A consortium called Escalate, with 37 members from 13 different countries around Europe, is working to develop and build a number of pilot vehicles for a project aimed at producing the next generation of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).
Five pilot vehicles are due to be built over the next three years as part of this €19m (£16.3m) project. One of these pilot vehicles is being built by Blackburn-based commercial vehicle manufacturer Electra.
Electra recently won funding from the Horizon Europe 2022 framework to build a 40-tonne drawbar battery electric vehicle (BEV) capable of a 800km (497 miles) range on a single charge. Horizon Europe is an EU funding programme providing grants to research and innovation projects seeking to tackle issues like climate change.
The Lancashire firm says that it will use the chassis of one of its existing models, the eStar LEM27-350, as a starting point for the new truck – which will feature a drawbar trailer, what it has described as energy efficient refrigerated systems and lightweight solar panels, pictured below.
In addition, digital twin technology will be used to ‘speed up the testing and verification process’. Digital twins are increasingly being used by major companies like Mercedes-Benz to run simulations and track operational efficiency.
Ben Smith, managing director of Electra Commercial Vehicles, said: “We are very excited to be involved with this project while working with multiple new companies. The ground-breaking technology they will bring to the vehicle will shape a new chapter in Electra’s story.
“We are eager to showcase our industry-leading capability to design and integrate components into heavy-duty long-haul trucks. This project will be the perfect platform to demonstrate our skills and expertise in delivering sustainable zero-emission propulsion solutions.”
Battery electric vehicles only accounted for 0.2% of HGVs and 0.9% of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) licensed for use on UK roads in Q3 2022, according to data from the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Once built, Electra’s pilot vehicle will be demonstrated in the UK and Germany.