Tim Campbell, Managing Director, Vahana Automotive
This article was published in the September 2019 edition of NTEA News.
Ask anyone in the commercial vehicle industry from either side of the Atlantic about the future of alternative fuels, and they’ll likely point to the potential of battery electric vehicles.
The fact that U.S. and Europe are working toward the same goal should come as no surprise as nearly all major OEMs have a presence on both continents — covering the full Class 1–8 range. Companies around the globe — no matter their role, whether upfitter, distributor, OEM, etc. — are focused on delivering new, exciting products and features related to ACE (autonomy, connectivity, electrification).
This April, I moderated a session on connectivity at India’s leading Commercial Vehicle Forum in Pune. Speakers came from various areas in the commercial vehicle industry — from tire suppliers with microchips embedded into the tread and transport operators to telematics suppliers and truck manufacturers such as Tata Motors and Mahindra.
As a general rule, the quest for connected vehicles is the same in the United Kingdom (UK), but as compared to the U.S., vehicle volume is smaller — with almost all coming in as Class 1. In fact, you could almost describe a majority as Class 0.5!
Despite this, connectivity principles stand similar no matter vehicle size — as such, development of an ACE-based work truck and transportation infrastructure is just as vital in the UK as in the U.S.
While India strives to implement a coherent ACE-based program, another country with a 1+ billion population — China — is well on the road in all aspects, particularly electrification. For instance, SAIC Motor Corporation Limited (formerly Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) entered the UK commercial van market around 18 months ago with a 7,700-pound gross vehicle weight electric van. And while numbers are only in the hundreds in UK, they’re over 10,000 for the same electric model in China.
This is the opposite approach from Europe, where the introduction of a new electric commercial van into the UK around the same time as China’s vehicle launch and at roughly the same weight sold less than 10. The manufacturer is struggling to supply the numbers, and the charging technology is not as robust as the Chinese offering.
So, the challenge has begun. U.S. and European manufacturers need to remain focused on staying competitive as we prepare for the next decade where electrification is expected to play a significant role in the alternative fuel sector.
During my global travels, I can clearly see the next stage in work truck (and commercial van) development is well on its way. A key issue is how integration of body, equipment and chassis will meet the goals of ACE and help develop a commercially viable customer product.
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