EMOSS Electric Trucks: Road Test

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Jump to: About EMOSS, Cost, Market sectors, Transmissions, On the road, Verdict

One of largest and most experienced players in the world of electric trucks is not a global vehicle manufacturer but a family business in a small Dutch town.

EMOSS (which stands for Electric Mobility One Stop Shop) started in 1998 in the agricultural equipment sector, but gradually moved into electric municipal vehicles on a small scale. The knowledge gained from this led it to develop technology used in the original Tesla sports car. The critical reduction box was eventually licensed to a leading automotive transmission company to productionise the technology.

Over time, EMOSS products and developments increased in size and its first electric truck conversion, an MAN 12-tonner, was completed in 2009. Since then it has moved through a variety of conversions on existing vehicles, but has seen that market level off. Now it is focused on developing and supplying electric drivetrain kits for trucks and passenger vehicles from 7 tonnes to 75 tonnes around the world.



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About EMOSS

The kits comprise modules of components that are assembled at the factory at Oosterhout, close to the Belgian border, into packages ready to be bolted to a truck chassis. Around 80% of the content is bought in to the company’s own specification, but this hardware is brought together and fitted with the crucial control systems in-house.

The 50 staff at EMOSS currently deliver 15-25 kits per month, with over 400 trucks already in service globally. Its biggest single market at the moment is New Zealand, currently taking four kits per month, but it has a keen eye on this side of the Channel as the green trend gathers pace. To that end, it has adopted Astra Vehicle Technologies of Ellesmere Port as its UK installation partner. Local EMOSS representative Vernon Edwards says: “We’re not just talking to operators in the UK – now it’s OEM body manufacturers as well.”

Apart from the passenger sector, where EMOSS and Mellor Coachbuilders are doing well with the Orion E mobility minibus, the greatest area of potential is thought to be refuse collection vehicles.

It has a well-established programme to re-engineer three-to-five-year-old Mercedes-Benz Econics, with two already in service in the UK. And while Dennis has its own electrification programme for the Elite, EMOSS also has its own retrofit EV solution to offer.

One hindrance to making brand new vehicles is the reluctance of the major truck manufacturers to sell ‘gliders’ – that is, rolling vehicles without engine and gearbox. Buying complete trucks new is also out, because a lack of demand for new diesel drivelines makes selling on an unused Econic diesel engine economically challenging. Despite this, EMOSS chief operating officer Bas Rottier says: “Increased OEM presence in the market is a benefit to us. They will only produce volume products, leaving us to specialise.” EMOSS is currently investigating a solution to this problem via a co-operative truck manufacturer from China. When new vehicles are converted, they get rebranded, with EMOSS badges and VINs.

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Cost

Aside from the technicalities, let’s dispose of the thorny question of cost. EMOSS makes no effort to disguise the fact that its products are expensive. An electric driveline will typically add anything between €70,000 and €300,000 (£64,000-£273,000) to the cost of your base vehicle, depending on specification. However, total cost of ownership for an EV is less expensive than for diesel.

Obviously, few operators are going to spend this kind of money out of environmental altruism, although some own account fleets such as supermarkets do. Whether these are paid for out of fleet operating or PR budgets is debatable. Most installations are bought out of necessity. Most will be to service contracts with public sector or high-profile organisations such as airports, where environmental impact is a key element of the tendering process. That’s to say, if you don’t have zero tailpipe emission vehicles, you don’t get the contract. Therefore, the added cost is factored into the contract price and the client has to pay the price, so to some extent it is immaterial to the operator.

However, it’s not all extra cost. One prominent UK operator recently carried out comparison trials between electric and diesel Mercedes-Benz Econics, with the electric vehicle showing fuel savings of £91 per day. Add in reduced maintenance costs – electric drivelines have few moving parts requiring maintenance, and there is less wear on the brakes due to regenerative braking – and the picture looks rosier.

