News article

Truck makers join forces during design phase of Electric Freightway

Consortium truck members of GRIDSERVE Electric Freightway Project DAF, Renault and Volvo

GRIDSERVE welcomed its truck manufacturer consortium members to the Braintree Electric Forecourt® this month to begin the eHGV charging infrastructure design phase as part of the Electric Freightway programme – an industry-leading project funded by the Department for Transport and Innovate UK.

This is the first time DAF Trucks (the UK’s best-selling truck manufacturer), Volvo Trucks (the UK and Europe’s market leader in electric HGVs) and Renault Trucks have collaborated to support the advancement of eHGV charging infrastructure, with all manufacturers testing the charge power levels of its models and reviewing both the layout and form factors of existing EV charging bays.

Although the Braintree Electric Forecourt® wasn’t intended for trucks, it does benefit from one 360kW-capable High Power charger in a layby which can accommodate a full articulated tractor and trailer combination. To the surprise of many electric car owners, the eHGV tractors and trailers could also fit beneath the EV charging station’s solar canopy.

This field research is in preparation for the design of both public and depot-based EV charging infrastructure that GRIDSERVE will install during the first two years of the Electric Freightway’s seven-year project lifespan. This includes more than 200 High Power 350kW-capable chargers across key motorway service areas, more than 10 commercial depots and at least two x 1 megawatt (MW) capacity chargers.

Volvo Trucks member of GRIDSERVE Electric Freightway

“We want to understand how best to support the 140 electric trucks that will be involved in the project, and how to provide these myriad use cases with the appropriate infrastructure that will make them work seamlessly for their operators,” explains John Whybrow, eHGV Programme Director for GRIDSERVE. “This is the benefit of having such breadth and depth in our consortium.”

“Braintree is a great facility for electric cars, but now we need the same sort of focus on trucks if we want to move forwards,” argues Ron Smith, Driver Trainer at DAF Trucks and an eHGV advocate. DAF is the last remaining truck manufacturer in the UK and, in a move befitting of its market-leading status, the Leyland-based company has fully embraced the electric era with several product developments.

EV truck charger testing with GRIDSERVE

“We already have a lot of eHGV customers, but we see the current focus around shorter, depot-to-depot deliveries,” he explains. “We could unlock so many new areas with dedicated nationwide infrastructure. We need to see charge points installed along critical routes so it is possible to drive from the south of England to the north of Scotland in an electric truck.”

We can’t forget key ports, too. As an island nation, we’re completely reliant on HGVs importing goods from continental Europe with 76% of all inter-modal journeys involving HGVs beginning or ending at the dock.

DAF Trucks, member of GRIDSERVE Electric Freightway

“The needs of truck drivers are very different to car drivers,” says Martin Kearns, Head of Electric Sales Development at Volvo Trucks UK & Ireland. “These are operational vehicles with payloads and commercials that sit behind them, so charging has to be reliable, consistent and a reservation booking system is going to be critical.”

Martin is standing proudly next to a Volvo FH series truck, 2024’s Electric International Truck of the Year. The FH features a 540kWh battery with 300km (186 mile) range, it comes in the most popular 4×2 (four wheels, driven by two) axle configuration and has a sleeping compartment for multiple use cases. “The product is here; now we need the charging infrastructure.”

eHGV trucks charging with GRIDSERVE

According to Simon Calado, Energy Transition Manager for Renault Trucks UK, business owners still need proof, not only that today’s electric trucks have sufficient range and carrying capacities to do the job intended, but also that the EV charging infrastructure is available, powerful, reliable and fit for purpose.

“As a brand, we [Renault Trucks] probably have the broadest portfolio of electric vehicles on offer, ranging from light commercials all the way up to 44 tonnes. You can easily cover 300kms with battery electric trucks on sale today, but operators need proof that those ranges are repeatable in the real world. An evidence-based approach from the Electric Freightway project will support the argument for battery electric HGVs.”

Renault Trucks, member of GRIDSERVE Electric Freightway

Understanding these routes and use cases, and comparing this data with a baseline of diesel-powered fleets will be supported by our principal partner Hitachi ZeroCarbon. This data will provide the evidence that people like Simon Calado so desperately crave. It will also allow GRIDSERVE to size its charger and energy offering appropriately for the demand, and install infrastructure in the most sought-after locations, helping to bridge the gaps between busy depots and public eHGV charging stations.

The results of these findings are expected to be published in Hitachi ZeroCarbon’s first report on design and feasibility of the Electric Freightway. The report will be released this spring, with GRIDSERVE committing to install its first eHGV chargers in late summer.