Scania Drive Event 2023

Scania’s electric truck took centre stage at the brand’s recent drive event in Hampton Downs

You don’t need to have a particularly long memory to recall a time when the question most members of the transport fraternity in New Zealand were asking was will these new-fangled electric trucks ever catch on.

In fact, it was only a matter of five or six years ago that trucking media folk were being invited to events similar to the recent Scania Drive Event to pore over battery electric (BEV) trucks that were little more than concept modes of transporting larger loads of freight at that time. However, as we near the end of 2023, the more common question is ‘will they be effective in this country’? On a personal note, I think its place lies in the ‘stupid question’ basket.

Scania Battery Electric Truck 25 P

Although the Scania team’s primary focus was set around allowing media and other interested parties the privilege of driving in the brand-new 25 P battery-electric truck, they had all bases covered by having one of their Super 560 Euro 6 Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel HVO compatible diesel-powered 6x4 cab and chassis units to offer a comparison. Also on display — though sadly not available for a couple of laps around the track — were several configurations of Scania’s larger rigs, including an impressive-looking R 650 five-axle unit, which we were told is destined to become a crane truck.

The fifth axle on this unit is a lift axle with steering capability, which will surely make the truck look even more impressive when it’s in full livery with the large crane mounted on the chassis.

Now, it’s only fair to say that a racetrack isn’t a place you’d normally expect to be driving a truck, however, the Hampton Downs circuit proved to have enough twists and turns along with some decent uphill and downhill gradients to give testers a more than reasonable idea as to how the bigger rigs will perform in a service situation.

The Scania team left it to the participants to make their own choice as to which one of the two trucks on offer they’d like to drive first, so it was a simple flip of a coin that decided that it would be the ICE (internal combustion engine) truck that would be first up for the Deals on Wheels driver.

Scania Super 560 G

These Scania Super 560 variants cut a fine figure as well as being easy to drive

As one has come to expect of the Scania brand, the Super 560 has an air of luxury from the very moment you take the wheel.

A flick of a switch on the steering column releases the wheel to be adjusted fore and aft/up and down, then switched again to be electrically locked in the desired position. This handy feature makes it easy for the driver to lock the steering wheel in the forward position to make exiting and re-entering the cab just that bit easier, especially for taller drivers.

It was a quick tutorial from driver trainer Chris Foot on some of the special in-cab features and then it was off for a spin around the track.

It must be said that a 6x4 cab and chassis unit with a 560hp (412kW) engine that produces 2800Nm of torque, weighing in at around the 10-tonne mark, was never going to be challenged when it’s designed to have a technical GVW of 32,400kg. It was nevertheless an opportunity to experience the smooth ride these trucks have on offer. Gear changes up and down from the G33CM gearbox were smooth and the 5-stage hydraulically operated retarder offered a range of 20% increments for slowing/stopping the vehicle’s mass.

Scania Battery Electric Truck 25 P

The battery electric truck almost silently passing by

Being able to compare vehicles of two very different modes of propulsion within a short space of time was clever on the part of the Scania team, as it provided both drivers and passengers alike with an immediate appreciation of how quiet battery electric trucks are in comparison to their fossil-fuelled counterparts.

One aspect that immediately came to the fore was the completely smooth gear changes on the electric truck. Admittedly, there were only two gears to change through, but the change was virtually unnoticeable. It’s worth noting that the change from first to second gear occurs at approximately 30 to 40km/h.

As opposed to the Scania Super 560, which was presented as a cab and chassis unit only, the battery-electric truck was set up ready for work, complete with a refrigerated box body, fitted with a Dhollandia 16-pallet box body built by Fruehauf/Cargobull and fitted with a D’Hollandia tail lift. Including the full-electric refrigeration unit, which was supplied by Carrier/Transcold, the entire unit weighed in at approximately 13.5 tonnes, thus presenting the truck as a realistic working vehicle.

Chris was in the copilot seat for the drive around the track, providing first-class tutelage from the moment each driver climbed in the cab of the electric truck.

His first instruction was to turn on the key and wait for the READY instruction to appear on the easy-to-read dash panel.

The powerplant of the battery electric truck as viewed from the rear

‘Drive’ mode was selected by turning a rotary switch on the right-hand side of the steering column, and Chris instructed that there was no need to look for a park brake release, as the park brake function (on and off) was carried out automatically.

One worrying feature of the electric truck, particularly for ‘old school’ drivers. was the ‘Driving score’ display, which appeared right before the driver’s nose, not to mention it being there on display for all to see. The purpose of the driving score was to rate the driver on battery usage and braking.

On a more serious note, this valuable tool is known in Scania circles as an ‘onboard coaching tool’, or ‘Scania Driving Score’ (SDS).

Fortunately, there was no need to be anxious about scoring poorly on this occasion, though, as Chris gave precise instructions throughout the first drive around the track as to the most efficient use of the five-stage retarder and when to ease off the accelerator or apply pressure to it in order to gain the best advantage in both energy usage and regeneration.

On the second lap, Chris left it up to the driver to make the call as to how it would be best to negotiate the course, hence this writer’s decision to include the photo of the driving score results taken on the ‘instructed’ lap in preference to the results shown on his second circuit of the track.

Special features

The Scania Driving Score dashboard display is a useful driver coaching tool

As an adjunct to the large cluster of rear-view and blind spot mirrors, the truck is fitted with a blind side detection unit, which displays a light on the A-pillar when an object appears on the kerbside of the vehicle.

In front of the passenger’s seat where you’d expect to find a glove compartment, there’s a pull-out folding tray that can be used either as a laptop table or a comfortable place for the lunchtime break.

There’s even a refrigerator compartment situated between the driver’s and passenger seats. The Scania team says that the electric powertrain delivers substantial power and instant torque. Fully electric power take-off enables continuous emission-free operation of both hydraulics and refrigeration units, giving up to a 250km range on a single charge.  

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