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Long haul electric trucks

Discussion in 'Electric Vehicles' started by Opbrid, May 3, 2016.

  1. Opbrid

    Opbrid Member

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    Right now, we are charging buses in Sweden at 650kW (750VDC), with no barriers seen to 1MW. In other posts on this forum, a battery of 700kWh seems like it might do the trick to go 200-300 miles or so. Then you are only charging at 1C, no problem for most batteries. However, no one will want to stop for an hour or more to wait for the charge. Battery swapping has been mentioned, but can be discarded for the usual reasons. However, what about tractor swapping? For a big trucking company, this would be no problem, since they own the tractors and trailers and hire the drivers.

    Roll into a charging station, unhook your trailer, drop off your tractor to be charged, switch to a freshly charged one, rehook to your trailer and keep on rolling with a fresh cup of joe in hand. There are already automatic coupling/decoupling systems to make this painless. Our Opbrid Trukbaar makes the charging operation simple and automatic as well. I bet you could do the switch in 5 minutes. And when driver-less trucks arrive, they can use the same technique.

    So, will this work? Any unintended consequences of this approach you can think of?
     
  2. Saghost

    Saghost Active Member

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    A lot of cargo moves in containers or tractor trailers on trains already, and I'd think it would make more sense for all long distance trucking to be replaced by electrified trains instead.

    That would only leave you needing electric trucks for the distribution from the nodal train stations to all the local destinations, for which the battery and charge rate described are already ample.

    By getting all of those semis off the road, you reduce the cost of road maintenance and the size of traffic jams, and you free up all of the drivers to do other useful things instead (like build more rail lines, solar panels, and electric cars and trucks?)

    Doing cross country over the road trucking on electricity only is one heck of an expensive challenge. In my opinion, it's also one that doesn't have to be solved directly.
     
  3. Opbrid

    Opbrid Member

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    True enough, but rail isn't easy to expand quickly, and point to point fast shipments nearly impossible. Trucks are here to stay for many reasons. Also, in the EU where I live, rail is already saturated, so trucking continues to grow, and an electric solution is needed desperately, so any drawbacks to this approach of tractor swapping?
     
  4. rypalmer

    rypalmer Member

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    IMO, I think we'll see some overhead wire or third rail innovations when the time comes to electrify things requiring that much energy density. I think this will come after we've exhausted the electrification of most rail lines. Obviously catenary technology has been around forever and is mature, but perhaps less so our ability to use it across a private fleet of rubber tired vehicles.
     
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  5. Opbrid

    Opbrid Member

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    Of course there is the Siemens overhead catenary system for trucks, proposed inductive schemes, etc. but all of these require lots of time and huge investments. Unlikely for many years. Conversely, "Superchargers for Trucks" are fast to roll out, and this tractor swap scheme seems like a simple way to electrify quickly and incrementally. So, do you see any drawbacks to tractor swapping?
     
  6. rypalmer

    rypalmer Member

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    "Superchargers for Trucks" assume trucks have really massive, heavy batteries on vehicles that are already weight limited. Weight spent on batteries means less weight for freight. And that drivers are ok waiting around while trucks charge -- I can't see it. Time is money.

    The logistics for tractor swapping don't sound any more favourable than battery swapping is now for passenger cars. Too fraught with sticky details. And it means a lot of trucks are sitting idle at any given time.
     
  7. Opbrid

    Opbrid Member

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    Perhaps you weren't listening, the tractor swap only takes a few minutes. Drivers drive. The tractors charge. Weight is relative (Tesla Model S anyone?). Currently the ICE engine and transmission are something like 4000#? Certainly the tractors are not making money while charging, but fast charging can minimize this. Fuel and driver's pay are the biggest chunks of truck transportation. The Real Cost of Trucking - Per Mile Operating Cost of a Commercial Truck - TruckersReport.com The truck itself is down under 20% of total cost.
     