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Market sectors

Other potential market sectors under consideration include urban distribution, of course, but also road sweepers, gully cleaners and even fire appliances. With London mayor Sadiq Khan keen to make the capital free of tailpipe emissions, EMOSS is in discussions with a leading fire appliance builder to evaluate the feasibility of an EV fire appliance. EMOSS has an ‘anything-is-possible’ attitude, but as Martijn Noordam, chief technology officer, says: “The problem is not in building trucks, but in charging them. The infrastructure isn’t there yet.” Overcoming the infrastructure issue has led to another UK-bound project – a prototype gas bottle distribution truck for Calor featuring a small range extending internal combustion engine that keeps the drive batteries topped up. The truck’s range will only be limited by the size of the fuel tank, and it is a project we will be following closely.

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Transmissions

Transmission methods on the electric trucks fall into two types. Up to 26 tonnes gross, the motor has a single-speed direct drive, but above that weight, a six-speed Allison torque converter automatic is fitted, together with an Allison retarder with five stages – off, regeneration and three levels of braking. The retarder is required because there’s no regeneration available until battery charge drops below 97%. In all cases, drive continues to conventional drive axles, albeit with final drive ratios typically ranging from 5:1 to 7.2:1.

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On the road

To gain a rare insight into what electric trucks are like to drive, we were able to intercept a couple of newly completed customer vehicles ahead of being dispatched to their new owners. Both were free from any bodywork or trailer.

The first was unusual, even in the world of electric trucks, an MAN TGS-based 6x2 tractor unit designed for a 60-tonne GCW in Norway. The truck is one of an order of three destined for airport waste removal duties, where the tender conditions not only specified zero tailpipe emissions but also low noise levels for nighttime operation through sensitive residential areas.

Its vital statistics include a nine-phase motor delivering a maximum 370kW, equivalent to 500hp, and 2,500Nm of torque at all engine speeds, although this is limited from the maximum available figure of 4,000Nm. With 280kW/hr of battery capacity on board, it has a range of at least 200km with 50% payload.

The interior was fully recognisable as off-the shelf MAN, the biggest difference being the traditional pushbutton array for the Allison transmission, adjacent to a rather wobbly stalk for the retarder, which would probably be better if the function was controlled by the standard but redundant MAN column stalk.

Preparing for travel, you turn the key in the normal manner, but the only clue that it’s active is the sound of the air compressor, electric of course, filling the tanks for the conventional service brakes. To drive away, just select D on the pad and floor the throttle. Then stop quickly, as you realise the effect of 2,500Nm of instant torque on just eight tonnes or so of unladen tractor unit.

A more circumspect second attempt sees a smoother take-off, almost silent apart from the pedestrian warning low-speed noise generator. Although the part of the Netherlands where EMOSS is based is devoid of anything resembling a hill, we did manage to find a nearby motorway to get up to maximum speed, limited in the same way as a conventional truck.

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Verdict

Noise only ever amounted to low levels of wind and tyre whoosh. Even at higher speeds, the throttle pedal calls for some restraint if jerky progress is to be avoided. Although the ESP system cuts power at the onset of wheelspin, it’s best to avoid it in the first place with a gentle touch. We’re pretty sure that with its intended 50-plus tonnes behind it, or even a UK style 35 tonnes, the driving experience would be far more relaxing.

If the airport-based tractor is likely to operate in similarly flat terrain to the Dutch conditions, the same certainly isn’t true of the second truck driven. If Switzerland’s largest retailer, Migros, has a supermarket at the top of the Matterhorn, this is the truck to deliver its chilled food. Based on an MAN TGL 12-tonner, its numbers include 3,000Nm at 1rpm. The maximum power output from its six-phase motor is 235kW (315hp) with 140kW (188hp) continuously, with a maximum range from its 140kW/hr battery pack of 300km at 50% payload.

