Mercedes-Benz has revealed the first fully-electric truck with an admissible total weight of up to 26 tonnes making it capable of undertaking heavy duty operations.
Although parent company Daimler does not plan to sell the Urban eTruck to consumers and businesses prior to 2020, the prototype model offers a promising emissions-free future for goods transportation.
"Electric drive systems previously only saw extremely limited use in trucks,” said Dr Wolfgang Bernhard of Daimler’s management board.
“Nowadays costs, performance and charging times develop further so rapidly that now there is a trend reversal in the distribution sector: the time is ripe for the electric truck."
The truck is powered by a battery pack that contains three lithium-ion battery modules, which allows it to drive up to 200km before it needs recharging. Daimler says this is enough for a typical daily delivery tour.
The car manufacturer already released its Fuso Canter E-Cell in 2014, a smaller electric goods vehicle designed for shorter trips, which is a technological precursor to the eTruck.
“In light distribution trucks, our Fuso Canter E-Cell has already been undergoing intensive customer trials since 2014,” Bernhard continued.
“And with the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck, we are now electrifying the heavy distribution segment up to 26 tonnes. We intend to establish electric driving as systematically as autonomous and connected driving."
With large cities such as London and Paris cracking down on emissions produced by internal combustion engines, fully electric trucks could become increasingly commonplace.
London mayor Sadiq Khan recently set out proposals to charge the most polluting vehicles £10 a day in the centre of the city from 2017 and extend the planned ‘ultra-low-emissions zone’, measures that could make running traditionally powered trucks costly for businesses.
Daimler said that fully electric drives systems in trucks have only just become tenable with the high cost of batteries coupled with a low range hampering its ability to produce a commercially available vehicle.
But the rapid development of battery cells and the lowering cost per kilowatt hour (from 500 Euro/kWh down to 200 Euro/kWh between 1997 and 2025 according to Daimler’s estimates) has made electric trucks increasingly viable.
Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, said: "With the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck, we are underlining our intention to systematically develop the electric drive in trucks to series production maturity.
“This means that we will begin to integrate customers, so as to gain valuable joint experience with respect to the operating ranges and the charging infrastructure in daily transport operations. Because we think the entry of this technology into the series production is already conceivable at the beginning of the next decade."
Driverless technology is also set to shape the future of the hauling business with truck platoons, where a singular driver leads two or more goods vehicles, being trialled around the world.
A two-carriage platoon of driverless trucks drove from Rotterdam to Belgium earlier this year as part of a challenge to demonstrate the viability of the technology.