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ISUZU Australia Limited (IAL) has developed a pilot program for electric trucks in conjunction with Australian EV specialist SEA Electric to test the viability of electric trucks Down Under.

Under the plan, IAL has prepared a fleet for urban applications in the gross vehicle mass (GVM) class between 6500kg and 14,000kg, and will be evaluating the vehicles for the local market throughout 2018 and into 2019.

The joint venture has been created independently of Isuzu’s Japanese parent company, with IAL director and chief operating officer Phil Taylor telling GoAutoNews Premium the exercise was a purely Australian one.

Isuzu’s EV truck pilot program will continue into 2019

“This is an IAL initiative,” he said. “This is not something that we’re bringing out of Japan so this is a local initiative, and it’s a concept program that we’re doing on our own.”

Mr Taylor said global EV trends were considered when deciding to implement a local EV plan.

“There is certainly a lot of take-up around the world in the bigger markets, certainly in the US, the UK and Europe, and I guess Australians have in the past been fairly early adopters with new technology.

“So we figured that we’d do some exploration ourselves in this country and we put some trucks together, and I have no doubt it will be quite valuable what we learn from that.”

Mr Taylor said the pilot program was a good opportunity to see how battery-operated vehicles operate in specifically Australian conditions, due to the potential effect different climate conditions can have on vehicle performance.

He could not yet offer a timeline as to when a production version of the electric truck could go on sale.

When asked about the possibility of electric Isuzu trucks being exported from Australia into other markets, Mr Taylor said “anything is possible”, but at this stage Australia was the sole focus.

Australia’s EV charging network was not seen as a problem for Mr Taylor, who envisaged the fleets would be used in urban areas where the vehicles return to the depot at the end of a work day and charge overnight, as opposed to long-distance trucking between cities.

It is estimated that the electric trucks will have between 200km and 250km of real-world driving range.

The EV powertrain fits onto existing Isuzu commercial vehicle cab-chassis models, with the battery packs protected within the chassis rails and a 22kW on-board charging system to reduce the reliance on EV charging stations.

Two different battery types with 132kWh of storage will be offered on the pilot fleet, with the first one producing 100kW/800Nm of continuous power and 130kW/1500Nm peak power, to be used on vehicles with a GVM between 8000 and 9000kg.

The more powerful motor will service vehicles with GVM between 12,000 and 14,000kg, and produces 150kW/1230Nm continuous and 250kW/2500Nm max power.

Isuzu has chosen this time to get into the EV space due to the increasingly cheap cost of lithium-ion batteries, as well as an average growth in overall EV sales of 160 per cent per annum.

Consulting firm McKinsey has stated that the electric truck market share could reach as high as 15 per cent by 2030.

Mr Taylor said that the company had received a considerable amount of interest from fleet businesses for an electric truck.

“We have had a lot of enquiry from local fleets – fleets particularly more than private users – but a lot of the much larger fleets are very, very interested,” he said.

He also said the increasing rollout of charging stations across the nation would further enhance the desirability of an EV truck as time went on.

A decision on whether to introduce a production version of the EV truck will be made following the initial evaluation process.

By Robbie Wallis