As it has the direct-drive transmission with just the one ratio, driving is just a case of choosing forward or reverse and going. With no gear shifts, it does just go, with absolutely no sensation of anything making an effort, although with just a bare chassis behind the cab, restraint was even more vital than in the tractor to avoid disturbing the traction control.

After these two, admittedly short, journeys in unladen vehicles, we have to conclude that from a driving perspective, any reasonably skilled driver with the maturity to keep the power in check would pretty quickly come to appreciate the tranquility and effortlessness that electric traction in proper working trucks provides.

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Smart Tacho Advice to Dispel the Myths

smart-tachograph

The next generation of digital tachograph arrived on 15th June, and as with all new compliance-led technologies, suspicions have been aroused and assumptions have been made.  In fairness, prior to its launch, information on what technologies were being embedded into the new tachograph (or rather what they actually mean for an operator / driver) has been unclear and this, combined with headlines regarding roadside enforcement, has naturally led to misconceptions being formed and spread via the Chinese whisper effect.

So following the production of our White Paper earlier in the year and our subsequent webinar with Commercial Motor, we’ve gathered all your feedback to dispel the 8 most common myths surrounding the new Smart Tacho, which for this article we will refer to as the Gen 2 Tacho.

As a preface, the good news from the operator and driver’s point of view is that little has really changed and, if you are a law-abiding operator, there is absolutely nothing to fear from the Gen 2 Tacho. 

MYTH 1: Enforcement officers can download data from the vehicle from the roadside.

The new Gen 2 Tacho incorporates a digital short-range communication system (DSRC) for use by the authorities at the roadside. However, enforcement officers CANNOT download any information on the driver or vehicle from the roadside. The misconception comes from the word ‘download’ – the correct terminology is that enforcement officers can “remotely interrogate” or scan a vehicle using the DSRC against 18 key points to determine if they want to stop a vehicle or not.

  1. Vehicle registration plate 
  2. Speeding Event 
  3. Driving Without Valid Card 
  4. Valid Driver Card 
  5. Card Insertion while Driving 
  6. Motion Data Error 
  7. Vehicle Motion Conflict 
  8. 2nd Driver Card 
  9. Current Activity 
  10. Last Session Closed 
  11. Power Supply Interruption 
  12. Sensor Fault 
  13. Time Adjustment 
  14. Security Breach Attempt 
  15. Last Calibration 
  16. Previous Calibration 
  17. Current Speed 
  18. Timestamp

This scanned information cannot be used to issues penalties or as evidence of prosecution – however, it can be used to decide whether or that vehicle should be subject to a roadside enforcement check. Only if an enforcement officer chooses to stop and physically check the vehicle in the conventional way can any further action be taken (as per the status quo).

In essence, with depleting government budgets but more vehicles on the road to ensure are safe, the technology is being employed to bridge this gap and help enforcement officers spot potential rogue operators more easily and effectively - a new tool to help them with their job.

MYTH 2: Drivers who operate multi-vehicles (with Gen 1 and Gen 2 tachographs) will need new Gen 2 Driver Cards.

NO. Current Gen 1 Driver Cards will work in a Gen 2 Tacho, so there is no requirement to purchase a new one. Equally, if you are due to renew or need to replace your Gen 1 Driver Card, you will be automatically sent a ‘Gen 2’ Driver Card, but this will also work in a Gen 1 Tacho – they have inter-operability.

The same rule applies for Company Cards; an operator is able to use a Gen 1 Company Card to “lock in” a vehicle installed with a Gen 2 Tacho and can also use their existing card to initiate a download.

MYTH 3: Smart Tachos will affect Earned Recognition.

As we’ve mentioned, the introduction of the smart tacho is focussed on enforcement, to stop companies who are operating outside of the law. The very principle of Earned Recognition is to recognise good operators and this will continue as normal. The two are not connected.

MYTH 4: Due to short-comings reported on the supply of Gen 2 Tacho heads and gear-box sender units, from 15th June some new vehicles may still be fitted with Gen 1 tachographs making them non-compliant so operators cannot use to use them commercially.

