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Fuso's first production-ready eCanter electric truck proves the technology can work, truck test

"Making the most of the eCanter is all down to range though, so drivers will have to be especially light-footed if they want to make it back to base. "

3Fuso eCanter electric truck test 2018

Review

It’s not available to buy yet, but Fuso's eCanter full-electric model becomes first production-ready truck to hit the roads. By Matt de Prez

Daimler Trucks has won the race to get the world’s first production-ready fully-electric truck on the road – the Fuso eCanter.

The German brand owns a majority stake in Japanese Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus and is using the eCanter as part of its drive towards electrified transport in partnership with Mercedes-Benz Trucks.

It’s not the first time we have seen a battery-powered Fuso Canter. The latest model is actually the third generation of the truck to be fitted with an electric motor - but is the first that is production-ready.

You still can’t buy one, however. Production is limited to 500 units globally, which are being trialled in key cities by a limited number of fleets to establish their suitability for mass production.

Daimler says the new eCanter is radically different from its predecessor – the Canter E-Cell – and has benefitted from the extensive findings of historic customer trials with the second generation and the reduced costs of battery and component technology.

The new eCanter uses a permanent synchronous electric motor which develops a maximum power output of 129kW (180PS) and maximum torque of 390Nm. 

Power is transferred to the rear axle by a single-speed transmission.

Depending on the body, load and usage, a realistic range of around 60 miles is expected from a full charge.

According to Daimler, 70% of its customers with 3.5- to 7.5-tonne vehicles cover less than 60 miles per day.

Range improvements are expected to continue, reaching 120 miles by next year.

The eCanter uses six individual battery packs mounted along the outside of the chassis rails. They are the same units that are used in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class plug-in hybrid. Each battery weighs 110kg.

Daimler says this configuration provides the best balance of adaptability for customer requirements as some will favour payload above range while others are happy to sacrifice payload for longer range.

In an urban delivery configuration, with a Luton body and tail lift, the eCanter has a payload capacity of more than four tonnes, making it competitive with diesel equivalents.

A full charge takes between five and six hours, but operators can gain an 80% charge in just one hour using a rapid charger.

Even faster charges of half an hour are expected from new 170kW chargers, although these are yet to be publically available.

The eCanter has been specifically built for urban deliveries where noise and emissions can create challenges for operators and legislators.

As such, it has a top speed of just 50mph to maximise range. By contrast, acceleration is improved when compared to a regular diesel Canter.

With a single speed transmission and instant torque delivery, the manufacturer claims 0-30mph can be completed with supercar-like pace.

Making the most of the eCanter is all down to range though, so drivers will have to be especially light-footed if they want to make it back to base. 

Visually, the eCanter looks almost identical to its diesel equivalent. By utilising as much of the base vehicle as possible, engineers have been able to minimise development costs.

Driving the eCanter is a slightly surreal experience. In an electric car it is quite easy to become accustomed to the lack of engine noise and vibration as cars are generally more refined to begin with. 

In a truck, when you are used to the throbbing of a big diesel motor from under your seat, the lack of sensual stimulus is far more unconventional and may take drivers a while to become fully accustomed.

Pedestrians will find the eCanter’s lack of noise similarly off-putting as the vehicles seemingly appear from thin air emitting nothing more than a faint whine.

For drivers, the aforementioned lack of noise and vibration makes journeys more pleasant and less fatigue-inducing.

The eCanter still enjoys the same agility as the regular Canter too, so manoeuvring the truck is simple.

It will take a while for the dark cloud of range anxiety to disappear though, and operators will need to invest in driver training to ensure they don’t let the battery run out on route, as recovery and subsequent downtime will be expensive.

As battery costs reduce, the eCanter is quickly becoming a more economically attractive alternative to diesel. 

Daimler says the eCanter will be launched to market at a competitive price, but has not yet confirmed what it will be.

The company has stated that an operator can expect to save around £850 for every 6,200 miles covered in an eCanter when compared to a diesel version. 

This was discovered from the last trial of the second generation electric Canter.

Maintenance costs are also expected to be around 30% lower.

In 2019 a more advanced model is expected to launch, incorporating a lighter and more powerful battery with better packaging within the chassis. This model will double production to at least 1,000 units, before the eCanter 3.0 is ready for mass production in 2020.

Verdict

Just like cars and vans, electric trucks are slowly becoming a reality.

The eCanter proves that the technology can work and, as costs reduce and range improves, the tipping point is getting ever closer.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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