The Sounds of Silence
While fully electric power becomes more commonplace in the passenger vehicle space, and start-up corporations, with their much-hyped concepts, work towards delivering upon their ambitious predictions in heavy prime mover-style applications, Fuso has tapped into the resources of its parent Daimler to develop a practical all-electric light-medium duty truck.
At this point it is universally recognised that electric vehicles are the way of the very near future as the costs of petroleum fuels increase due to supply and demand factors and the declining stocks of oil.
The Fuso eCanter project may only be in its infancy here in Australia with just the one assessment vehicle arriving to date, but the program started life as far back as 2015 with a public test program of the Canter E-Cell prototype.
The eCanter has an advantage over most other electric truck developments which use cab and chassis platforms obtained from different OEMs, as the Fuso product utilises proven in-house architecture and engineering supported by the global resources of the entire Daimler car and truck network.
The result of this homogenous manufacturing approach is very evident in many details of the eCanter.
The all-electric Fuso presents as a complete and integrated proprietary package rather than various bits and pieces that have been cobbled together by a third party ‘manufacturer’ sometimes without the support or even knowledge of the organisation from which the rolling cab chassis is sourced.
The eCanter will be doing the rounds of appropriate local fleets and operators and has a GVM of 7,500kgs, with a payload of at least 3,000kgs available with this particular body which is more than sufficient for the type of metropolitan parcel delivery application envisaged for the eventual production models.
The electric motor delivers 135kW (181hp) of power and 390Nm (288 ft/lbs) of torque and drives the rear wheels using a conventional tail shaft and hypoid differential rear axle.
One distinct benefit of electric drive is maximum power and torque are delivered from zero rpm and the acceleration is quite stunning.
Electrical storage is handled by six Daimler-sourced liquid cooled lithium ion battery packs with two mounted on the outside of each chassis rails and a double deck pack located between the rails in the space where a transmission would be in a conventional driveline.
The combined storage has a maximum of 82.8kWh, which is enough for more than 100 kilometers of normal driving.
Our test around the suburbs of Melbourne covered more than 80 kilometres, including stop-start operations in heavy traffic and probably too much enjoyment of the acceleration capabilities of the eCanter and the range prediction section of the dash was still forecasting another potential 40 kilometres before requiring a recharge.
In real world circumstances that will realistically equate to a full shift of parcel deliveries in a metropolitan environment.
Instead of a tachometer, the speedo is complemented by an analogue instrument that indicates the most efficient application of the accelerator pedal, as well as when the driveline switches to charge mode when on over-run.
It’s not unlike similar gauges in hybrid vehicles but is a lot less complicated.
This particular vehicle retains the Japanese style cable socket so a connector suitable to local three-phase outlets is used.
Full charge can be achieved in less than two hours using a DC charger or four hours using AC charging.
There may also be the opportunity for ‘topping up’ during the day which can be as practical as connecting to a charge point while loading at a delivery centre dock or at a convenient and suitable power outlet while the driver takes a meal break.
Recharging also occurs when no pressure is applied to the accelerator and the truck is able to go into over-run mode which as well as adding to the stored electrical energy in the batteries, provides a noticeable drive line braking effect.
To complement the acceleration capabilities of the electric driveline the eCanter is also fitted with a retarder function operated using the same steering column stalk as an exhaust brake would do on a diesel powered Canter.
When activated this function signals the motor to provide even more electro-magnetic retardation and the effect is significantly better than what can be experienced in an equivalent sized diesel truck and from our brief experience we conclude that brake pads will outlast the rest of the truck as the brakes are only used when coming to a complete stop.
Obviously without a conventional engine or transmission servicing costs will be low across the lifetime of the truck but will require technicians with expanded skill sets in order to be able to work safely with the high voltage power circuits.
Small electric motors provide the power to run the cooling pump and fans, the power steering, the air conditioning and the electro-hydraulic wheel brakes.
Inside the wide cab (which seats three adults comfortably) with the audio system off the only perceptible noise at 60 km/h is a slight hum from the tyres on the pavement and the whir of the air conditioner’s ventilation fan.
The eCanter will quietly (pun intended) gain the attention of potential operators, politicians and environmentalists and for the moment at least, it has the major advantage of being a product totally developed by a global player such as Daimler, a fact not lost on local senior management.
“The eCanter is not available in Australia just yet, but when it is, it will come with all the benefits of being backed by an established truck maker,” says Daniel Whitehead, president and CEO of Daimler Truck and Bus Australia Pacific.
“That will include the assurance of parts, service support and warranty coverage provided by our national Fuso dealership network.”