As the world looks towards electrifying the way we travel, several manufacturers are working on how to charge up the vehicles we use to haul goods as well. Some companies are honing in on local and regional delivery while others want to figure out how to get goods the long haul. Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the production version of its long-haul truck. The Mercedes-Benz eActros 600 is said to be a long-haul semi with 311 miles of range on tap and the ability to charge fast enough from a megawatt charger to complete over 621 miles in a driving shift.
Electric commercial vehicles are getting exciting. On the smaller end, Bollinger’s Class 4 truck makes delivery trucks fun to drive. Harbinger wants to make a delivery driver’s job easier and RVs innovative with its scalable chassis. In the Class 8 space, Tesla’s range remains unbeaten. That said, we’re nearing a year since the Tesla Semi was unveiled and we still don’t know exactly how heavy it is or other exact specs. Our best guess is more or less 10 Model S batteries. At the very least, those trucks really do seem to be able to go 500 miles with a load. Mercedes-Benz is next to amp up the Class 8 truck, and the brand is giving up most of its truck’s specs.
Years In The Making
While the eActros 600 is a new development, Mercedes has been working on electrifying semis for years. In fact, Mercedes itself has been in the trucking business for longer than anyone reading this has been alive.
Mercedes-Benz says its trucking business started in 1896 when Gottlieb Daimler sold the world’s first truck. Even in modern retrospectives the Daimler truck, which was more or less a powered wagon, gets credit for the first truck and it even looks like the distant ancestor of the cabover.
The truck this new EV is based on is the Actros, a staple of Mercedes trucking since 1996. That truck’s innovations included CAN bus, electronically controlled air brakes, automated gear shifting, and a cab with a level floor. That’s cool enough, but in the Actros’ very next generation, Mercedes added adaptive cruise control, active brake assist, lane keeping assist, better aero, and more. Mind you, this was a semi-truck in 2003!
Mercedes-Benz Trucks says it began its journey of electrified trucks back in 2014 with the Fuso Canter E-Cell. When that truck successfully demonstrated that electric trucks could work, Mercedes-Benz Trucks announced the eActros in 2016. In the years since Mercedes has developed the eActros 300 with its 336 kWh batteries and the eActros 400 with its 448 kWh battery.
Those trucks can travel up to around 205 miles and up to around 249 miles, respectively. Production of the eActros kicked off in 2021, and even back then, Mercedes-Benz said it had a long-haul version in the works, targeting 2024 for a release date.
Now we’re here, and Mercedes-Benz appears to be on time to deliver its promise.
The Mercedes-Benz eActros 600
The headlining feature of the new eActros 600 is its range. Mercedes-Benz Trucks says the big rig can travel 500 kilometers without recharging. And to be clear, that’s 500 kilometers (311 miles) fully-loaded. To test this out, Mercedes took a prototype eActros on a long-haul trip of over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) through mountains where the truck needed to charge just once. From Mercedes-Benz Trucks:
[D]evelopment engineers from Mercedes-Benz Trucks have successfully completed a test run across the Alps with the battery electric eActros 600 for long-distance haulage. The engineers drove the prototype, which had been loaded up to 40 tons, from Stuttgart – via the steep rise to the Swabian Jura mountain range at Aichelberg, Kufstein and the Brenner Highway – to Bolzano in South Tyrol. Despite the demanding topography, the e-truck managed the 530 kilometer trip completely without intermediate charging and arrived in Bolzano after a roughly seven hour journey. After a single charge, the engineers started off on the home run – once again with no intermediate charging. This means the fully loaded eActros 600 traveled more than 1,000 kilometers with only one stop for charging. This test result was made possible by the combination of an efficient drive, high battery capacity and high-performance recuperation.
The secret sauce of Mercedes’ new truck is in its batteries. Bolted to the chassis are three lithium iron phosphate batteries, each rated at 207 kWh, adding up to 621 kWh. That’s how the new truck gets the ‘600’ in its name. Mercedes says these LFP batteries are characterized by their long service lives. The truck manufacturer says its engineers designed an electric truck that should last as long as a diesel counterpart.
