Now that more people around the world use all-electric rides like the trendsetter Tesla Model 3, the affordable Wuling HongGuan Mini EV, and European favorites Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf, it’s only a matter of time before we see delivery and cargo trucks that run purely on electricity roaming our streets
There is no doubt that all-electric trucks will be part of the future of commercial vehicles. And that’s a market Isuzu Motors would like to lead as it begins mass producing electric commercial trucks next year, according to Nikkei Asia.
With this move, Isuzu Motors becomes the first Japanese company to enter a market currently dominated by Chinese and European manufacturers such as BYD, SAIC Motor, Daimler Trucks, Ford and Volvo.
This announcement comes after Isuzu Motors early this year announced its long-term agreements with Volvo Truck for technology, and with Toyota and Hino for next-generation small-truck development in battery EV, fuel-cell and autonomous driving systems.
Flexible vehicle platform
The flexible vehicle platform that Isuzu Motors has developed for its EV initiative can be used for 1,500 types of vehicles with applications in logistics and other industries and intends to price them competitively with diesel trucks. Currently, electric trucks are estimated to cost twice as much as their diesel counterparts, not including subsidies.
The report also said Isuzu plans to concentrate on larger trucks with 2 to 3 tons of load capacity that can be used for moving and construction.
It already prepared its main factory in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture (southwest of Tokyo) for this endeavor so it could turn out around 10,000 electric trucks annually by 2030.
Four years in the making
As early as 2018, Isuzu Motors has been experimenting on electrified versions of its N-Series and F-Series trucks, sending them to select fleet customers for evaluation, test and monitoring.
Isuzu Australia, in fact, developed electric versions of the NQR and FSR trucks that feature a 22kW on-board charging system and cable which reduces reliance on EV charging stations as it can be plugged into a standard industrial 400-415V three-phase socket. It also features battery packs that are well protected within chassis rails. With the absence of a conventional engine and transmission, weight distribution is close to that of a diesel-powered truck, the engineers reported.
Also in 2018, Isuzu Motors unveiled its N Series electric light-duty truck with a maximum loading capacity of 3,000 kg. The Isuzu electric LDV has a range of 100 km and its two 40kWh lithium batteries are located between the right front and rear wheels and between the left front and rear wheels, respectively. These same batteries could be used to power its cold-storage facility.
Isuzu Motors believed that electric vehicles are a possible solution for local zero emission mobility and transportation, especially in urban areas. It further added that an electric light truck can be easily used for delivery operation in cities and that even range anxiety that a lot of drivers may raise as a concern would already be negligible.
Isuzu Motors is now taking advantage of the declining initial purchase price that fleets have to deal with when acquiring electric trucks. Prices are coming down as manufacturers are able to scale production and the fact that prices of lithium-ion battery packs are also decreasing. Prices have already declined 89 percent in the last decade and are expected to continue to fall.
Finally, utilities are slowly but surely figuring out how to partner with fleets to appropriately build out charging infrastructure to support these electric trucks. Even issues around high-power charging (so truck drivers would no longer need to stay long unnecessarily on stations), managed or “smart” charging, and interoperability are also being addressed.
For truck makers like Isuzu Motors, going all-electric requires team effort that goes far beyond the vehicle manufacturers as governments, utilities and a new ecosystem of technicians must be brought on board. But the transition accelerated last year as more—amid a raging pandemic—big names pushed all-electric trucking fleets closer to reality.
Despite 2020 being a sluggish year for the global automobile industry, electric passenger car sales continued to grow—from close to zero in 2010 to 10.2 million last year.
Charles E. Buban is an old timer in the Philippine automotive journalism scene. He first started covering the automotive beat in 2003, writing news and reviews of new models and car tech, among other car-related stuff. When not writing about cars, he could often be seen riding his mountain bike or doing long walks in the hope of catching a couple of legendary Pokemons.