Thursday, January 2, 2020

What Lies Ahead for Electric Trucks? A Look at the Future of HGVs

Next Decade Likely to See Unprecedented Development
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – We open the New Year with a look forward to the future of the electrification of trucks. The next decade is likely to see giant changes in the power trains of vehicles right across the commercial spectrum with the advancement of lithium ion battery technology proceeding apace, whilst those advocating hydrogen as the source of the electricity search for the technology necessary to make its production ever more affordable in terms of the energy required.

As the evidence for the effects of climate change grow more evident almost daily, the eyes of the world are on vehicle produced pollution, and many see electrification as the only way to mitigate that particular problem. The variety of low emission schemes blossoming across the world’s cities can only ever be a partial solution, so a sea change in technology is called for.

With all the major manufacturers experimenting with a range of vehicles going right up to the largest rigs, the companies are involved in a Mexican stand-off, all knowing that the coming of the electric age is inevitable. However, with billions of dollars tied up in current diesel vehicle output there is a degree of resistance to change. Meanwhile the oil producing giants struggle to squeeze the last profits from their trade in a business which was always going to have to change radically at some point given the finite nature of its resources.

As the panic settles in the boardrooms of these carbon based fuel providers they too are already adapting to a new decade. Gas is the new diesel for many, but again a fuel source which is not infinite and is often dogged by political problems. So for the foreseeable future the nature of the Holy Grail has changed yet again. Now the target is the battery, however powered, which will last long enough to provide a truly effective range, coupled with the ability to heat a cab and power up whatever else the driver, and operator, now consider essential to a working day.

It is a little remembered fact that fifty years before Karl Benz patented his internal combustion engine car in 1886, a technology that as we know spread like a disease, Scottish inventor Robert Anderson had already built an electrically powered vehicle something which, had battery technology grown as fast, would have probably made our world today look very different. Electric vehicles actually held the initial six consecutive vehicular land speed records until 1902 when they were eclipsed by a steam car!

Articles such as ours are too short to provide every detail of this technological race to the future (and regular readers will know we have little faith in ‘analysts’) however one man who is attempting to get an all-round picture as the field develops is Dr David Wyatt from IDTechEx who predicts the market for medium and heavy-duty electric trucks will reach $47 billion by 2030. He has published a report, details viewable here, designed to help businesses across the automotive value chain plan for the future in this rapidly changing market.

The report provides 48 forecast lines for battery electric and fuel cell electric trucks which include a ten-year outlook for vehicle production, market penetration and market value, with separate forecasts for both the medium and heavy-duty truck markets and regional segmentation for China, North America, Europe and the Rest of the World.

The current status of the battery and fuel cell truck market is covered in the report, with details about each of the battery electric and fuel cell electric truck projects being undertaken by major players in the industry. The report presents background to developments in the electric truck market, including fuel cells and electric hybridisation, along with discussion of key enabling technologies for electric truck deployment such as batteries, motors and charging infrastructure.

Photo: Daimler’s E-Mobility Group launched the Freightliner Cascadia in the US in 2018, a class 8 truck with a range of up to 250 miles, according to the company.