Lex Forsyth believes that any operator who commits to an electric truck with a fixed amount of battery capacity has rocks in their head.
“Because they’re limiting their technology to what’s available today,” Forsyth told Big Rigs at the Janus Electric stand during the recent Brisbane Truck Show.
You have to be fluid in the fast-moving electric heavy vehicle game, and the Janus general manager is adamant that no one is adapting quicker than his NSW Central Coast-based operation with its revolutionary change and charge patented battery system for prime movers.
Already the way the game-changing giant lithium battery is inserted into its slot under the hood of the Kenworth T403 on display has been superseded by a mark two version, requiring no interaction with the driver or forklift operator.
Even more exciting for Forsyth, though, is how fast the technology within the box casing itself is changing.
“New cells have arrived now that we’re testing at the moment that give us 20 per cent more capacity than what we’ve got now,” said Forsyth.
“They’re talking about solid states coming around Christmas time, early 2022, and that will give us a 50 per cent increase in our capacity.
“Eventually we’ll have batteries that’ll do 1000km, batteries that will do 1500km. The driver will pull up and say ‘I’m going to Melbourne [from Brisbane], give me an 1800km battery. They’ll have that flexibility of choice.”
The only thing that doesn’t change is the box in which the battery is housed, with the cabover version a little smaller in width but longer on top than the one on display in Brisbane.
“That is the beauty of our system. It’s all about being able to give the flexibility to the fleet operator to get the latest technology.”
Until then, Janus is focused on a series of road tests between Brisbane and Sydney with four converted prime movers, including a new Kenworth T610 that will be fitted out and on the road by early November.
At present the battery technology only allows for around 400-500km for a loaded B-double – up to 600km with smaller applications – which means changing out batteries at one of four charge and change stations: Hemmant in Brisbane, Taree, Coffs Harbour and Prestons in Sydney.
Users either pay $110 per battery use, or $140 per 24 hours, but under Forsyth’s initial modelling, operators will still save almost 50 per cent on running costs when compared to those of a diesel prime mover along the same Sydney to Brisbane route.
It costs $85,000 to covert a prime mover to the battery-powered system, but Forsyth says those making the investment will recoup that outlay in a year after factoring in fuel cost-savings and resale value of the diesel engine.
Forsyth appreciates there will be those in the industry who are sceptical about the feasibility of the Janus ‘swap-and-go’ model and whether it will catch on.
But with cell technology advancing so quickly, he is adamant that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a commercial reality.
“We’re building a network, but the beautiful thing about our network with electricity is that the national distribution system is already built.
“We just have to tap into it – the grid’s there.”