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Electric cars: exchangeable battery trucks in Australia


The battery drive plays a minor role in freight transport. An Australian start-up wants to change that - with huge exchangeable batteries. Diesel trucks are easy to convert and the costs are manageable.

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Trucks in Australia: in the future also electric (symbol picture)

Photo: Fotofeeling / Westend61 / imago images

Empty battery out, full battery in and off you go - what has been part of everyday life with tools and cameras for years has so far hardly been done in car traffic.

Replacing the battery has one major advantage: it saves a lot of time.

Instead of plugging the car into a charging station and then hoping that it charges as quickly as promised, you replace the battery pack within a few minutes and drive on.

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With this concept, the Australian company Janus wants to electrify a sector in which the battery has previously played a niche role: heavy-duty trucks in long-distance transport.

Converted trucks are supposed to cover the 900-kilometer route between the cities of Sydney and Brisbane with a charging stop - which should only take around three minutes instead of several hours thanks to the battery replacement.

In this way, enormous amounts of diesel could be saved, which would relieve the climate and the environment.

Exchangeable battery takes up space in the motor

One battery pack should be sufficient for a distance of 400 to 600 kilometers, while the stops should match the rhythm of the driver. The exchange stations should be located in such a way that drivers can combine the exchange with their breaks. According to Janus, many Australian trucks are suitable for conversion. It was possible to create a battery with a standard form factor that fits in 90 percent of the trucks, Janus manager Lex Forsyth told the Guardian.

The conversion itself is easy, according to Forsyth, as all parts are produced according to certain standards.

"So there are similarities between the trucks." So far, the company has retrofitted a Kenworth T403, the front of which now has two doors instead of the radiator grille.

Behind this is the battery pack - where the diesel drive train used to work.

To change, the two flaps open and the battery pack is exchanged using a forklift.

Alternative to fast charging

And that has it all: the capacity is 600 kilowatt hours (a large Tesla comes to around 100), the battery costs around 71,000 euros, according to Janus. However, hauliers should rent the battery packs and pay between 71 and 91 euros per rental process. The conversion should cost the equivalent of around 55,000 euros, and the companies will get the removed diesel engine back - which, according to Janus, can sell for around 10,000 to 16,000 euros.

"This is an interesting concept and a good alternative to fast charging for heavy trucks," says Stefan Bratzel, Head of the Center Automotive Management (CAM).

"This would require enormous charging capacities, here the batteries can be charged with lower power and thus more gently." In heavy goods traffic, this is a good and also ecologically sensible solution, with which the CO2 emissions of freight traffic can be reduced quickly.

Around 55,000 euros in retrofitting costs are not little, argues Bratzel.

"If you can compensate for the retrofitting costs with low running costs, the model is also economically interesting," says the auto expert.

Length restrictions become a problem

According to Janus, this is the case, the company promises up to 30 percent lower costs for maintenance and operation. "This is a very innovative solution that can work in a niche in Australia," says Dirk Engelhardt, the spokesman for the board of the German Association for Freight Transport, Logistics and Waste Disposal (BGL). But they can hardly be implemented in Europe. "In Australia there are no problems with length restrictions, unlike in Europe," explains Engelhardt, who also drives trucks himself. The total length of trucks and articulated lorries is limited, so almost all trucks are front-wheel drive vehicles, where there is no bonnet and the driver usually sits above the engine. In these vehicles, the battery replacement is difficult to do, in contrast to the front hoods, which dominate in Australia, so Engelhardt."You can't just install a flap on the front-wheel drive and take out the battery because there is simply not enough space."

more on the subject

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He sees the maximum permissible weight as a further obstacle.

"Here, too, the regulations in Europe are stricter, but the batteries required weigh several tons." This is at the expense of the payload.

"With margins between 0.1 and 1.5 percent of sales, every additional ton of vehicle weight hurts," says Engelhardt.

He considers the model to be feasible in Europe only if there is a compensation for the heavy batteries in the permissible total weight and a change in the length restriction.

He suggests regulating only the length of the semi-trailer, as in the USA.

"Then there would be space for an exchangeable battery and also for a larger driver's cab with a washing facility and a toilet for the driver," says Engelhardt.

Failed in the car, a success with scooters

But Engelhardt and Bratzel also doubt that it will be implemented across the board.

Industry expert Engelhardt explains that 800,000 heavy trucks are in use in Germany every day, because there are not enough change stations and spare batteries available.

CAM manager Bratzel warns of high investment costs, as two to three replacement batteries have to be kept for each truck.

»At a price of 100 euros per kilowatt hour, a 600 kilowatt hour battery adds up to a lot.

For a nationwide network that would run into the billions, ”says Bratzel.

The changing battery principle has also failed in the car sector so far, with the industry pioneer Better Place filing for bankruptcy in 2013. Nio is reviving the model in China - but here you have to wait for further developments, warns car expert Bratzel. On the other hand, the system seems to work on two wheels, for example at the electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro, which operates around 2,000 interchangeable batteries in Taiwan.

Truck specialist Engelhardt nevertheless considers the electric drive to be an option in long-distance truck transport. For example, Mercedes wants to bring a battery truck with a range of 500 kilometers onto the market in 2024. That is enough with nine hours of driving time per day and an average speed of 60 km / h in long-distance traffic, explains Engelhardt. “Charging these vehicles overnight is probably more cost-effective than setting up an exchange infrastructure.” The only problem that remains for the drivers is that after work they not only compete for scarce parking spaces, but also for charging connections.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-05-08

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