Manufacturers take the turn of sustainable mobility

In the problems of pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and health due to transport, private cars are not the only ones involved. Heavy goods vehicles are also affected. Especially since many companies are counting on their greening to show declining carbon footprints. What tracks are manufacturers working on?

Battery electric trucks


Today, and for a few more years to come, battery-powered electric trucks are above all seen as models offering the possibility of operating in areas affected by traffic restrictions in order to counter pollution by exhaust gases and traffic. noise.

This is why they appear to be the champions for supplying large cities from the logistics platforms on the outskirts. A role that suits their autonomy rarely above 250 km

However, models are already announced with much larger action ranges.

From battery electric specialists

Among the manufacturers specializing in electricity, 3 are active in offering battery-powered electric trucks: BYD, Tesla and Nikola.

For the Chinese BYD, already established in France near Beauvais with a factory dedicated to the assembly of electric buses, connected heavy goods vehicles have been a reality for several years now. A year ago, BYD was delighted to have already launched on the roads more than 12,000 electric trucks of different tonnages. Its 8TT road tractor, with a range of around 200 km obtained from a 400 kWh lithium-ion pack supplying a 360 kW engine for 2,400 Nm of torque, is the model that is most widely used United States since 2019. In Europe, the Chinese manufacturer already offers carriers and logistics vehicles.

The American response is slow to arrive. The Tesla Semi presented in November 2017 is behind schedule. At best, it would be launched on American roads at the end of this year 2021, with a range that would vary from 500 to 1,000 km depending on the chosen pack.

Its direct competitor Nikola was also due to deliver its first battery-powered TRE electric road tractors (480 km of range with the 750 kWh pack) to the country in the course of the year in the United States before serving Europe. But the brand has been in turmoil since last year over various accusations that have led its founding president, Trevor Milton, to resign. Added to this is the cancellation of an order for 5,000 electric dumpsters announced last December. Nikola still seems to want to reposition himself on hydrogen fuel cell models.

Historical brands

Sometimes without making too much noise, the historic manufacturers of heavy goods vehicles develop, test in real situations with customers, and market electric trucks. In Europe, Daimler with its brand Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Daf, Volvo and Scania already have models in their catalogs.

Mercedes has been working on battery-powered electric trucks for years. In testing at various European customers, the eActros 25-26 tonne forwarder is entering the marketing phase in 2021 with a range of 200 km drawn from a 240 kWh lithium-ion pack which provides energy to 2 motors each of 126 kW of power for a maximum torque of 485 Nm. To meet the needs of freight companies, the manufacturer intends to add from 2024 an eActros LongHaul version with a range of 500 km. Charging could then be done within the 45-minute mandatory break after 4.5 hours of driving.

More specifically designed for urban deliveries, electric carriers are also available from Renault Trucks (model D ZE, range up to 300 km, lithium-ion battery 200 or 300 kWh, 1 engine 185 kW, maximum torque 425 Nm), Scania (25 P / L, 250 km, lithium-ion battery 315 kWh, 1 motor 295 kW, maximum torque 2,200 Nm), Daf Trucks (CF Electric FAN carrier, 220 km, lithium-ion battery 315 kWh, 1 motor 210 kW, maximum torque 2,000 Nm), Volvo Trucks (FE Electric, 200 km, lithium-ion battery 200 kWh, 1 motor 400 kW, maximum torque 850 Nm / FL Electric, 300 km, lithium-ion battery 300 kWh, 1 motor 70 or 100 kW, maximum torque 240 or 530 Nm).

Renault Trucks offers its D ZE in D WIDE ZE waste collection skips For this purpose, the range drops to 120 km with the 200 kWh pack which this time powers 2 electric motors for a maximum power of 370 kW and 850 Nm of torque. In 2022, Mercedes will do the same with a low-cab eActros called eEconic and intended for garbage collection and road works. At Daf Trucks, the CF Electric is also available as an FT road tractor with the same powertrain. With tests already underway with a few customers and orders opened during the year, Volvo Trucks has already announced that its connected range is being extended with the FH (road tractor), FM and FMX models which target more particularly regional transport and construction sites in urban and peri-urban areas.

Hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks


If several manufacturers are working on electric trucks whose engines are powered by hydrogen, it is so that transporters and drivers benefit from both silent operation, autonomy close to that of diesel models, and ‘a speed of refueling that the batteries do not yet offer.

These machines would therefore be used more particularly for medium and long distance transport.

What makes this path so desirable for the H2 sector is the emergence of green hydrogen which would support the development of intermittent renewable energies and help to balance the electricity network.

