Special feature: Govt funds EV truck projects

Etrucks NZ has received $499,995 from the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund to develop a battery swapping station for heavy trucks

Carr & Haslam will be trialling an EV truck for city deliveries, which has already seen interest from recovery companies

The project will see Etrucks import and demonstrate a gantry-style robotic battery-swapping station in Auckland. "We’ve been doing electric trucks for about three years now and one of the developments in China is to try and get some weight off the trucks with smaller batteries and swap them, rather than having trucks wait around and be charged," Ross says.

"If you’re going to charge a battery on the truck with the chargers that are available in New Zealand now, it could be up to two hours. With the chargers we can get out of China, it’s as little as an hour. But that’s still a long time for a truck to be standing.

A battery can be swapped in around five minutes

With a battery swap station, the truck is back on the road in somewhere between five and seven minutes depending on whether the station is completely robotic or partially manual."
Ross says the first station is planned to support an infrastructure project in Auckland, but the site would be open to other users to run trucks through.

"We have had some other customers who are interested in running trucks through it as a trial," he says. Should it work as expected, Ross says the next step will be to set up intercity stations.

Ross Linton of E-Trucks

"We’ve also got interest from people who are going to shift containers, and general freight, clients running concrete trucks." Ross says there’s a power company interested in owning the station, chargers, and batteries and will work similar to the LPG swap a bottle system.

Schematic of battery swap system

"So, the truck company will only own the truck without a battery. That obviously drops the price of a truck quite a bit and also takes away the worry of degradation. If the battery is getting old, what are you going to do? It won’t be the truck company’s problem," he says. "We think that pricing model will be very attractive compared to other zero-emission options that are available."

Focus on heavy transport

A total of 22 projects were named in Round 10 of the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund. In total, the projects will receive $6.5m, with this round’s focus on investment in heavy transport and the public charging network. The funding would contribute to more than 50% of the total project cost. Recipients will contribute an additional $12.8m.

Round 10 includes three technology/battery testing projects, seven heavy electric trucks projects, 11 charging infrastructure projects, and one van project. "So far, we only have a few dozen electric trucks on the road but innovations such as battery swapping stations for e-trucks will save valuable time for operators," says energy and resources minister Dr Megan Woods.

The Round 10 projects come from the final round of the LEVCF in its present form, as the Government will progressively increase the size and scope of the LEVCF to $25 million per year by 2023/24.

"Expanding the scope of the fund will not only further help us tackle transport’s climate impact, but it will also encourage more growth in the low-emissions technology sector," she says.

Looking to the future

Transitioning to electric vehicles will take longer for some sectors than others, but it’s a move the entire transport industry must take, says Carr & Haslam’s Chris Carr. Carr & Haslam received $140,549 in funding from the low emission fund for city deliveries of light EVs by an electric truck into central Auckland—a project Chris says presents an opportunity to learn more about the technology behind electric vehicles.

"AT is trying to introduce a low emissions area in Auckland City. We saw this as an opportunity to try and cooperate with that," he says. "We could deliver some of our vehicles, and electric vehicles in particular, into that Auckland area, which is kind of a win-win for AT and our EV clients. It ticks a few boxes for our clients and ticks a few boxes for FUSO in having a good application for the vehicle."

The project will trial a small electric truck delivering single motor vehicles, including light EVs, in central Auckland. It will show that vehicle recovery from breakdowns/enforcement is possible using e-trucks in the proposed Zero Emissions Area.

Chris says the project provides an opportunity to learn more about EV technology. "We need to learn more about electric vehicles. We don’t really know anything about them now. We’ve all read lots of things, but none of us are EV owners, and this will put us on the path to the future to help us learn about what happens with EVs," he says.

Carr & Haslam has been operating for 157 years

"We are an old company—157 years old—and we changed from horses and carts to petrol vehicles about 100 years ago. We had to learn about petrol trucks and things then, and now we have to learn about electric ones. "There are a lot of difficulties in techniques that we all have to learn about because EVs are going to come our way."

Evolving transport

Chris says the project will provide an opportunity for the towing and recovery sector to look at how things can be done in the future. "The vehicle is similar to what they currently use, and they will be able to see what they can do with it, because in 10 years’ time, we will all be doing things very differently to now."

He adds that the vehicle costs around three times that of an equivalent diesel vehicle.
"It might not fill a gap right now because the vehicle is too expensive for the recovery market at this point.

They don’t do high mileage, so they tend to use older vehicles and therefore have lower cost vehicles for what they do. So, it will take them a longer time to transition to EV. But they will do it because we all have to do it."

Chris says he has already had requests from two of the largest recovery organisations in Auckland asking to have a look at the vehicle when it’s delivered. "The vehicle is a FUSO, built in Portugal, and all the battery and electric technology is Daimler. It’s good mainstream production class type stuff. There is obviously interest in it. It’s a different sector of the market to plonk one of these EV into."

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