Mitsubishi Fuso to launch ‘world’s 1st’ electric truck in Japan

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp will start to deliver the “eCanter,” which the company claims is the world’s first mass-produced compact electric truck, in Japan.

Mitsubishi Fuso is a company affiliated with Germany-based Daimler AG. The eCanter was developed based on the “Canter,” whose unit sales is 100,000 per year in the global market. Mitsubishi Fuso developed the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery of the eCanter in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, a luxury car brand of the Daimler group. The drive range of the truck is expected to be 100km (approx 62.1 miles per charge).

Mitsubishi Fuso will deliver 25 units of the truck to each of 7-Eleven Japan Co Ltd and Yamato Transport Co Ltd. They will start to be used in or after November 2017. The truck is manufactured in Japan and Portugal. Mitsubishi Fuso plans to produce 150 units within 2017, expecting to increase the production volume in 2018.

“There are great advantages in introducing EV trucks,” 7-Eleven Japan President Kazuki Furuya said.

The EV truck can reduce not only the amount of exhaust gas but also noise and vibration, decreasing the physical load on the driver, compared with conventional diesel trucks.

In addition, the EV truck can reduce cost at the time of running. It is expected to reduce cost by up to 1,000 euro per 10,000km, compared with diesel trucks. In the case of 7-Eleven Japan, each of the EV trucks will deliver to about 10 stores. The running distance of the truck is planned to be several kilometers per round though it differs depending on the region.

The dimensions of the eCanter are 5,935 (L) x 1,995 (W) x 2,195mm (H), which are suited for delivery in urban areas with a narrow road width. The total mass of the truck is 7,490kg. Its riding capacity is three people.

The battery, motor, inverter, etc, which are the main components of the electric truck, are procured from European, South Korean and the US companies. The capacity of the Li-ion battery (the most important component) is 66kWh per truck. It is realized by connecting six 11kWh battery packs.

Two longitudinally-arranged battery packs are located on each of the right and left sides between the front and rear wheels. The remaining two packs are stacked in the center front part of the vehicle to secure a place for a motor. Mitsubishi Fuso will change the number of battery packs in accordance with the demands in each market. As a result, it becomes easier to adjust drive range, vehicle price, etc.

The battery cells are purchased from South Korea-based SK innovation Co Ltd. They are assembled into modules, packs, etc at Germany-based Deutsche Accumotive GmbH & Co KG, a battery manufacturer affiliated with the Daimler group. The number of cells is 100 per pack and 600 per truck.

Battery shared with Mercedes-Benz PHEVs

For the eCanter, a pouch-type cell was employed. There were other candidates such as the “18650” cell (diameter: 18mm, length: 65.0mm), which was employed by Tesla Inc and is used for consumer products in large quantities, and angular cells. However, in consideration of the Daimler group’s global procurement, the pouch-type cell is competitive, Mitsubishi Fuso said.

The battery pack of the eCanter will also be used for the “S Class PHEV” and “GLE PHEV” plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), which are scheduled to be mass-produced under the Mercedes-Benz brand. Mitsubishi Fuso considers that, if the production volume increases and it becomes possible to design a battery pack only for the truck, the number of batteries per truck can be increased.

For the eCanter, “CHAdeMO,” a mainstream charging method used in Japan, was employed. It takes about 11 hours to charge the truck in the case of normal charging (voltage: 200V) and about 1.5 hours in the case of rapid charging.

As a driving motor, a “permanent magnet-type synchronous motor” was employed. It is procured from a Europe-based motor manufacturer. Its maximum output and maximum torque are 135kW and 390N·m, respectively. EV trucks require a motor that can realize a higher torque than passenger EVs.

At this point, it is impossible to establish a large-scale volume production system for the eCanter, making it difficult to design a motor only for the truck. So, Mitsubishi Fuso saved cost by using an industrial motor designed for construction machines.

“When the number increases, it will become possible to use a motor designed exclusively for the truck, enabling to improve vehicle performance,” Mitsubishi Fuso said.

The inverter, which is another important component, is procured from the U.S.-based manufacturer.

“Japanese manufacturers of parts of passenger cars have excellent technologies,” the company said. “However, foreign manufacturers are superior in terms of truck parts.”

It seems to be difficult to employ Japanese parts, which need to be newly designed, for the eCanter, for which vehicle cost is important.

“If possible, we want to use Japanese parts, which have a high reliability,” the company said.

Mitsubishi Fuso will give consideration to responses of users including Seven-Eleven and Yamato Transport and use them for development of new electric vehicles.

“In the future, we will engage in development with a view to developing middle- and large-size electric trucks,” Mitsubishi Fuso Chair Kazuo Matsunaga said.

Mitsubishi Fuso plans to tap the electric truck market with the eCanter, lower the costs of main components through volume production and use the lower-cost parts of the eCanter for middle- and large-size electric trucks to be released in the future. In the Daimler group, which is a gigantic organization, the company is developing a clear strategy for electric vehicles.

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