The Power and the Passion

Mercedes-Benz is a front runner in sustainable transport and the eActros demonstrates its practical capabilities combined with zero exhaust emissions.
Mercedes-Benz eActros.

Globally, Daimler Truck continues to develop multiple technologies in its approach to manufacturing low and zero emission vehicles including hydrogen fuel cells (HFC) and ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) using hydrogen as a fuel.

For short distance operations plug-in electric Vehicles (EVs) currently make the most sense while for heavier loads and longer distances, HFC and hydrogen as a fuel will be more suited.

To strengthen the local presence of its zero emission strategies, all three Daimler Truck brands (Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner and Fuso) have been consolidated under one eMobility department, headed up by engineer Romesh Rodrigo.

Because Daimler Truck has chosen to provide complete solutions for its customers Daimler Financial Services has a strong involvement as well, with tailored offerings designed to assist local operators get started on their zero emission journeys.

The eActros and the Fuso eCanter will be available as either a straight sale or as a component of a package which includes charging equipment and servicing.

There are currently almost 1,000 eActros trucks operating in Europe and while there is already strong interest in Australia, the local challenge is establishing the necessary infrastructure to support the transition to EVs.

Which brings us to the eActros. We drove a left-hand drive version in Germany in late 2022 and now that the eActros 300 model is available locally it has been a significant step to have it to operate in local conditions.

For its range of EVs, Daimler Truck has applied a fully integrated philosophy, rather than simply replacing a conventional ICE driveline with an electric motor and bolting some batteries to the chassis.

The Daimler Truck approach has the benefit of freeing up more available space for components such as batteries and the electrical and thermal management systems. The eActros does not have a prop shaft and the twin liquid cooled electric motors are attached direct into the rear axle which has a similar housing to a conventional rear end.

A two-speed transmission assists in set off and usually upshifts around the 30 km/h mark. Power output is impressive for a truck of this size: 536hp (400kW) peak with 443hp (330kW) continuous.

Energy for the eActros 300 comes from three lithium-ion batteries with a total capacity of 336kWh. The eActros 400 models feature four batteries to enable a longer operating range of up to 400 kilometres.

The same drive system and eAxle is used in both eActros models as well as the eEconic waste industry trucks. The battery packs are mounted low on the chassis which delivers the dual benefits of providing an unencumbered flat chassis top surface to suit body builders, and also enhances the handling of the truck by having a low centre of gravity.

This is born out when driving along the ‘country’ type roads on the test route as the eActros handles superbly.

eActros charging up.
A high speed 150kW charger can take the batteries from 20 per cent to 80 per cent in around 75 minutes.
eActros Driving Experience

The ride is smooth due to the air suspension front and rear and there is no sense of ‘wallowing’ in situations such as when encountering uneven road surfaces while turning at speeds greater than 60 km/hr.

Each battery has a dedicated management system with particular attention paid to the thermal performance of the batteries through the cooling and heating system.

When discussing the effective operating range of any EV the phrase “it depends” invariably becomes part of the conversation.

Load weight, driving style, topography, traffic, even ambient temperature can all affect an electric vehicle’s range. Local testing of the eActros 300, carrying a load similar to our test vehicle has resulted in a comfortable range of 300 kilometres, with a residual charge of 20 per cent still remaining in the batteries.

The use of a high speed 150kW charger will take the batteries from 20 per cent to 80 per cent in around one and a quarter hour; if the truck’s application doesn’t require fast charging, 100 per cent charge can be achieved overnight with much less investment using a three phase socket.

The recuperative braking is available in five stages, varied by the wand on the steering column.

In addition to putting power back into the batteries, the super effective electric retardation will reduce costs associated with maintaining the service brakes.

Touch the service brake pedal and it initiates the electric motor braking first. When required, the full effect of the electrical retardation is as impressive as the acceleration.

Leaving the wand in the off position allows the truck to coast in similar fashion to the “eco roll” functions found in most modern diesel/automated manual transmission drivelines. The interior of the cab is quiet, with a noise reduction of up to 10 decibels compared to a similar diesel-powered truck, which will have a positive impact on the drivers’ well-being.

The eActros is equipped with the second- generation MirrorCam system which utilises 15-inch display screens attached to the A pillars. The ultra-modern interior also features two ten-inch display screens for the driver to monitor the truck’s operation.

The quiet operation of the eActros could present a hazard to pedestrians, especially those absorbed by their smartphone screens, so an E-compliant acoustic warning system sounds when the truck travels at speeds less than 10 km/hr.

In common with its ICE Actros counterparts, the eActros features an extensive suite of safety systems including Active Brake Assist, Pedestrian Detection, and the Advanced Emergency Braking System. Production models will feature twin radar Side Guard Assist to detect vulnerable road users as well as vehicles when making a left turn.

Mercedes-Benz eActros moves under the Bolte Bridge in Melbourne.
Mercedes-Benz eActros moves under the Bolte Bridge in Melbourne.

Add to the list Stability Control Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Roll Control Assist and tyre pressure monitoring. Wet cell batteries for the electrical system not associated with propulsion (air compressor, air conditioning, power steering) are tucked up under the back of the cab.

Driving the eActros is much the same as driving a diesel-powered truck of similar capacity, only better, due mainly to the instant power available from the electric drivetrain.

Add in the quietness, the smoothness and the Mercedes-Benz level of finish and array of safety systems, and this is a great Medium Duty truck regardless of what powers it.

As the industry waits upon the formulation of Australian Design Rules, Daimler Truck has chosen to provide very high levels of safety in relation to the specific situations presented by electric trucks.

Integrated with the batteries’ thermal management system are impact sensors on both sides of the battery modules and additional sensors check for heat or smoke.

In the event of an incident where the battery temperature is elevated beyond a certain point the battery(s) are automatically shut down.

A large shut down switch is located in the cab which also has cables accessible to emergency responders equipped with insulated shears.

The electrical system including batteries and cables also shuts down in the case of frontal impact when the SRS airbags are deployed or seat belt pre-tensioners are activated.

Sophisticated telematics play an important part in the overall operation of the eActros with key factors including route assessment, payload, diminishing load weights as deliveries are performed, battery management, and charge levels.

The results can be used to help with customer assessment as to whether a particular EV will work for them, and to optimise the efficient operation of the vehicle once it is in service.

This level of testing and validation will go a long way in managing expectations, both in the current EV environment and as the electricity grid expands to meet future demands.

The GVM of this eActros is officially 19 tonnes but due to the current front axle weight allowance in Australia, the practical GVM is 16 tonnes.

For this test the eActros is loaded to provide a gross weight of 15.2 tonnes, with six tonnes showing on the front axle.

A payload of around 5.5 tonnes is realistic for the type of urban distribution for which a truck like this is intended.

According to the dash computer we travel 94.4 kilometres on our test circuit along a mixture of roads with varying traffic and topography, averaging 36 km/h and using electricity at the rate of 81.7kW/hr per 100 kilometres, reducing the battery reserve capacity by 26 per cent.

Simple maths will show that a range in excess of 300 kilometres is readily achievable for this level of load and these driving conditions.

The eActros is a prime example of Daimler Truck leading the way towards sustainable and practical transportation and not just paying lip service to environmental considerations.

Total cost of ownership parity is certainly a target which will evolve over the next few years, and in the meantime an EV solution which will meet the needs of a large section of the medium duty market is available right now.

One of two 10-inch display screens in the cab for operational monitoring.
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