Who says sports and luxury cars are the only ones that can go green? In fact, one could say it’s almost fitting that the truck that helps keep our places clean be environment friendly themselves. And what better way to do that than by developing a truck that can run mainly on electricity and still have an equally environment friendly “range extender”. That is precisely the ambitious goal that Ian Wright, one of the original founders of Tesla, has set his company, Wrightspeed, to accomplish.
Trucks present an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity comes from the fact that are actually a better candidate for the cost and fuel savings of fully electric or hybrid engines, compared to the regular cars that Tesla and the like focus on. To make an EV worth its engine, it needs to consume at least 4,000 gallons (15,150 liters) a year. Unattainable for a car, but normal for a small to medium truck.
Of course, the challenge is that trucks also need more power. So instead of Tesla’s induction motors, Wrightspeed’s powertrains use permanent magnet motors on each side of an axle. Lithium ion phosphate batteries were carefully selected in order to allow the trucks to regenerate as much as 730 kW or 1,000 hp when it decelerates. Each drive wheel is equipped with an electric motor and powered by a battery pack. The hybrid part comes from the rather unique range-extender, a turbine named The Fulcrum. It generates 80 kW or 107 hp of power and weighs only 250 lb, a fraction compared to a regular piston engine. As a turbine, it is also not limited to a single type of fuel, which helps keep its green character.
Although equipping long-haul trucks seem to be an even more perfect candidate, they turned out to be a no go. Cruising all day at usually constant speed means that they don’t have the chance to regenerate energy. Mid-sized trucks are more manageable. In fact, Fedex has already contracted Wrightspeed ordering a total of 27 of its powertrains by last year. The most suitable truck, however, turned out to be garbage trucks.
Weighing as much as 66,000 lbs (30,000 kg) and traveling around 130 miles (160 km) a day, these trucks can consume 14,000 gallons or 53,000 liters of fuel a year. Definitely an opportunity for savings. Plus, they make a thousand hard stops, which gives the engines plenty of chances to regenerate. Perhaps with autonomous driving technology like that of the Freightliner Inspiration, the garbage trucks of the future will not only be independent, but also eco-friendly.