Features & Interviews TNB News Truck Van

Scania expands vision for its electric future

24 September 2020 #Features & Interviews #TNB News #Truck #Van

Last week TNB reported on Scania’s vision for its electric future and the launch of the manufacturer’s first series production electric vehicles.

The brand’s first fully electric truck (BEV) and plug-in hybrid alterative, will both be offered in L- and P-series rigid format, and will hit UK roads in the first half of 2021.

The BEV will be available with either a 165 or 300-kilowatt hour (kWh) battery pack to power its 230 kilowatt (kW) electric motor, equal to approximately 310 horsepower.

Meanwhile, the hybrid model can cover around 37 miles in pure electric mode, enabling operators to greatly reduce the environmental impact of their vehicle movements in urban areas.

Both vehicles open up opportunities to reduce operating and maintenance costs, cut emissions and carry out night-time deliveries in urban areas.

This week TNB caught up with Philip Rootham, Head of Pre-Sales (Technical) at Scania Great Britain to find out more.

TNB: What differences will a driver notice when they climb into the cab of these new trucks?

PR: In terms of the driver interface, things will feel very familiar. There will be subtle differences around some of the display information that we choose to put in the middle, around the gauges and things like that, but everything else will be very similar to what we see today.

The main thing drivers will notice is that there will be a hugely different driving style just in terms of the way electric motors work over conventional combustion engines, with instant torque and such like. Drivers will see quite a difference, but in terms of their physical orientation and connection with the vehicle, it will all feel very familiar.

TNB: What about training? Will an experienced HGV driver just be able to hop in and get going straightaway?

PR: Driver training is an area that’s developing. As we get products out there initially each customer will require something unique. We’ll have different skillsets, different mindsets and different approaches.

Yes, drivers will be able to climb into one of the vehicles and drive it but from a perspective of us wanting to pioneer these type of areas and really wanting to develop it into real, sustainable long-term solutions, then I think we need to sit next to customers and offer in-depth training. This will begin with working with the customer to work on specification and use of vehicles and go right through to the driver where we would explain how these vehicles work and how to get the best out of them.

TNB: Weight is obviously a big consideration for commercial vehicles, and we know that weight affects range. How have you been able to calculate the range of your vehicles?

PR: It depends whether you’re looking at the BEV or the PHEV but, basically, the calculations are based on certain cycles, certain drive properties. We’ve said 155 miles is achievable at up to an 18-tonne weight but you need steady speeds and flat topography to achieve that.

This is another area where we’d look to work with the customer to understand their routes, work on their route planning, and assess their charge windows to see what everything would look like in real-world operation.

TNB: How will you persuade fleets to go with this new technology?

PR: For us, it’s a case of taking a partnership approach with our customers. We expect we’re going to need liaise closely with the early adopters to really understand what their operation looks like and what flexibility they demand in their operation. Then we can evaluate how we can best introduce these vehicles and I’m sure that in the early stages there will be some customers where we have to say ‘not yet’.

That’s the responsible attitude. Adoption needs to move forward with momentum, but it also needs to add value.

TNB: What about charging infrastructure. Will it be a case of return-to-base charging for most?

PR:  We’re doing some mapping exercise now to look at what charging’s out there. There’s some that we could utilise but there are some obvious challenges around vehicle size and dimensions. I think the early adopters will be return to-base or potentially charge at drop-off points, perhaps in collaboration with the RDC (Regional Distribution Centre).

Again, in the beginning, that’s all going to be part of that consultation process to see how much of their operations suits return-to-base and how much it would require charging infrastructure elsewhere.

As our mapping matures, certainly around the city areas, we’ll be able to overlay the range element on top of each charge point to help operators build a very clear picture.

TNB: What about battery life and warranties on batteries?

PR: Again, it will be individual, and we’ll tailor quite heavily. Certainly, from a Scania point of view in terms of support our network is ramping up and, similar to charging infrastructure, we’re mapping where our network sits and what coverage we’ll need within that. We will look to develop whatever maintenance solutions are required from a lifecycle perspective.

Once we understand the operation, then we can start to understand charging behaviours and the longevity from the battery. What we want to see is batteries lasting the full life of the vehicle. The more we increase range though, the harder it becomes from a battery perspective.

TNB: We know electric vehicles have fewer moving parts etc. How do you envisage this impacting things such as vehicle downtime?

PR: Maintenance becomes less complex in terms of the risk of things going wrong, but in keeping with our open and honest approach, we need to make it clear thar our understanding of this will develop over time.

From a workshop perspective, maintenance will require significant investment: making sure the training hierarchy is in place to ensure people work on these vehicles safely, training technicians to develop their skill sets, installing the right insulating equipment and workshop infrastructure.

TNB: When do you expect to start seeing these new vehicles on UK roads?

PR: They’ll hit UK roads in the second quarter of next year.

TNB: One of the potential benefits of these vehicles, over and above fuel savings and emissions reductions, is the ability to carry out silent deliveries. How silent will these vehicles be?

PR: They’ll be very quiet and most of the noise they make will come from the tyres contacting the road surface, which is amplified at speed. We are looking into ancillaries though. It’s no good having a near silent vehicle if it’s got a diesel reefer on the back, for example, but I certainly think we’ll be much quieter than the European standards on noise pollution.

When it comes to silent, we know from studies that have been carried out elsewhere that operators see a productivity increase of around 30% for night-time deliveries, just by being able to avoid congestion.

This brings us to the issue of whole life costs and here, rather than talk about TCO, we prefer to look at operating economy. When you look not at what it costs to operate a vehicle but at what you’re able to earn from a vehicle (improved uptime, the ability to operate out of normal hours, entrance into low emission zones) the whole proposition starts to become more and more viable.

TNB: What are your ambitions for the new BEV and PHEV?

PR: That’s a tough one to answer because it’s so new to the market. The factory has some global ambitions and is looking to supply in the region of 300 BEV models through 2021. This will be slow in the beginning and then ramp up.

Plug-in hybrids will start with a fairly shallow ramp as we develop both infrastructure and customer understanding for the vehicles but, because the technology offers a little bit more flexibility, there’s the potential for a higher pull from the market. Again though, we estimate similar numbers because battery availability and ramp up through our industrial systems will take some time.

I think also that the UK will account for a good percentage of global sales because we have a lot of customers that are very proactive in both their environmental positioning and their desire to push forward.

Update Newsletter