  8. Opbrid

    Opbrid Member

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    Rypalmer,
    I'm particularly interested in these "Sticky details" - I know very much how this goes, we are doing fast charging for buses in Europe, and these details can derail the best laid plans. Really, this scheme only works for big fleets who have control over their tractors, trailers, and drivers, and have enough trucks on the road to plan out the charging stops. It won't work for owner-operators or small outfits.
     
  9. aesculus

    aesculus Still Trying to Figure this All Out

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    I actually think the battery swap is much more likely. In many cases in the US the tractors are owned by private parties or leased and not owned by the shipping company. Also tractors are much more expensive and tailored than could be easily swapped, but the battery could. And you could probably buy the tractor but just lease or rent the battery so you would not have the issues of getting 'your' battery back like is the case when Tesla swaps a battery.
     
  10. JohnSnowNW

    JohnSnowNW Active Member

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    Overhead wire on major interstates, with battery range extender for passing and point of delivery driving.
     
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  11. WannabeOwner

    WannabeOwner Member

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    Thought that occurs to me - probably useless ...

    Tractors don't need to be pretty, in the sense that a Model S does. The whole of the behind-the-cab could be a battery, that the tractor could reverse-into to hitch up. And then reverse onto the trailer. Downside would be having to disconnect the trailer, swap battery, reconnect trailer, but battery-swap where "beauty" is not involved seems a lot simpler than what I have seen might be the future for of robot-swapping batteries on cars like the Model S

    Would adding all that weight to the Tractor be OK? i.e. no extra weight on the trailer - perhaps its the total weight that is the legal limit, and (say) adding more axles / tyres to the tractor would not solve that?
     
  12. Opbrid

    Opbrid Member

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    Hi Wannabe,
    Good point on the space behind the driver (in the US/Canada only) that is currently a small bedroom.sleeping area. Good place for batteries!

    Even easier is to just swap the entire tractor. Since the main component of the tractor will be the battery, it isn't really much of a waste. There are simple automatic connect/reconnect systems already on the market for tractor-trailers, as well as automatic charging systems.

    As to catenary - the cost of catenary is typically 1 million dollars per kilometer. (1.6 million per mile). A charger for the tractor swap system is maybe 300k, and you would need one every 150 miles or so. Just a little bit of a price difference... Of course, you need more chargers as more people use them, but this can be done incrementally, rather than the enormous up front cost of a catenary system.
     
  13. Evbwcaer

    Evbwcaer Member

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  14. Opbrid

    Opbrid Member

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    In its present incarnation, it is more of a hybrid than all electric. Natural gas is not much better than diesel as far as CO2, and is particularly inefficient when burned in a microturbine. However, if they jettison the turbine and use tractor swapping, it becomes a pure EV, capable of essentially unlimited miles of all electric driving per day. (at least the trailer can do unlimited miles per day!)
     
  15. JohnSnowNW

    JohnSnowNW Active Member

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    I would think multiple swap stations, including paying people to man such places, will be considerably more costly in the long-term, than a static catenary system. Unless these have proven to be particularly unreliable.

    I would also think that outfitting the Interstate/Hwy system across the US would drive the cost per km down a bit.
     
  16. Opbrid

    Opbrid Member

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    JohnSnowSW,
    There are no persons needed, the stations are entirely automatic (ie Proterra, Volvo, etc buses). The driver does need to get out of his or her cab and walk to the freshly charged tractor parked alongside. Good chance to stretch your legs?

    In my opinion, catenary spanning the interstates is a non starter, just think of the immense price tag and political wrangling. Tractor swapping is a good interim step until batteries have the same net energy density as diesel today. Tractor swapping is cheap, easy to implement, just needs good logistics software to make it work.

    Plus the vehicle manufactures make out like bandits, since we will need about 1 1/2 tractors to do the same job as today. However this is not a waste, since the tractors will last 1 1/2 times as long.
     
  17. 1208

    1208 Active Member

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    Switch to electric trains for long haul, like Le Shuttle.
     
  18. Saghost

    Saghost Active Member

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    From an efficiency standpoint I think this is the best answer, with additional benefits in reducing highway congestion and repair costs.

    However, U.S. politics make it difficult to enact.
     

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