Three major fleets have taken delivery of the world’s first series 7.5-tonne production electric truck, the Fuso eCanter. Wincanton, Hovis and DPD will be the first UK businesses to operate the new fully electric vehicle, which is manufactured by Daimler subsidiary Mitsubishi Fuso and sold by Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
It promises a range of 60 miles from a full charge and offers zero-emission running with a payload up to 4.5 tonnes.
The UK trial involves nine eCanters and is set to be a two-year learning experience for both the operators and the manufacturer.
Carl Hanson, fleet director at Wincanton, said: “In future I believe urban delivery will all be electric. With legislation and local governments coming in and wanting to reduce emissions in built-up areas, electric is the way forward.
“We want to be seen to be trialling new technologies and trying to push the boundaries.”
All three operators plan to use the new trucks for deliveries in and around London where they are able to reduce operating costs and utilise new delivery methods as a result of the eCanter’s silent running and zero-emission capability.
Mike Belk, managing director of Mercedes-Benz and Fuso Trucks, said: “We know cities are under increasing pressure to clean up their air. The Mayor of London has been very clear in his vision of what London must deliver.
“Our ambition is a future that is emission-free.”
The eCanter is the result of years of research and development which began with the Canter Hybrid in 2005 and the E-Cell concept in 2010.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks invests £2.2 billion per year to ensure it will be ready with electric vehicles across every weight range and in every category by 2021.
“We think that by the middle of the next decade 25% of the trucks we sell will be electric,” explained Belk.
The company will produce 500 eCanters over the next 12 months and then launch an updated version in 2019 with enhanced range.
A year later it will launch a lighter and more advanced third-generation model which will be the first high-volume version. Sales of up to 15,000 units are expected across Europe.
Fuso has not published prices for the eCanter yet, but we do know that the vehicles used in the trial are being leased at discounted rates, making them comparable to diesels.
“The entry barriers to electric vehicles are getting lower. There are significant environmental benefits and savings for running costs,” said Marc Listosella, president and CEO of Fuso Trucks.
He added that prices will level out as battery technology improves, making them more attractive for outright purchase.
Range will be the most crucial element of the trial for Wincanton as it looks to understand the real-world performance of the battery in daily use.
“I’m really interested to see what range we can get in different weather conditions. We’ve been told one of the trucks managed to cover 80 miles with 11% left in the battery,” Hanson said.
The total miles-per-charge will depend on where and how the trucks are used.
“Once we build up a pattern we can look at how we can change our planning to suit the electric vehicles,” added Hanson.
“Then we can work out what percentage of the fleet we can turn into electric and if we need hybrid as well.”
The distribution business with its headquarters in Chippenham is committed to embracing electric vehicles and plans to add electric vans to its fleet, too.
“The more miles you can do in an electric vehicle the more money you save,” said Hanson.
“It’s all about what diesel equivalent you are not using, you have to use the full extent of it to get the maximum benefit,” he added.
The eCanter trial is taking place all over the world. The first vehicles were introduced in the USA, Japan and Germany at the end of 2017.