Due to issues around cost and range anxiety, electric trucks have thus far lagged behind the electric car revolution which is continuing at pace in the UK. However, the technology is catching up and The Manufacturer recently spoke to a company in the fast-lane of EV truck growth.
The rapid rise of electric cars in the UK has been well documented. Back in 2016 there were some 30,000 EVs on our roads. Fast-forward to 2023, that figure is nudging towards 700,000 and EVs now constitute 16.5% of all new car registrations. However, electric trucks have not experienced the same rise.
An initial hurdle overcome by EVs has been range anxiety; the fear that the vehicle will not have enough battery charge to reach its destination, leaving its occupants stranded. This anxiety is particularly prominent when considering long-distance travel, along stretches of road where EV charging points might be few and far between.
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However, as the average passenger car only drives one to two hours a day, early concerns over range anxiety have perhaps been unfounded, thus proved by the meteoric growth in electric cars. On the other hand, the very purpose of most trucks is to travel long distances across broad time periods, and historically, this has made the very notion of electric trucks prohibitive. Despite this, one Tilbury-based company is turning this on its head. We speak to Asher Bennett, Founder of Tevva Trucks.
What’s the history behind Tevva?
AB: My first career was as an officer in the Israeli Navy, and as such my first electric vehicle was a submarine. The bottom of the vessel housed a huge bank of batteries connected to a large electric motor. Obviously, the charge at base was not enough to supply power for weeks spent at sea, so as needed, we would raise a snorkel out of the water and recharge the batteries with diesel generators. I brought a lot of that learning and capability to Tevva.
How do you view current EV trends in the UK? What’s happening right now in the world of electric passenger cars is amazing. About a third of all new EV passenger cars sold is all electric; and we should be proud of that. But let’s understand why – the average passenger car drives one to two hours a day, the newest EVs have hundreds of miles of range and you have around 22 hours every day where you have the opportunity to charge the vehicle. Therefore, the battery passenger car is fit for purpose. That’s why we’ve seen such huge growth.
However, trucks can be on the road for around eight hours per day, fulfilling a variety of different roles. If they aren’t moving, they’re not working, so drivers don’t want to rely on having to leave their route to look for a charger, and then sitting around waiting for that top-up before heading back out on the road.
Tevva’s 7.5 tonne electric truck offers up to 140 miles of range from its 105kWh battery on a single charge
And no fleet manager wants to send out trucks that are not guaranteed to complete their day. Also, there’s a variance in the range you will get from any EV, and it’s a lot wider and more prominent with trucks. The difference in mass between an empty and full payload on a truck can be enormous – much more than a passenger car – and that has a huge impact on potential range.
The driving style of different individuals can also make a big difference – data shows up to 30% – as does variances in weather conditions and auxiliary energy needs such as refrigeration, refuge compacting etc. And of course, there are the obvious variables of the speed the truck is travelling and whether it’s having to negotiate steep inclines. All these factors can influence range and batteries alone don’t always cover those scenarios.
That’s why we have a focus on dual energy trucks. As for trends in the marketplace, EV trucks are much more nescient than passenger cars. However, the growth in that market is showing where trucks will and can be over the next few years. And we’re aiming to be an important part of solving that conundrum.
What trucks do Tevva offer?
Our 7.5 tonne electric truck offers up to 140 miles of range from its 105kWh battery on a single charge and is ideal for last-mile and urban delivery fleets. It will be followed later in 2023 by a 7.5 tonne hydrogen electric truck, which benefits from a hydrogen range extender that enhances vehicle range to up to 354 miles.
We recently received our European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) for our 7.5 tonne battery electric truck, which means we can start producing and selling in volume across the UK and Europe.
This approval is the latest and most important landmark we’ve achieved to date. I am incredibly proud of our team who have worked tirelessly to secure this certification and get our 7.5 tonne electric truck in customers’ hands and on the roads.
We are on a mission to make sustainable trucks accessible at scale and believe our technology will empower the transport sector and the governments of Europe to meet their net zero goals. By embracing both hydrogen and electric fuel sources, we can rethink the energy mix in transport, reduce strain on our electricity grid and accelerate electric truck adoption.
What’s the difference between all-electric and dual fuel?
For our electric trucks, we build our own battery packs and management system and we have chosen large format Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) as the current cell technology as it offers advantages of a very long lifecycle, is very safe among mainstream chemistries and is low cost.
The cells are assembled into modules, each having a local battery management system that measures the different voltages, temperatures, impedance of each cell and very importantly, the balancing of the cells in that module. We connect the modules together and build them into multiple packs for each truck. That all connects to the global battery management system which communicates with the rest of the vehicle in managing the battery, charging, regenerative braking, energy, etc.
Lithium-ion is an amazing technology. We love it and use it to build our own battery systems – the modules and the whole battery pack. It also has some limitations, however. And that’s down to the variance of range you get from a fully charged battery. Another issue is that not every fleet will have daily charging opportunities if the battery packs are very large.