Hyundai’s bet

It is curiously not a manufacturer known for its heavy goods vehicles which is opening the doors of the barely emerging market for hydrogen trucks. But Hyundai, whose ix35 Fuel Cell SUV is going down in history as the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen car.

The 37-tonne XCient forwarder, developed as part of a joint venture with the Swiss fuel cell supplier H2 Energy, is already available, with an order book that is filling up: 1,600 units for Switzerland in 2025 with the first to be put into operation. service at the end of last September, 4,000 units for China by the same deadline, an experiment in the United States which will lead to official marketing in 2022 across the Atlantic.

The machine has a range of around 400 km thanks to the 32 kilos of hydrogen it embeds to supply 2 fuel cells upstream of a 350 kW electric motor.

Hyundai is also working on a road tractor based on the HDC-6 Neptune concept, with a range of around 1,000 km thanks to its high capacity liquid hydrogen tanks. By 2030, the Korean manufacturer plans to export 64,000 H2 trucks around the world.

A direct competitor at Mercedes?

Hyundai’s future tractor unit could quickly meet a competitor at Daimler. For now, the Mercedes GenH2 Truck which has just been presented is only a prototype, but tests in real situations with customers are scheduled for 2023.

Like the Korean truck, the machine has a range of 1,000 km obtained from liquid hydrogen. The German manufacturer has already provided some technical details for this 40 tonnes with a payload of 25 tonnes. Its 2 electric motors, each of 230 kW power, will develop a maximum torque of 1,557 Nm. The 2 150 kW fuel cells will be supported by a 70 kWh battery of energy capacity.

The marketable model would be launched between 2025 and 2029. Awarded the title of “Truck Innovation Award 2021” by the jury of the International Truck of the Year, its specifications require that it provides carriers with the same level of service as the Actros diesel model currently in the Mercedes catalog.

Uncertainty at Nikola

One of the main reasons for Trevor Milton leaving would be his false claims about his hydrogen fuel cell trucks. Communication has since been rather vague at Nikola, to the point that the media end up getting lost in it, some presenting for example the TRE model as a 100% electric battery and others as a machine equipped with a PAC H2 engine. .

While the stock market value of NKLA stock remains at its lowest, the road tractor equipped with hydrogen fuel cell is still advertised by the communications department as due to be produced at the Coolidge, Arizona plant from 2023. The Nikola TWO would benefit from a range of around 1,200 km, carrying a buffer lithium-ion battery with an energy capacity of 250 kWh. This truck would offer a maximum power of 750 kW, for a torque of 2,700 Nm.

CNG trucks


In terms of sustainable mobility for freight transport, it is today the natural gas route that is the most developed and the most mature. Sometimes under pressure from their most important customers from mass distribution, several large carriers have decided to build heavy goods vehicles, designers of refueling stations and various private, public or mixed companies to come together to boost the NGV sector. .

It was a question of setting up as quickly as possible a low carbon and less polluting solution which does not change too much the habits in terms of payload, speed and simplicity of filling the tanks, and driving.

Compressed, the natural gas called “CNG” enables local and regional tours of around 500 km without refueling. When it is operated in the liquid state, CNG, called “LNG”, offers action ranges greater than 1,000 km, compatible with long-distance transport.

The future lies with biogas obtained from the methanization of recovered waste (household waste, food and agricultural residues). The circular economy that it is thus possible to set up at the local level is illustrated by dump trucks whose engines are fed with bioNGV produced in the incinerator by the garbage collected.

Iveco and Scania as leaders

Several manufacturers of heavy goods vehicles have become specialists in natural gas engines. Carriers with NGV fleets most often cite Iveco and Scania as the brands most involved with them.

In the former, the Stralis plays a bit of the role of a Swiss army knife by being offered as a road tractor, carrier and garbage dumpster, with both CNG and LNG engines. It has also been adopted in particular by the transport company Jacky Perrenot, which has given it pride of place in its fleet of some 600 CNG trucks in 2021 for France.

In Scania’s catalog, the G 340 tractor is used for long-distance transport with a unit running on liquefied natural gas.

Main competitors

Two brands are actively competing with Iveco and Scania. Volvo is more particularly playing the card of long-distance transport with its FH and FM LNG tractor units. Mercedes has declined its Actros carrier to CNG. Manufacturers also know how to adapt their offers within a reasonable period of time according to the needs of their customers.

As a result of various projects in France associating the production of biogas obtained from household waste with a fleet of collection dumpsters that can operate with this product, BOMs (household refuse dumpsters) benefit from a fairly wide range. In addition to the Iveco Stralis already mentioned, and some home adaptations from Scania, Volvo, Mercedes and Renault have thus declined their FE, Econic and D Wide models respectively.


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