While North America awaits Tesla Motors’ electrified big rig, the rest of the globe’s manufacturers are working on battery driven commercial vehicles of their own. These vehicles may not be able to match the Tesla’s size or ability to do burnouts, but their existence shows companies are taking electrification seriously.
FedEx, which has already reserved a handful of the Tesla trucks, bragged it would soon deploy Navistar-sourced electric trucks way back in 2010. However, with the exception of ultra-dense urban environments and shipping hubs, these units haven’t see a lot of action. For the most part, the addition of zero-emission vehicles seem like a good way for companies to virtue signal and test the feasibility of such a platform in a commercial setting. For example, UPS issued a press release in February saying it wanted to develop 50 battery electric vans that might someday replace its fleet of 35,000 gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles.
Still, there’s momentum building behind alternative energy vehicles in the commercial sector. Daimler-owned Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation started the slow rollout of its eCanter courier truck last September. It probably won’t break any sales records for the brand, but it does show manufacturers’ desire to not just develop, but sell these things at a meaningful volume — and it’s soon to be followed by Volvo Trucks’ brand new FL Electric.
Appearing as a direct competitor for the eCanter, Volvo’s FL Electric offers roughly the same recipe in an somewhat larger package. Considering both vehicles are intended primarily for hauling modestly sized loads in and around densely populated cities, we doubt the little Fuso will suffer too egregiously.
Trimmed out in its biggest and most powerful form, the electrified Fuso has a chassis load capacity of 4.9 tons. The estimated maximum range of the 70 kWh eCanter exceeds 62 miles under idyllic circumstances, but a full load will surely drag that down somewhat. Maximum output clocks in at 248 horsepower and 280 ft-lb of torque. However, Fuso says it intends to upgrade the model in terms of size, range, and power very soon.
Meanwhile, the all new FL Electric from Volvo Trucks promises a 100-300 kWh battery pack capable of a maximum range of roughly 186 miles. In its biggest and baddest form, the FL pumps out 248 horsepower and 313 ft-lb. Gross vehicle weight is 17.6 tons vs the eCanter’s 8.2 tons. Unlike the Fuso’s single cog, the Volvo uses a two-speed transmission.
By and large, these specs don’t give them a huge advantage over their closest diesel-powered relatives. In fact, most of Fuso’s internal combustion box trucks can best the electrified version in terms of torque and payload by a sizable margin. But given the infancy of battery technology and potential fuel savings a battery equipped commercial vehicle can offer, it would be crazy for any truck manufacturer to outright ignore electrification.
[Images: Volvo Trucks; Daimler Trucks]