31 October 2020 11:31
Supermarket supply: EDEKA tests the eActros
Vehicle & Technology
Reducing background noise and avoiding local CO₂ emissions – the objectives of the battery-powered vehicle. At EDEKA, the eActros is proving that this is a drive system that works well in heavy distribution haulage.
“The eActros is a good everyday performer.”
– Thomas Steinlein, head of vehicle fleet and transport management at EDEKA Minden-Hannover GmbH
Quiet, agile and locally Co₂-neutral – the sort of qualities traditionally associated with the delivery bike. But it’s not the grocer’s boy we’re talking about here, so much as the rather bigger job of supplying fresh food to the almost four million population of Berlin every day. And the role of the eActros, as it demonstrates that this 25-tonne battery-electric variant of the Mercedes‑Benz Trucks flagship is very much equal to the task.
“Here at EDEKA we are delighted to be among the first customers to use this innovative vehicle. Initially, there were plenty of questions that needed to be answered, though,” says Thomas Steinlein, authorised officer and head of vehicle fleet and transport management at EDEKA Minden-Hannover GmbH, the largest of the regional companies, which supplies over 1500 EDEKA supermarkets with fresh goods every day.
The most pressing question was about range. Steinlein has around 700 Mercedes‑Benz trucks in his fleet for distributing the goods. Here at the Grünheide-Freienbrink site there are 84. They supply almost 500 stores in Berlin and Brandenburg, and cover several hundred kilometres a day. “That's the range we have to guarantee for each vehicle,” Steinlein says. Another crucial point is the charging time of the batteries, as this can decide whether a truck can be sent out on a second shift or not.
The weather and traffic conditions are also important factors. Obviously, stop and start driving in congested urban traffic will affect energy consumption. As will the outside temperature. After all, the goods have to be refrigerated in transport. The energy-intensive use of the cargo liftgate also has to be taken into consideration. All consumers, including the air conditioning in the cab, have to be supplied by the battery. What are the implications of all that on the range of the battery-electric truck?
Start-up support from an all-round ecosystem.
Driver Torsten Schumann arrives for his shift. First he switches off the charger, then pulls the connector from the vehicle. The charger, an inconspicuous-looking box, delivers a charging output of 80 kilowatts. A significant amount, yet easily supported by the infrastructure of the EDEKA site.
It was important to calculate how many trucks could be charged here simultaneously. To tackle this challenge and give the customer the best possible start to their experience of e-mobility, the e-mobility experts from Daimler Trucks & Buses have set up a comprehensive ecosystem. This includes providing an extensive consultancy service and creating a suitable charging infrastructure for electric trucks. In addition to personalised individual advice, this modular service also contains digital applications to facilitate the move to e-mobility.
Schumann is at the wheel. On the left is the speedometer, next to which the central display shows him the charge status of the 240-kilowatt-per-hour batteries and the vehicle range. On the right-hand side, there is a display instrument gauge showing energy consumption and energy recuperation during braking.
Schumann sets off. The way the vehicle accelerates is unusual – with two wheel-hub motors, the eActros quickly comes up to speed without any interruption to the tractive power due to gear changes. It just hums quietly to itself. “It’s a blessing, both for the driver and the environment,” says Schumann.
We reach the slip road for the three-lane A10 motorway, the Berlin ring-road: the eActros effortlessly reaches 80 km/h and Schumann merges into the traffic. The only sound is road noise from the tyres, and the auxiliary heating has made the cab pleasantly warm on this cool day. In Hellesdorf we turn off onto Bundesstraße 1 and head straight for the city centre.
In central Berlin, the delivery is complete and the batteries still have 70 per cent power, enough for another 146 kilometres. In the morning, with the temperature down in single figures, the display predicted 221 kilometres. “An hour of recharging will be enough for the second shift,” says “Schumi” as the truck rolls silently from the depot and back to base.
“Always enough for 200 kilometres.”
“At first we were really nervous about how far we could go,” says the 52-year-old. The distribution manager works out the routes according to the quantity of goods and distances, and with increasing experience is now more confident about adding destinations which are further afield. “We know we can always manage 200 kilometres however cold it is or however slow the traffic. In good conditions we can even do up to 300. We never imagined that would be possible,” says fleet manager Steinlein. One thing that came as a surprise was the fact that range is greatest in moderate summer temperatures.
That’s when the batteries quickly reach their operating temperature of 22 degrees. When it’s cold, like today, there’s no need to refrigerate the load compartment but you do have to preheat the batteries, and that actually uses more energy.
Steinlein: “Our conclusion is that the eActros is a good everyday performer. Its range and short charging times enable us to supply customers in central Berlin. Sustainability is a top concern of ours. And we're pleased that we can play an active part in the trial phase.”
Photos: Sebastian Vollmert
Video: Martin Schneider-Lau