A pioneering Australian electric truck company is calling on the Albanese government to take urgent action to fix a glaring shortcoming in the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) for zero emission vehicles.
Under the current code, zero emission trucks with a steer axle weight of over 6 tonnes (as most large diesel powered trucks are) do not comply because the current code specifically requires a Euro 4 or above IC engine, leaving companies such as NSW-based start-up Janus Electric unable to put its ever-expanding range of converted Class 8 prime movers into commercial operation.
Several of the trucks Janus had converted from diesel to fully electric heavy-haulers had been due to hit the road this month, including a Western Star for Holcim which was to be powered by the company’s first charge-and-change battery station near the Port of Brisbane.
But there is currently no provision in the regulations that allow zero emission vehicles that are over 6-tonne on the steer axle mass to comply.
“We’ve got trucks ready to go to work, but they’re at a standstill – it’s just ridiculous,” said frustrated Janus Electric co-founder and general manager Lex Forsyth.
Forsyth says Janus Electric has written to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and Transport Minister Catherine King in the hope of finding a speedy solution.
But King’s office hasn’t responded to its pleas, and the regulator says its hands are tied by the failings in the current legislation.
The best current option being considered, appears to be whether a new provision can be inserted into the ADR80/03, the minimum standard for heavy vehicles, according to an email from the NHVR to Janus sighted by Big Rigs.
“Unfortunately, as this step is sitting with the federal department the timelines are not something the NHVR has control or influence over,” the email from the NHVR said.
If this option does get the go-ahead, Janus would still have to wait until the end of the year, or the first part of 2023, for the modification plates from authorities. The company faces an even longer delay – up to 18 months – if an amendment to the national regulations is required to update the existing mass concession, warns the NHVR.
Forsyth says it would be a simple fix to insert one line into the ADR code and has outlined the necessary change in a letter to King.
“Surely some common sense can come into play here,” said Forsyth. “There’s a major disconnect, and I don’t want this to be seen as just a Janus issue.
“This affects any vehicle manufacturer who wishes to produce and sell a zero-emission prime mover in the Australian market.
“Every battery-electric and fuel-cell prime mover is going to have that same problem, and even the Euro 6 prime movers that are coming in.
“The technology is here before the legislation is in place to take it on board. There’s a total misalignment between government grants, funding and the industry.
“They’re trying to encourage us to bring zero emissions to our transport network and fleets, but they haven’t got the legislation framework in place to be able to do it.”
Forsyth says you only have to look at the trucks on display at the recent IAA trade show in Hannover, Germany, to see how the ADR failing could impact on uptake of zero emission prime movers here.
“Every battery electric vehicle Class 8 prime mover is heavier than 6-tonne on the steer. So basically, that means that under the current legislation the OEMs can’t even put trucks into the market.
“You’ve got ARENA [The Australian Renewable Energy Agency] wanting to hand money out for future fuels, but the legislation is not in place to do it, even if you were to import a truck.”
Forsyth says that if the issue isn’t solved soon, Janus Electric will be forced to rethink its immediate future in Australia.
“I’ve got orders in the US and in Europe for far bigger fleets, and we’ll just pick up and leave.
“That’s the same thing the OEMs are doing. They’re not interested in coming to Australia at the moment because the demand overseas for them is huge.”
In an emailed statement, The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts told Big Rigs that it understands the axle mass limits, as currently written, are a concern for heavy vehicle industry as they can impede their uptake of heavier low and zero-emissions trucks in the Australian market.
“The department is working with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and industry to consider options to ensure operators can purchase and safely utilise more low and zero-emissions trucks,” said a department spokesperson.
“The office of the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and the department have been working directly with Janus Electric on the concerns being raised.
“The Australian Government is committed to supporting the affordability, supply and uptake of lower and zero-emissions vehicles in Australia, including heavy vehicles, while ensuring these vehicles meet the safety standards needed to keep people safe on our roads.”