variety of bodies, such as refrigerated box bodies, tankers or tarpaulin sides. The drivers of the eActros are trained specially to work with the vehicle, and the pilot customers will test the vehicles in real-life operations for 12 months, after which the trucks will go out to a second round of customers for a further 12 months.
“This will enable us to satisfy the many requests we have had from customers and to gain even more insight,” says Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks. “Our aim is to achieve series-production and market maturity for a range of economically competitive electric trucks for use in heavy-duty transport operations with effect from 2021.”
It is likely to be some time before the eActros makes it to Australasia, but Mercedes-Benz Truck and Bus Australia Pacific director, Michael May, says it is a fantastic development and he is very excited to see it hit the road.
“At this stage, the programme is limited to Europe, but we see great potential for this technology in our region in the future.”
The basis for the eActros is provided by the frame of the Actros, with the vehicle architecture configured specifically for an electric drive system, with a high proportion of specific components. The drive axle is based on the ZF AVE 130 that has already proved its worth as a low-floor portal axle in hybrid and fuel-cell buses from Mercedes-Benz and is now being fundamentally revised for the eActros. The axle housing has been completely redesigned and is mounted in a significantly higher position, thereby increasing the ground clearance to more than 200mm. The drive system comprises two electric motors located close to the rear-axle wheel hubs. These three-phase asynchronous motors are liquid-cooled and operate with a nominal voltage of 400 volts. They generate an output of 125kW each, with maximum torque of 485Nm each. The gearing ratios convert this into 11,000Nm each, resulting in driving performance on a par with that of a diesel truck.
The maximum permissible axle load stands at the usual 11.5 tonnes. Two lithium-ion batteries with an output of 240 kWh provide a range of up to 200 kilometres. The batteries are in 11 packs: three in the frame area, the other eight underneath. The battery packs are protected by steel housings, and in the event of a collision, the mountings give way and deform, diverting the energy past the batteries without damaging them. In addition to the drive system, the high-voltage batteries supply energy to the vehicle as a whole. Ancillary components such as the air compressor for the braking system, the power steering pump, the compressor for the cab air-conditioning system and, where relevant, the refrigerated body, are also all electrically powered.
The batteries can be fully recharged between three to 11 hours, assuming a realistic charging capacity of 20 to 80 kW from a mobile charging device at a fleet depot. The charging standard used is the Combined Charging System, CCS. The LV on-board network made up of two conventional 12-volt batteries is charged from the high-voltage batteries via a DC-DC converter. This ensures that all relevant vehicle functions such as lights, indicators, brakes, air suspension systems and cab systems remain operational in the event of the high-voltage network failing or being switched off. The high-voltage network can only be activated if both LV (low-voltage) batteries are charg