To Mercedes-Benz Trucks, that means a life of up to 1.2 million kilometers (745,645 miles) in ten years. When the truck reaches that milestone, Mercedes says its batteries should still have over 80 percent capacity remaining. Mercedes-Benz Trucks further points out that LFP doesn’t require nickel or cobalt while allowing for 95 percent of the installed capacity to be used, squeezing out more range for commercial operators.
When it comes to charging, Mercedes-Benz says the eActros 600 can charge from 20 percent to 80 percent in 30 minutes when the tractor is connected to a megawatt charger. You’re looking at Combined Charging System rates of up to 400kW, which is far better than the competition, save for the Tesla Semi, which currently feeds from 750kW chargers.
Those batteries power an eAxle developed by the truck manufacturer. Mercedes says the axle has an 800-volt architecture, two motors, and a four-speed transmission. Peak output is about 804 HP and continuous output is rated at 536 HP. Mercedes-Benz Trucks does not say for how long you can punch out 804 HP, but does say full output is available “most of the time.”
While Mercedes-Benz doesn’t state the tractor’s weight, it does say that the truck’s gross combination weight rating is 44 metric tonnes (97,000 pounds) and payload is 22 metric tonnes (48,500 pounds) with a standard trailer. Of course, Europe’s trucking is a bit different than we get here. In most states, electric trucks max out at an 82,000-pound GCW. When Mercedes hauled that load through a mountain range? It was loaded to a GCW of 88,184 pounds.
In addition to the EV tech, there’s a host of driver aids including Active Brake Assist 6, Frontguard Assist, Active Sideguard Assist 2, and Active Drive Assist 3. The truck’s safety systems feed from six sensors with a 270-degree view around the rig. Mercedes says the eActros 600 can stop itself if it detects a potential collision with a pedestrian or cyclist, so long as the truck isn’t going faster than 37 mph at the time. The truck’s safety systems are capable of monitoring the truck and its entire length of load as well as warning the driver of dangerous events in hectic situations, such as heavy traffic. Of course, since EVs are silent, the truck also emits sound so people outside know it’s there.
The truck also comes with a choice of two power take-offs to power equipment or refrigerated trailers. One of these PTOs is an electric-mechanical power take-off that can operate hydraulic or mechanical equipment including as tippers, sliding floor, or silo trailers. The other choice converts DC to AC power for reefers or similar. Mercedes says these PTOs can output as much as 90 kW of power.
The eActros 600 gets all of this wrapped in a cabover-style rig that Mercedes aerodynamically optimized. It’s still a brick pushing through wind, but the tractor is rounded off with flaps, deflectors, and spoilers trying their best to slip the cab through the air. Mercedes has decided to stick to a more traditional cab with this truck, and its interior isn’t anything wild, unlike what you’ll see inside of Tesla’s Semi.
All of this is a part of Daimler’s plan to phase out its internal combustion trucks. Currently, the manufacturer assembles 472 diesel trucks a day and by the end of the decade, it wants most of those trucks to be electric. Over here in America, Daimler’s targets are less drastic, but still ambitious as it expects 30 percent of Freightliner’s medium- and heavy-duty trucks to be electric by the end of the 2020s. Daimler wants all of its trucks sold in the United States, Europe, and Japan to be carbon-neutral by 2039.
Mercedes says these trucks will go into series production by the end of next year. Right now, about 50 units are going into fleet trials in Europe. Here in America, the eActros foreshadows future developments by Daimler Truck North America. Right now, the firm’s best offering here is the Freightliner eCascadia, which goes up to 230 miles with its 438 kWh battery.
On paper, Mercedes’ new truck comes out on top of most of the competition. The Volvo VNR Electric can go 275 miles with its 565 kWh battery. Peterbilt has the 579 EV, which can go about 150 miles from its 400 kWh battery. Really, the Merc is bettered only by the Nikola Tre BEV with up to 330 miles from its 733 kWh battery, as well as the Tesla Semi’s 500 miles of range. It will be interesting to see how Freightliner tweaks this platform for an American truck.
[Editor’s Note: I’d just like to point out this awesome video of Jay Leno driving the upcoming Tesla Semi, and chatting with Tesla about the tech:
Jay was the keynote speaker at a Gala that I missed last weekend, as I was a best man at my friend’s wedding. Worth it, of course, but I’d someday love to meet The Legend. -DT]/
(Images: Mercedes-Benz Trucks)
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