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Electric trucks on the radar for South Africa

Electric trucks promise benefits as diverse as lower emissions and a quiet ride, but fleets looking at the equipment might want to research the related charging infrastructure.

There are several pieces to the charging equation, including the need for switch panels and meters, the power cabinets loaded with inverters and rectifiers to transform AC power into a DC charge, and enough underground conduit to support future wiring needs.

Charging strategies can be influenced by everything from charging station locations, to the time of day and sessions. Demand charges on utility bills also tend to be based on the highest 15-minutes of demand in a month. Trying to meet all the power demands at once will be costly.

Such high rates and charges are eased somewhat through smart charging software, which aligns charging times with the cheapest available electricity rates.

In some cases, electrical vehicles don’t recharge simply because the updated software failed to establish a connection. It’s therefore important for drivers to ensure that the connection is correct before walking away.

“We can’t be naïve to some of the nuances and some of the shortcomings of the grid today.” Nathan Hill, Daimler Trucks North America’s manager, said as an example, referring to questions around grid capacity and distribution network.

Not everything is already figured out yet. Questions include route assessments, analysing economic feasibility, financing, deploying charging infrastructure, maintenance and operations needs, and what to do with the equipment at the end of life.

There is definitely a demand for electric trucks in South Africa. “We will be bringing electric trucks to the South African market when suitable products become available from our parent company, and when the local infrastructure can accommodate this new technology”, said Christo Kleynhans, Daimler Trucks Southern Africa product manager.

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