A range-extended 7.5-tonne electric truck using a chassis cab built by China’s JAC and UK-sourced key components could help combat urban air quality concerns, said developer Tevva Motors.

The Brentwood, Essex, company contends that the newcomer can travel for up to 100 miles on battery power only, meaning it can easily tackle a city centre delivery run with no tailpipe emissions.

Power comes from a 120kW electric motor linked to a reduction gearbox that takes the drive to the back axle via a shortened prop shaft. The driveline comes from Magtec in Sheffield.

The motor is powered by lithium-ion phosphate batteries, sourced from Goodwolfe in Southend, which can be recharged from a three-phase 32-amp mains supply in hours.

If the truck’s range needs extending, a Dagenham-built Ford 1.6-litre diesel kicks in. Mounted under the truck’s tilt cab, it acts as a generator to maintain the charge in the twin battery packs. Regenerative braking also helps keep them topped up.

If the battery-only range and the contribution the diesel range-extender can make are added together, a typical maximum range of up to 250 miles is possible if a 40-litre diesel tank is chosen, said Tevva. That goes up to 370 miles if a 75-litre tank is specified.

The package is managed by Prems (Predictive Range Extender Management System), which is Cloud-based and takes the truck’s planned route from the operator, works out the amount of energy likely to be consumed and the range extender cuts in and out accordingly.

The idea is to ensure that it kicks in while the driver is travelling along a dual carriageway heading towards a town centre rather than when he is trundling down a high street.

Tevva estimated that CO2 emissions from the range extender are 80% lower than those emitted by a standard diesel 7.5-tonner, while NOx emissions are more than 50% lower than those produced by a Euro-6 model.

Relying on cheap overnight electricity for much of the time means that a total cost of ownership saving of up to 27% over five to six years compared with a standard diesel 7.5-tonner is achievable, Tevva said.

That percentage does not take into account any congestion charge savings and government grants towards the truck’s acquisition that may be available.

Tevva Motors was set up two years ago by Israeli entrepreneur, Asher Bennett. Some of the funding for the project has been provided by the DfT and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

JAC is taking an interest in the vehicle given the air quality in China’s cities, said Tevva. UPS is trialling the technology in a Mercedes-Benz Vario operating in London. It is suitable for trucks up to 18-tonne GVW, said Tevva business project manager Richard Lidstone-Scott, and is being installed in a 12-tonne fire engine.

The 7.5-tonner starts by turning a key then pushing a button on the fascia depending on whether forwards driving or reversing is required. When the handbrake is released and the accelerator pedal is depressed, the vehicle is ready to go.

Using battery power makes the journey comparatively quiet with no whining from the electric motor. Noise generated by the tyres and suspension is a lot more noticeable than in a conventional diesel 7.5-tonner and when the range-extender generator starts up it sounds like a gigantic hair-drier.

The vehicle is a prototype, stressed Lidstone-Scott, who promised that the sound-deadening around the range-extender will be more effective on production models.

The electric JAC accelerates strongly and can easily keep pace with other traffic on gradients but it was unladen. It will carry 2.7 tonnes when fully-freighted.

Lidstone-Scott said: “Typically you’ll be talking from £40,000 to £60,000. And if we sell it as a Tevva using a JAC platform, we’ll probably be able to get it homologated and into production in three to four years’ time.”

However, Tevva Motors has alternative routes to market in mind. “A retrofit package suitable for other trucks will hopefully be available on a commercial basis within the next two to three years,” he added.

By Steve Banner