The New Truck Shaking Up the Haulage Industry
Could new technology change the face of haulage work everywhere? We examine the progress of the development of the electric engine.
Electric engines have been working hard to make headway in all aspects of the automotive industry. Hybrid cars have just begun to gain acceptance, but pure electrics are hampered by a lack of power and, crucially, a very short range. This is because most electric engines require charging after only a fraction of the distance one might achieve on a full tank of diesel, which has made them especially difficult to use in the haulage work industry where mileage is everything.
This could all be set to change, however: UK-based tech giants Charge R&D have been diligently developing a new electric platform, specially designed for larger vehicles such as buses and HGVs. The prototype is currently being put through its paces at the Millbrook test track.
Why Hasn’t Electric Caught On?
The main reason for this is the short range of electric engines. There are no affordable options on the market that will travel even 100 miles before needing to find an outlet and plug in for a charge. This makes them tricky enough for many regular drivers’ daily operations, let alone the hundreds of miles per day often covered by the average haulage worker. This is especially problematic given that haulage work is time-sensitive by nature. Clients expect their deliveries to traverse hundreds of miles daily, so being able to cover a handful of miles before stopping for several hours of charging time is simply not viable. A functioning system based on existing electric car technology would likely take the form of enormous infrastructure improvements. Charging time could be offset, for example, by renting batteries and swapping them out at charging stations in order to remove charge time from the equation.
Additionally, there have been difficulties in achieving the amount of power required to shift large loads, especially as engine output comes at a direct cost to already severely limited range figures. What’s more, charging an engine in any reasonable period of time requires special charge stations, which can be hard to come by. All of this has hindered electric acceptance, particularly within the haulage work industry.
Why Are Companies So Interested in Making It Viable?
Electric engines are much more efficient in terms of the energy required to move the vehicle, as far less energy is wasted in the form of heat than in the traditional internal combustion engine. Therefore, if electric power were made to be a viable alternative to diesel for haulage work, the result would be far lower fuel expenditures.
What’s more, electric motors have no carbon emissions. This means that, if charged from a relatively eco-friendly power grid, they cause far less environmental damage than internal combustion engines. As well as the direct benefits to the planet, adoption of these engines could give haulage workers leverage to obtain governmental subsidies and public support for green operation.
So What’s Next?
Charge R&D’s prototype is still just that: a prototype, and its road-viability remains to be seen. However, we’ve seen great strides in electrically powered motors in recent years, so the arrival of a practical, road-friendly, electric HGV may be sooner than we think.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage work with available drivers. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.