Disposed of the local manufacturing capability that had long served its brand so well in this country, IVECO Australia is undergoing transformational change as a business but with one major difference.
It will, according to a Complete Built Up (CBU) model, retain engineering expertise to support the local market. Just as product development eases off, the company is ramping up its capacity for innovation with a pipeline of products in various stages of development.
The IVECO eDaily, the OEM’s electrified modular chassis platform, is central to this focus.
Methodically, the team have been on a learning curve, identifying the hurdles and finding solutions, where possible, in introducing the battery electric vehicle to the local market.
The Victorian Department of Transport and Planning’s Commercial Sector Innovation Fund has helped to make this possible.
Starting effectively from scratch is in many ways uncharted waters.
Having a vehicle with high voltage necessitates determining the proper partners for training and the legal requirements involved in servicing it.
Andrew Winbanks, IVECO Australia, Manufacturing Plant Manager, says the Chisholm Institute have provided invaluable support with training, establishing an EV service area, sourcing the appropriate personal protective equipment and insulated tools with which to use on the equipment as well as identifying potential partners to work with along the whole circular life of the vehicle.
“It was a one-day course at Chisholm,” he says. “It involved half a day of study and half a day of practical work in full PPE to depower the vehicle.”
It’s a standard credit that qualified mechanics now undertake to work on electric vehicles. The depower/repower process makes the vehicle safe by isolating the batteries.
During the practical component, in which Chisholm provided three passenger EVs, trainees are issued 1000-volt gloves, a face shield and stand on rubber mats.
Because of the PPE compliance, manual dexterity can be tricky and will add some time to certain service requirements on the vehicles.
“I think it’s necessary at this early stage,” says Andrew. “All of my staff here have been trained and qualified on the depower and repower of the vehicle.”
The IVECO eDaily they are working with, at present, is particularly noteworthy being one of the first right hand drive units produced.
“It was a pre-build which means it’s not a normal production vehicle,” says Andrew. “There was a lot of trust in the parent company releasing it to us. So, we’ve been careful to toe the line with their directions on the vehicle. It’s ready to go, ready to start its next phase of its testing and development.”
While evaluations are still in their infancy, the eDaily has just received its body and is going out for more trials.
To date, the cab chassis has been evaluated but more data in local conditions is warranted to compare with the large data samples recorded in Europe.
“If we can notice any small deltas in the data, we can finetune our product offering and market it to our customers and also get the subjective feedback from local customers because our market is a little bit different,” says Andrew.
“A fleet might expect different things and we just need to understand what that is to assist us in a good launch.”
Drivers, it goes without saying, expect different things. On that front Andrew is impressed by what he and his team have been able to see so far from the vehicle.
“The responsiveness is next level and the acceleration is smooth,” he says. “As engineers, we want to tinker around with it and push it a little bit. The traction delivery on it is excellent. I couldn’t make it misbehave even though it’s only a cab chassis at the moment. It just goes. With some of the different calibrations, you can practically have a single pedal operation. You can take your foot off the throttle and regenerative braking kicks in and it does a lot of work and it does make it very comfortable and simple to drive — our products are known for being comfortable.”
For the moment the testing is geared around making sure the real-world data they get under loaded application matches with what they’re seeing out of Europe.
The battery spec on the eDaily is lithium manganese cobalt oxide. Each battery is 37kW. As a three-battery pack vehicle it has a range of approximately 350 kilometres according to EV efficiency standard testing.
“We would like to see how that translates in Australia with the air conditioner cranked on full,” says Andrew.
“All the heavy vehicle customers know fuel efficiency is very application dependent on the load, on the gradient, on everything. I think the light vehicle guys understand that as well as how it’s used. There is the standard that we publish but we want to know what it’s like in the real world so we can advise the customers on the spec.”
A two-battery version will be available.
IVECO Australia will advise customers on the appropriate variant for best productivity weighed against upfront cost. Plans are underway to purchase an Ampol fast electric vehicle charger pending a decision around location and the requisite site approvals.
The 120kW fast charger would be able to charge two eDailys very quickly. It will be a matter of lease management and capital expenditure in delivering enough power to the site, depending on the long-term viability of the premises in which the infrastructure is established.
Through the new Customer Innovation Centre, which is currently under construction, IVECO plans to work more closely with its partners both locally and in Europe to explore alternative propulsion solutions, digitisation, connectivity and autonomous driving. Customer incentivisation will be a major part of that.
One chief area the company is looking to be active in is better assisting IVECO customers and body-builders – particularly those with complex body types – to integrate better with them as an OEM and achieve a more streamlined design and body fitment process for vehicles.
“Some of these will be high IP type customisations that they’re expecting will be rare,” Andrew says.
“We’ve got some other exciting innovation projects on the horizon. I’ve got a couple of engineers in Europe looking at the heavy battery electric vehicle which has just been launched and the fuel cell electric vehicle which we’ve got trial vehicles on the road with EVCO, our new brand we’ve got over there developing the fuel cell electric vehicle. And also looking at the automated driver assist systems.”
EVCO, short for Electric Vehicles Company) was born from IVECO acquiring full and sole ownership of the German company resulting from its former joint venture with Nikola Iveco Europe.
As part of ramping up its current product innovation, IVECO has a protype dual control new IVECO ACCO being used for inhouse accumulation data and the first production units out of Madrid are due fresh off the boat any minute.
“They’ll all be coming here for a quick audit as they are a very important product to the local market,” says Andrew. “That is imminent. We’ve got some customers who are very keen.”
Andrew and his team are hopeful that there will be several good projects to come out its new facility in Keysborough where most of the current auditing on new vehicles in taking place.
Australia, he says, has been a great proving ground particularly in the heavy vehicle category due to the higher speeds and higher load limits compared to other international territories.
“We can get these things out and stress test them on public real-world applications a little harder than they can in Europe,” he says.
“One of the things [MD] Mike [May] is vocal on was being small and punching above our weight. We’ve got myself and five engineers and two test technicians and we’ve got a fair bit done in the last 12 months. We have been busy.”