Janus Electric charges ahead with trials

Janus Electric, the NSW start-up transforming diesel-powered prime movers into electric heavy-haulers, is opening its first charge-and-change battery station in Brisbane in early September.

The depot at Hemmant, near the Port of Brisbane, will be first used by its converted Western Star as it does tipper trials for Holcim carting bulk sand around Brisbane to concrete plants.

“We’re honing the charging infrastructure in and starting to do some real-world applications,” said Janus Electric general manager Lex Forsyth.

The milestone opening of the first station, which will also be part of the proposed Brisbane to Sydney route, comes just days after Janus put Cement Australia’s converted T410 through ADR testing in Goulburn at the end of August.

Forsyth expects it to be fully registered by October.

“It’s unbelievable where we’ve got to with our gear shifting as well and the control of the gear boxes,” he said.

“I drove the truck Western Star on Thursday [August 18] and we’re catching trucks up Ourimbah Hill going into Sydney fully loaded.”

A converted Western Star is due to start trials for Holcim in Brisbane from early September.

Forsyth has also recently returned from the US where he’s fielded “significant” interest from major fleets.

“We’ve overcome the problem for them of having to have assets parked up and charging, and they like the idea of the exchangeable technology and also being able to convert existing trucks. 

“So, we’ve got a number of fleets that are interested in the US, and we’re looking at doing some trials in California and Texas next year.”

Forsyth said Janus also has new interest from Unitrans in South Africa.

“They’ve got mining spec Volvo’s there that are doing haulage work for Rio Tinto and a couple of other miners in in the African continent, similar sort of stuff to what we’re doing here with the triple and super quads.

“They’ve reached out and want to start converting some of their existing fleet over there. The level of inquiry that we’ve got right around the world is pretty spectacular.”

Closer to home, Forsyth is also excited about working with the Melbourne division of NewCold, a worldwide frozen food and freezer logistics company.

“They’re putting a charge and change station in Truganina in their facility down there, and we’ve got two trucks going in there to start some trial work for them. 

“So, it’s pretty exciting. They want to roll it out around their other fleets around the world.”

As interest in the Janus Electric exchangeable technology continues to grow, Forsyth says he’d like to see the federal and state governments start to get on board, either by way of investment or helping get facilities open quicker.

“There’s a good step taken forward about fuel emission standards. But one of the things we’re waiting on is for the ADR rules to be updated so that we can run 6.5 tonnes on steer axle, because the ruling says you’ve got to be Euro 4.

“An electric motor doesn’t meet any of those standards because it’s better than Euro 4, but because of that we can’t get a modification plate at the moment for one of the vehicles.

“Just trying to get the legislation and the design rules in Australia to catch up to electric vehicles is frustrating.”

As for the proposed Brisbane to Sydney route, Forsyth says there are also a couple of issues around charge and change sites which have been compounded by recent flooding events on the east coast.

“We’re trying to finalise a site at Taree at the moment. We were looking at Grafton but the issue around Grafton was with those one-in-a-hundred-year floods.

“A lot of the sites that we had allocated were compromised with that; it doesn’t make sense to put battery assets in floodways.

“We’re working on a site in Ballina at the moment but the biggest challenge I think we face is getting the adequate electrical grid connections to be able to run the charge and change stations in a timely manner.”

Forsyth says Janus will have Mount Gambier and Port Augusta charge and change sites open sooner.

Qube trucks are expected to be utilising the Port Augusta depot by the end of October, while Mount Gambier-based Fennell Forestry is on track to have the first electrified logging B-double working in the ‘green triangle’ in operation by September.

“We’re very confident with what we’re doing, and this is all starting to come to fruition and starting to work really well now,” said Forsyth.

Forsyth is also confident that the cause of the July 14 battery fire that destroyed the prototype Kenworth T403 at its Berkeley Vale base on the NSW Central Coast is also no longer an issue.

“What we found is that one of the plugs that we have engineered out of the battery was one of the contributing factors. We had what we call a ‘hot joint’ in a plug.” 

Forsyth said the other factor was the constant power to the BMS units in the now defunct generation 3 battery.

“That truck was basically waiting to come in to get the upgrades because we’re up to generation 4 battery now.

“It is new technology, and I can’t say that will never ever, ever happen again. But we have certainly taken some major steps in preventing and engineering out the issues that we’ve had. 

“We’re very confident with what we’ve done, and the changes that we’ve made to the batteries, that that risk of fire will not be there again.

“But that’s part of the part of the parcel of what we’re doing at the moment, you know, we’ve got some of the largest batteries on these vehicles than on any other trucks in the world.”

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