Continental (Siemens VDO) has confirmed they do have supply issues which will not be resolved until August.  Not only that, because VDO also supply the gear-box-sender to the other main tacho head manufacturer, Stoneridge, this has created a major stumbling block for the introduction of the new Gen 2 Tacho.

There are 3 very important points here:

  • In response to this shortfall in supply, the DVSA has released a statement to confirm that until the supply issue is resolved, new vehicles from 15th June can be fitted with a Gen 1 Tacho so can continue operating as normal.
  • However, this response from DVSA only applies to vehicles operating in the UK therefore operators need to be mindful of this fact and seek advice if they have vehicles operating outside of the UK.
  • For operators who have taken delivery of a new vehicle since June 15th, it is advised that they check what tacho head has been fitted, and if it is a Gen 1 Tacho, arrangements will need to be made with your dealer to have a Gen 2 Tacho retro-fitted once the supply issues have been resolved.   Although this gives the operator a bit of flexibility from an enforcement point of view, it’s not clear at this stage who will bear the cost for this retro-fit.

MYTH 5: The new GNSS transponder is a tool for enforcement bodies to spy on a vehicle’s movement.

The GNSS (global navigation satellite system) is a significant development for the new Gen 2 Tacho, which will take a GPS reading of a vehicle’s position at the start and end of duty to an accuracy of 200 metres, and again after every three hours of accumulated driving. If the satellite is obscured, then this will also be recorded by the tachograph. The enforcement bodies will have no remote access to this information, but if a vehicle is stopped the information can be accessed as part of a routine check.

External fleet management systems, used by the operator, will be able to access the live information, but drivers will have to give consent under GDPR rules.

MYTH 6: Downloading equipment will need to be replaced.

Although there are no significant changes to the way the new digital tachograph unit functions from the driver’s or operator’s point of view, there are some changes to the structure and the format to how the data is generated. This means existing downloading devices may not work with the new Gen 2 Tacho or may not download all the additional data from the new tachograph. There is no hard and fast rule, but in some cases the download units might need to be replaced, or if they have been manufactured in the last few years they might simply require a software upgrade. The best advice here is to contact your supplier.

MYTH 7: The smart tachograph will cost more.

Judging by conversations that we have had so far, the operator should not notice any marked increase in cost at the point at which they buy a brand new vehicle and any initial maintenance issues involving the tachograph should be covered by the vehicle’s warranty.

However, potential maintenance issues in the future may well end up being more costly for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is more hardware to maintain as the Gen 2 Tacho is linked to the DSRC transmitter which is usually mounted on the windscreen so there may be additional costs involved with regards to labour and replacement parts. Secondly, the Gen 2 Tacho is paired to the sender unit at point of installation with a crucial difference when compared with the Gen 1 - the sender can only be paired once. This means that if there is an issue with the tachograph and it needs to be replaced, a new sender unit will also need to be installed. Likewise, if there is an issue with the sender unit, the tachograph itself will need to be changed.

In summary, although there may be no initial increase in cost, the operator may well end up paying more for ongoing maintenance once the vehicle’s original warranty has expired.

MYTH 8: If an existing vehicle with a Gen 1 Tacho has to be replaced, it will need to be fitted with a Gen 2 Tacho.

No, any version of Tacho must be replaced like for like, unless you choose to upgrade. There is therefore no requirement to retrofit existing vehicles with Gen 2 Tachos at this stage.

The next few months will be interesting as we see the new Gen 2 Tacho rolled out, but what is clear, the whole premise behind the Gen 2 Tacho is to assist in stopping fraudulent activity and to help enforcement authorities more easily identify operators that are not complying with the law (which can only be a good thing), to aid road safety (the sole purpose for tachographs being introduced back in the 1980s) and to help create a commercial level playing field.

Still want to learn more about new digital tachograph legislation? We have an hour long webinar dedicated to it! Click here to watch it for free.