Electrified trailer cuts fuel consumption in semi-trucks by 36.3%

Electrified trailer cuts fuel consumption in semi-trucks by 36.3%
A plug 'n' play electrified trailer that reduces fuel consumption on trucks to about the level they can do without a trailer on
A plug 'n' play electrified trailer that reduces fuel consumption on trucks to about the level they can do without a trailer on
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A plug 'n' play electrified trailer that reduces fuel consumption on trucks to about the level they can do without a trailer on
A plug 'n' play electrified trailer that reduces fuel consumption on trucks to about the level they can do without a trailer on
The trailer works immediately with any truck cab, without any modifications
The trailer works immediately with any truck cab, without any modifications

Range Energy makes truck trailers, with a clever connection to any standard tractor cab, loaded with electric powertrains to turn any semi into an efficient hybrid. They also let you push entire trailers around by hand at the depot in "shopping cart mode."

Range's 53-foot (16-m) RA-01 trailer packs its own 200-kWh battery, as well as an 800-volt e-axle powertrain that can put up to 14,000 Nm (10,326 lb-ft) of torque, at up to 350 kW (469 hp), through the rear wheels. The same battery also feeds a rear liftgate and powered landing gear.

It works with any electric or diesel-powered cab and is perfectly suitable for fleet operations, without any modification to the trucks. It takes its cues from a smart kingpin, which basically senses the acceleration and braking loads that the tractor is putting on the trailer, and uses its electric motors to help out.

Thus, when the cab accelerates and pulls on the kingpin, the motors add torque instantly and proportionally. And when the cab brakes and pushes back against the kingpin, the trailer kicks in with some regenerative braking.

Range Energy Trailer - How It Works

In fuel economy testing performed by Mesilla Valley Transportation Solutions, Range reports a fuel economy boost of 3.25 mpg (72.4 L/100km) , representing a 36.9% efficiency gain against the test truck's standard fuel consumption.

"We're essentially matching the fuel economy you'd get if you were bobtailing your tractor," Range CRO and founder Ali Javidan tells The New Warehouse podcast – bobtailing in this case meaning driving the cab without a trailer attached.

The test was conducted on a "25.5-mile (41-km) urban/highway loop at approximately 59,000 lb (26,760 kg) gross vehicle weight and 60-mph (96.5-km/h) top speeds across multiple scenarios including stop/go and steady-speed portions."

We'd be interested in learning how that translates to real-world situations, where many of these trucks tend to spend the bulk of their time banging out big miles at constant highways speeds.

Range says its first trailers are targeting around a 40% efficiency boost over a range of 200 miles (322 km) – "In a highly loaded city drive cycle, that number's actually 48%," says Javidan, "on a mixed highway and city cycle, it's 41%, and if we're looking at just over the road long-haul trucking, it's a little bit lower than that."

Even beyond that 200-mile range once the battery is completely depleted, Range still expects about a 10-15% efficiency boost over a regular trailer for the rest of the trip, simply through the energy it can capture and release through regenerative braking.

Range RA-01 Electric Trailer Test Day

Javidan channels Mitch Hedberg when talking about what happens in a total system failure.

"It's still a trailer, we default as a trailer," he says. "One of the analogies the guys use is that we're like an escalator. We help you get up to the top, but if we fail, we're still stairs ... Worst case scenario, if all the Silicon Valley bullsh#t fails, it's still a trailer."

The trailer can be charged at either end of the journey, taking 10.5 hours on an AC connection, or as little as 45 minutes using a 350-kW DC fast charger.

There are other benefits; drivers apparently enjoy the lightness and safety factor of driving with the powered trailer, and the fact that it reacts to engine braking just as much as it does to the brake pedal, meaning that it's more relaxing to drive down a hill than an unpowered heavy trailer.

And then there's "shopping cart mode" – which uses a similar control approach to let you disconnect a fully-loaded trailer from the truck and push it around manually like a hand trolley, with the electric motors helping all the way. This system appears still to be at the prototype stage, but you can get an idea of what it'll be like in the video below.

