Daimler & Amazon Are Testing Electric Long-Haul Trucks In Germany

One of the tough things about designing any kind of machine is that the real world can be a little more punishing than the math. It’s not that math isn’t a great tool for figuring out how things work in the real world, but that it’s easy for humans to not know what they missed when doing the math and running computer simulations. The thing about the real world is that you’ll figure out pretty quickly if you didn’t account for something.

Want a crazy example of this? Here’s a short YouTube video showing what happens when the real world lets you know that you didn’t get the math right.

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In this case, the stunt’s planners got a cable that was strong enough for the combined weight of the people who were going to swing from the bridge. But, they forgot about the G forces that happen when swinging, which multiply the amount of force that the cable needs to withstand. When they swung, the cable broke, and the daredevils were sent plummeting into the water that was far below. Luckily, none of them died, but several of them sustained severe injuries.

Daimler & Mercedes Won’t Make This Mistake

Even the most skilled and talented engineers know that the job isn’t done until you’ve got feedback from real-world testing, and those working for Daimler Truck are no exception. They designed a really great electric long-haul truck, but now it’s time to send the prototypes into harm’s way to see how they can take the real world.

On a single charge, the Mercedes-Benz eActros LongHaul will have a range of 500 kilometers and can achieve megawatt charging. In September in Hanover, Mercedes-Benz Trucks will debut a “prototype prototype” of the eActros LongHaul as the main attraction at this year’s IAA Transportation show.

“As with all our e-trucks, we will rely on early practical tests with customers for our eActros LongHaul,” said Michael Scheib, Head of Product Management, Mercedes-Benz Trucks. “By doing so our engineers will be able to incorporate valuable knowledge gained from real-world operations – especially with regard to high-performance charging – directly into the development of the series-production vehicle. We are very pleased with the planned partnerships with Amazon and Rhenus.”

Amazon and Rhenus are planning to test the eActros LongHaul as part of a new project called “High performance charging for long-haul trucking” (aka “HoLa”). HoLa is a research project that aims to develop, operate, and study a high-performance charging infrastructure for battery-powered long distance transportation. In addition to Daimler Truck, other companies and research institutions are involved in this project.

To power the trucks, CCS charging stations will be set up at several spots on the A2 between Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia initially. As the project continues, planned sites will be equipped with megawatt charging station (MCS) charging stations that support the new MCS charging standard as a member of CharIN — the worldwide association for standardizing charging infrastructure. Daimler Truck is actively involved in CharIN’s development of a new MCS charging specification, serving as an active participant within CharIN.

The HoLa charging points will be placed along the A2 at several sites. These are distributed across both motorways and logistics centers. As a result, the system may be tested under real-world conditions, as well as obtaining genuine user experience. The rapid charging of battery electric vehicles is one area of testing: battery-powered vehicles should be able to charge fast enough that they can complete the 45-minute statutory break period.

Why They’re Doing This Instead Of Skipping To Truck Sales

Customers will be accompanied by a team from Mercedes-Benz Trucks to ensure their satisfaction throughout the project. The drivers of the e-truck will be trained in how to operate the vehicle and charging system extensively. Drivers’ comments will be recorded during regular interviews and questionnaires, which will be compiled and evaluated for future prototype development and charging technology improvement.

By installing measuring devices in the e-trucks, they are able to collect data points while these vehicles drive. These transmitted data sets will then be evaluated by Mercedes-Benz Trucks before sharing selected information with their partnering research institutions.

It’s this data collection that makes the difference in not only finalizing designs (to fix whatever isn’t working great), but also for sufficient knowledge to sell and support future mass production.

Handling Some Serious Juice

The eActros LongHaul uses batteries with lithium-iron phosphate cell technology (LFP). These are most notably characterized by their long service life and higher usable energy. At a charging station with an output of one megawatt, the batteries can be charged from 20 to 80% in under 30 minutes. The truck’s long range on a single charge, combined with megawatt charging, results in overall ranges that match those of conventional trucks — enabling two-shift operations.

The eActros LongHaul, according to Mercedes-Benz and Daimler, delivers a particularly well-balanced driveline for an outstanding driving experience. In addition, the eActros LongHaul comes standard with a number of safety features provided by the manufacturer. The concept behind the Mercedes-Benz Trucks battery-electric long-distance transport is to provide customers with a comprehensive package that includes vehicle technology, consulting, charging infrastructure and services. Customers should choose the eActros LongHaul because it is economically viable, environmentally responsible, and reliable.

Wait, What? A Megawatt!?

Right away, it’s pretty clear that we’re dealing with a lot of power, both for batteries to store, for motors to use, and for the truck to move to the wheels. It’s pretty clear why Mercedes and Daimler need to test these in the real world to make sure they aren’t breaking or having electrical problems.

At the same time, though, it’s not an otherworldly figure. A Tesla Semi can sometimes be seen charging using four Supercharger stalls, which produce 250 kW. That’s a megawatt, in total. So, we’re talking about the energy needed to rapid charge four cars, which is pretty small when you consider that a semi-truck can weigh as much as 15-20 cars.

Either way, this may give us a clue as to why other long-haul electric trucks aren’t for sale and on the road with customers yet. The development process needs to iron out all of the kinks before serious business operations can depend on them.

Featured image provided by Daimler Trucks.


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