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The Autonomous Electric Semi Turning Heads

| July 12, 2018

electric

Swedish startup, Einride, has unveiled  plans for an all-electric autonomous semi looking to carve out a niche in an increasingly trendy market.

The new truck, the T-log, has no cab or engine, just a skinny, sculpted, white slab up front. At the back are upright supports to hold the logs in place. The T-log uses an electric drivetrain, with 300 kWh of battery capacity (equivalent to three high-end Teslas, the universal unit for electrics) and a range of 120 miles.

“In Scandinavian and Nordic countries with large logging industries, almost 20 percent of total transport volume is associated with logging,” says Einride CEO Robert Falck. Shifting that over to electric propulsion, instead of diesel, would help cut carbon emissions. “We want to prove that electric vehicles can survive the toughest work.”

Fleet operators are very aware of the bottom line and can be persuaded to try new technologies if there’s financial payback. When it comes to electric propulsion, Einride says removing the engine and replacing it with batteries in the vehicle bed allows a better layout for cargo, and should make trucks cheaper to produce. A smaller footprint means the truck is more flexible on spaces it can reach.

As regulators around the world crack down on carbon emissions, electric trucks are getting ready to rumble.

Einride isn’t the only outfit trying to ditch the human driver along with the diesel. But where Tesla, Volvo, Daimler, and Uber are looking to free up some space in the cab, Einride has done away with it altogether. Instead, its trucks carry a suite of lidar, radar, and camera sensors, feeding information about the environment to Nvidia’s AI supercomputer. (Daimler just selected the same platform for its upcoming self-driving trials in California.)

Acknowledging that computers can’t handle every on-road driving scenario yet, let alone unmarked lanes under heavy tree canopies, Einride will be able to drive its trucks from a remote location, using teleoperation tech provided by Phantom Auto. Again, it’s all about economics. One remote operator can monitor and manage a fleet of vehicles, cutting costs.

Remove the driver, and you remove the need for rest or overnight stops. Intelligent routing software will monitor traffic in real time and direct trucks according to congestion, battery life, and expected delivery time, to run the whole operation as efficiently as possible.

Eventually, Einride wants to create entire trucking ecosystems for customers, handling both the hardware and the software that makes it go. “We are the next generation of truck drivers,” Falck says.

Category: Connected Fleet News, Featured, General Update, Green, News

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