Maxus will launch an all-electric tractor unit in the UK by 2024 with a driving range of up to 560km.
Harris Group, UK distributor for the Maxus range, are behind the plans for a 4x2 tractor unit development vehicle that will undergo trials in the UK next year before production vehicle deliveries begin in Q3 of 2024. Several high-profile own-account operators are already said to be interested in trialling the vehicle during its pre-production testing, which is scheduled for late 2023 and early 2024.
The chassis for the test vehicle will be based on the Iveco S-WAY that is currently built for the Chinese market, a joint venture between the Italian manufacturer and Maxus’ parent company SAIC Motor, with swappable battery packs from Contemporary Amperex Technology located behind the cab.
The UK development vehicle will use the same driveline, but batteries will likely be chassis-mounted to enable it to run a standard trailer without exceeding overall maximum length limits.
The 4x2 tractor is expected to be plated at 42 tonnes, rather than 40 tonnes for a 5-axle combination, making use of the special derogation for electric vehicles. Lower GCW vehicles plated at 18 tonnes and 26 tonnes will also be launched using the same chassis and driveline.
According to documents seen by CM, future production models will have chassis-mounted batteries but the vehicles’ electrical architecture will differ from the current generation truck. Launch models for 2024 will use the same cab and chassis as the truck now on sale in China but get a new, slightly heavier 5-tonne ternary lithium battery that will nearly double the current vehicle’s 320km range to 560km. There will also be the option of a smaller battery returning 500km of range.
Charging will be though rapid DC charging at up to 250kW, which should enable battery charges of up to 80% capacity in less than two hours. Power for the electric motor is said to be the equivalent of 650hp, while the total unrestricted geared torque output could exceed 40,000Nm. There are no plans for a 6x2 tractor unit. However, a 6x4 option using the smaller of the two battery options and paired to twin motors could feature in the range.
CM understands that the testing and launch timeframes are subject to the right-hand-drive version of the vehicle being homologated by the end of July. A delay could see a lengthy postponement as the current vehicle would then have to comply with different regulations.
Speaking about the testing of the development vehicle, Harris Maxus general manager Mark Barrett said: “For the majority of the UK usage, from hub to hub, it’s in a controlled environment in terms of range but we’re looking at all types of usage scenarios and in winter conditions. We need to be realistic – a range of 200 miles – we’re going after a niche market. We’ll get customers to test it in their own environment and feed that back to the factory.”
The new truck will be supported by a growing UK network of Maxus dealers, which currently has 46 sales and maintenance sites and nine aftersales only dealers. The network already includes several well-known independent heavy truck dealers as well as sites in Motus, North East Truck & Van, Northside Truck & Van and Rygor networks.
At the CV Show last month, Maxus revealed the Mifa 9, a passenger car MPV, as well as the T90EV, a new all-electric pick-up truck – a first for the UK market.
“Heavy trucks for Harris is our bread and butter; we’ve knowledge of the truck world and an electric motor is an electric motor. We need about 14 more dealers, and they’ll be a mixture of both light and heavy – we want to keep everyone happy,” Barrett said, adding that the electric truck has to make sense financially for operators.
“It must be feasible from an economic point of view, which we know in a tractor unit is very important. I’m hoping it won’t be that expensive. We’ll be in a realistic world with price when we launch,” he said.
Maxus expects the tractor unit to attract interest from parcel carriers as well as supermarkets for their trunking operations, but hopes to widen the appeal of its electric range with 7.5-tonne and 12-tonne models in the years after launch.