With electric cars gradually overcoming range and pricing obstacles to become more competitive with liquid fuel contemporaries, electric vehicle technology is branching out, little by little. Tesla has plans to introduce trucks and buses next year, and Daimler announced Fuso E-Cell truck trials earlier this year. Now a lesser known player is revealing its own e-truck plans. British outfit Charge, the official electric truck partner of Formula E, has provided the first look at its futuristic production model, which it plans to start rolling out on highways next year.
We're not really in love with the wall-like front-end – the more rounded driver cab of Charge's Formula E prototype support truck looks a little less ridiculous – but Charge claims that the real innovation will come in the construction behind that flat face. At a reveal event in London last week, it detailed plans to build electric trucks, sized 3.5 to 26 tonnes, from lightweight composites, using a modular method that allows one person to assemble a full truck in just four hours, equating to a 10,000-truck/year production capacity with a staff of just 10.
Charge believes its materials, construction methods and proprietary electrical hardware will drop significant amounts of weight while reducing truck operating costs by some 50 percent. It estimates a 100-mile (160-km) zero-emissions range and mentions a dual-mode range extension solution pushing that to a total of 500 miles (805-km), though it doesn't say exactly what type of range extender it's thinking of using.
"We find trucks today totally unacceptable," says Charge CEO Denis Sverdlov. "At Charge we are making trucks the way they should be – affordable, elegant, quiet, clean and safe. We are removing all the barriers to entry for electric vehicles by pricing them in line with conventional trucks, giving every fleet manager, tradesman or company the opportunity to change the way they transport goods and make our towns and cities better places to live in."
Charge's truck design doesn't just look futuristic; it's built with the future in mind. The company claims its trucks will be autonomous-ready, capable of being upgraded with self-driving capabilities when the regulatory environment so allows. Other hardware systems will also be upgradable, relying on over-the-air updates, just like smartphones and other mobile gadgets.
Sound like an awful high number of grand plans and promises for a company you may never have heard of before this article? We'd say so and will put Charge's trucks in the same "believe it when we see it for real" file as Nikola trucks.
Charge does have some real-world experience to point to, however. Back in April, it signed on as the official electric truck partner of Formula E, and its prototype has been keeping busy performing support duties for the race series, experience that will inform development of the production truck. The company is also involved in Formula E spinoff Roborace, an autonomous racing series.
Charge plans to open its first factory near its Oxfordshire headquarters and get its trucks to market next year.