So, for fleets that are doing longer ranges, are heavier or need more auxiliary energy, we offer the dual energy approach, where we take the greatness of a lithium-ion battery and match it with the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Tevva recently received its European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) for its 7.5 tonne battery electric truck
Hydrogen fuel complements battery electric charging, opening up options for longer ranges, heavier payloads and fast refuelling, enabling greater uptime. This is largely because compressed hydrogen gas has a higher energy density than lithium batteries. The combination of battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell technologies is particularly competitive – allowing for the lowest overall costs and emissions.
On our dual fuel truck each hydrogen cylinder weighs approximately 100kg yet has the same effective energy (the energy that actually gets transferred to the motor after going through the fuel cell) as approximately 600-700kg of lithium-ion batteries. It’s therefore easy to understand the great energy density advantage of hydrogen. It’s also faster to refuel, taking only ten minutes.
How are you using digital technologies?
The digital side of our trucks is one of our strengths. They produce huge amounts of data and we have developed all the five major control systems in-house – it’s our design at the hardware level and each has dual microprocessors for safety and redundancy.
We wrote our own operating system that runs the control units and the software that runs on the operating system. All that means we are in complete control of all the different systems on the truck, of which there are many, and that gives us the flexibility to adjust and change if a better solution comes along (the supplier of a particular component for example).
Also, when we run the dual energy system, we have a very unique solution that makes the decision of when to turn on the hydrogen system and at what power. We don’t leave that to the driver. The cloud-based system makes the best decisions based on that day’s route, the changing payload, who the driver is, what the truck will be doing the next day and whether there are opportunities to refuel hydrogen on route.
By bringing all those elements together, with the truck making the decisions in the background, we estimate that we achieve a 22% efficiency boost versus using a simple algorithm of just turning on the backup system when the battery is low. It also lengthens the life of the hydrogen fuel cell and the batteries.
Who are Tevva’s customers?
We’ve had a small fleet of trucks running in the UPS fleet over the last three years, day in and day out, collecting lots of data which we’ve been able to learn from. Our first mass produced electric trucks have started to be delivered and will be eagerly received by customers including Expect Distribution, Travis Perkins and Royal Mail. We expect to sell up to 1,000 electric trucks in 2023.
We love to partner and we’ve done so with some big companies to accelerate market reach. We build relationships where we learn through conducting trials and we then feed that mass of data into our product engineering process to meet the needs of the customer. As we hand over our trucks to customers this year, we’re going to learn more and more.
That’s a great experience for all of us to get better; we are obsessed about our customers. That’s nice to say, but nothing we do is easy. There’s a lot of technology in one of our trucks, and every piece has to work well to provide a great experience for the customer; from the mundane parts like the air compressors, all the way up to the exciting batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and all the software applications. It all has to be well engineered and manufactured to get it right.
What impact will electric trucks have in helping companies achieve their net zero ambitions?
Trucks worldwide emit more carbon than the whole aviation and maritime sectors put together, so it’s very important that they are decarbonised. And of course, they are very much relied upon. They’re moving our economy forward, so we need them to get vital jobs completed. Also, the numbers have to work.
Being green is not enough on its own. What we have found is that if a truck gets the job done and in an economic way, then the green element comes automatically. Think about solar a decade ago, and where it is today. It’s now very competitive against normal grid electricity. So, in terms of the green agenda we should think about trucks in the same way.
We’ve faced a number of challenges over recent years, but I’m very proud of everyone at team Tevva as we have stepped up and found a solution to each problem. COVID specifically almost killed us. However, we actually leveraged that crisis to take the opportunity to look at our strategy and think bigger, towards being more platform and production system oriented.
Tevva’s trucks produce huge amounts of data as all the five major control systems have been developed in-house
We emerged out of COVID with 40 team members and now have around 300. Prior to COVID the electric trucks were built one by one; now they’re built on a proper production system. Come back next year when we hope to have hundreds and then thousands of trucks on the road. That’s what we’re aiming for and that’s when I will be content.
Tevva has entered into a strategic partnership with Ecobat, a leader in battery recycling, for the repair, repurposing and recycling of its lithium-ion batteries. The partnership kicks off with a 12-month pilot phase for first-life battery management, with the opportunity to expand into additional energy storage and recycling solutions.
In the unlikely case that an issue arises during vehicle life, Ecobat will ensure Tevva’s in-house assembled lithium-ion batteries are handled, diagnosed and repaired using the most effective and environmentally friendly methods. Tevva is committed to ‘circular economy’ principles, zero waste and reducing costs when it comes to managing the most expensive item on its electric trucks – the lithium-ion battery.
Tevva has secured government plug-in truck grant (PITrG) eligibility for its 7.5 tonne battery electric truck. UK organisations looking to decarbonise operations and futureproof their fleets will benefit from a potential £16,000 discount, removed from the purchase price by Tevva.
To be eligible for the grant, N2 vehicles (trucks that weigh between 5-12 tonnes) must have a CO2 emissions figure of at least 50% less than the conventional equivalent vehicle that can carry the same capacity and can travel at least 60 miles without any tailpipe emissions at all.
The Tevva 7.5 tonne battery electric trucks is are only vehicle from a British manufacturer to qualify for the PITrG, and becomes only the third eligible truck to be listed on the government website. The grant pays for 20% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £16,000, reducing total cost of ownership (TCO).
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