Tech Talk

Brisbane to Sydney electric truck highway on track to be running by Christmas

electric truck highway

What a difference two years makes in the ever-changing world of electric truck conversion technology.

Since its debut at the 2021 Brisbane Truck Show, NSW start-up Janus Electric has made impressive headway, all without any funding love from state or federal agencies who continue to be putting all their faith in hydrogen.

Companies like Cement Australia, Fennel Forestry and Qube are on board, and Janus is also now working with CHL and Bunnings using its converted Western Star.

At this year’s Brisbane Truck Show, CEO Lex Forsyth gave Big Rigs a close-up look at why he’s confident that more companies are soon to follow suit, the new JCM 540 conversion module, complete engine, air compressor, hydraulic power steering, air con, cooling sys- tem, all built on to the one module, which has a 720hp, or 540kW Dyna motor.

“And then it’s got a 16-speed transmission bolted into the back of it. So, it’s one gearbox, one motor package and then all the ancillary systems on top of the motor are hooked into the high voltage, so it’s reduced cabling, and a lot of things that could go wrong have been engineered out of the truck.

“It’s very much a very simple solution.”

With the batteries now loaded into the side of the truck – in 2021 they were put into the front – the JCM 540 directly bolts into where the diesel engine comes out.

“So, there’s no modification to the front grille, everything is going in to where the original motor was in the truck and it’s sped up conversion times.”

That will now set you back $170,000 but Forsyth says that equates to a two- year payback if you’re doing 180,000-200,000km per year – a year if you’re running over 300,000km – just in diesel and maintenance savings.

Those kinds of numbers are resonating. Forsyth tells us he has 150 firm orders and another 450 expressions of interest, and a couple of trucks going to the US.

Although Janus has sidestepped the axle weight issues other OEMs are striking with electric vehicles due to its ability to tailor where the battery goes to get the weight off the steer axle, Forsyth believes the federal government “forgot about trucks” in its latest budget.

In the US, Forsyth says fleet owners already receive a $108,000 assistant package to convert their vehicle to electric.

“I don’t believe we can all live on government handouts, but I think the government can play an active role in just clearing the legislation, or putting a consistent rule factor in place for zero emissions around axle weights.

“Clear the ADR backlogs, and then also help with the recharging networks and not just have a policy focused on one energy source or one energy solution.”

Janus has just launched the electric solar highway project, a new initiative aimed at Class 8 trucks that it hopes will see solar farms and renewable energy charge and change stations along the M1 of Australia’s east coast and Adelaide from 2024.

“We’re committed to making an electric highway, and we’ll do it,” Forsyth said.

“I don’t think the government should be picking winners. They’ve got to look at it and say there’s a transition period, and let the market determine what’s going to be the winner.

“We look at what’s being thrown into hydrogen and what’s going into electric and it’s totally out of whack.”

Even so, Forsyth is confident that Janus will have electrified the Brisbane-Sydney run by Christmas, with just four minutes needed to change batteries out along the way.

“We’ve spoken to Jim Pearson and what we’ll probably do is throw a few spare batteries on and we’ll do a couple of runs and just have a B-double loaded to 68.5 tonnes.

“We’ll drop in and swap out batteries on the way just to do some testing.”

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