Range Energy - Mule 2 Shopping Cart Mode Demonstration

And Range is building it for future flexibility beyond just the fact that it'll work easily with electric or hydrogen-powered cabs. The battery pack, for example, could be adapted to power a refrigerated trailer. The system has been set up to make it possible, some time in the future, to integrate it with other control systems that might allow larger logistics operations to have trailers move around certain facilities by remote control or autonomously.

"We are beginning to deploy these with our first customers this year, and the goal here is to start scale production in 2024, probably late 2024," says Javidan. "We'll start seeing these things in volume on the roadways, I'd say, in early 2025."

There's no information as yet on the price of the trailers, but given the epic amounts of fuel a typical semi burns in a year, we imagine the business case over time will look pretty dang decent. This seems to us a great way to begin soft-decarbonizing land transport operations without needing big infrastructure changes or the retirement of existing trucks. We look forward to seeing how things develop for Range.

Source: Range Energy

This is absolute genius! I even have a hard time how a billionaire like Elon can design an electric semi and not even give it's trailer single thought! If this was coupled to an electric truck, it would be unstoppable on the roads as far as efficiency and power. 460 odd hp from the trailer and idk exactly but 700 or so hp from the truck would wrap the package deal at around 1000hp! This may also change the weight limits trucks can haul legally if u have stop and go power from the trailer as well as the truck. It must feel light as can be with a diesel truck, imagine with an electric truck with all that instant torque and extra hp. I think they're really on to something here!
The intent of this project is laughable. Trying to obtain better fuel efficiency..... Ha! The purpose of better fuel efficiency is to save money (primarily) and the environment (if convenient). The economics of this system doesn't add up. There are many, many more semi trailers produced than trucks. A good portion of a trailers life is spent sitting on a shipping yard, waiting to be loaded. It would cost prohibitive to outfit a fleet of trailers with this system. It makes much more sense to put the battery and electric motors in the truck where they can be continuously used.
I have some concerns about slippery driving conditions, but otherwise, I love the idea. LTL companies alone should provide a significant market for these trailers. It'd be fun to see them add solar panels and/or a Stirling powered generator to the mix to extend the range of the battery pack, though I'd expect maintenance to become an issue. Good stuff!
What are (1) the weight of the equipped but unloaded trailer, and (2) the max payload of the equipped trailer? Those are crucial numbers for getting to know whether the trailer can be a practical alternative to non-electric trailers.
Well admittedly semi trucks 60 and under going up grades they usually go the speed limit on I10, I40, I79, I80 as they cross America which means 70 to 80 mph. So they need to produce more meaningful testing at Interstate speeds not in the city speeds.

But I have been clamoring for a company to dk this for 10 uears knowing how inportant it will be for the future hauling of all freight by electric. Same thing needs to be done with refrigerated trailers and do away with noisy diesel generators that run all night at truck stoos and keep truckers awake and often thise staying in nearby hotels. Been there done that many times and seen a lot of irritated hitel oatrons fighting with management for allowing trucks to park near motel.
Does the added weight off-set the gain? Too bad no solar panels that could charge while sitting in a lot waiting for the next load.
I like this idea better than complete electrified semi, like Tesla's idea. Tesla should have done this, not fully electric, but I also think hybrid technology has always been better than EV, for practicality reasons. Full EV is a nice goal, but there are still so many factors holding it back. There are a ton in my dense area where no one drives more than 50 miles, but most owners still take ther SUV on long trips, negating 'environmental' savings.
I wonder if the rear trailer axles are still able to move in and out to shorten turning radius and aid with dock support when loading and unloading.
What a positive idea. On average 40% diesel saving. Semi "trailers" with electric engines in the boggy back wheels to push the Truck engine along.

They just need a range extender ,like solar panels on the roof of the trailer, or another smaller electrical alternator running off the truck PTO or wheels to recharge the trailer battery's while going along...

40% diesel saving means cheaper food and goods transportation ...

4 out of 5 stars for ingenuity....
Yes indeed, the same technology as an electric ride on lawnmower, or hospital bed pusher...

Not a new concept, thoughvwrappes in a fancy new wrapper (probably has AI added to the byline)

Sure it is easy to electrify a trailer (a truck too), fantastic to see where it takes the industry.

The energy has to come from somewhere and the batteries do need to be sourced, no magic there...

Basically the primemover becomes the randge extender for the trailer.
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