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BTS21 EV: Janus Electrics heavy duty shock

Part 1 – battery-propelled prime mover solution spurs the imagination


In this four part examination, ATN looks at the upstart electric vehicle (EV) challengers to the established commercial vehicle manufacturers, who exhibited at this year’s Brisbane Truck Show (BTS).

EVs and their providers had something of a coming of age at the show

Having been consigned to less-frequented positions on the main ground floor exhibition space two years ago and with barely a mention the show before that, pandemic disruptions meant providers were able to create more of a spectacle of their offering amongst the traditional powerhouses.

And the EV crowd was always willing to cast doubt and perceived risk aside to make its presence felt.

The difference was that decisions, some made far from Australia, let alone Brisbane, gave those players the opportunity to shine.

The EV charge in the prime-mover space belongs to just one firm – Janus Electric.

Perhaps the craziest of the brave at the show, or just the cleverest, there was no doubting how intriguing its concept of fully charged replaceable batteries for converted conventional trucks was for visitors and the industry alike.

But behind the squints and the smiles was undoubtedly an appreciation of a simple solution in a recognisable form, based as it is on converted prime movers – out with the grill and diesel engine, in with two doors and big battery unit.

Like SEA Electric, Janus Electric aims to bring the idea to the North America eventually, judging that this market will take easily to the bonneted form. It could happen as early as next year.

But that won’t preclude development of the cabover form, according to co-founder and director Bevan Dooley.

The difference will be that the battery will be block-shaped rather than the squat, solid ‘T’ shape of initial design. 

More immediately, the company was proudly showing off what Dooley describes as is 600kWh-plus Mark 2 battery, along with its converted Kenworth at its stand not far from Paccar’s.

And the simplicity of the concept allows for battery developments including lithium, solid state technology and beyond to be introduced seamlessly.

“When solid states come out, we’ll put ’em in the box – when silicon batteries come out, we’ll put ’em in the box,” he beams.

“The motor doesn’t care. It just sees 750 volts and says ‘give it to me’!

If you’ve got a vehicle where the battery is fixed, you’ve got a big problem. You have to rethink your truck.”

Like the Mark 1 and Mark 2, batteries, the cabover option will also use forklifts to withdraw and replace through the front but Dooley expects that to give way to robotic handling in due course.

“People ask me, ‘can robots do that?’ Well, robots handle shipping containers, I’m pretty sure they can handle 3.5 tonne [of battery],” he says before adding that robotics is not an area of expertise.

“We’re already in talks with the right people . . . it’s gotta be done.”

Read how Janus Electric decided to tackle the BTS, here

As far as battery charging and the savings are concerned, the idea is to buy bulk off-peak power, to avoid peak-time charging at cost comparable to using diesel.

This aims for profits to go to battery and replacement service owners and savings for fleets, many of which would not have the set-up to easily recharge their own trucks.

“I own several industrial yards around the central coast [of NSW] and most industrial feeds are only  100 amp feeds, that’s 60kW, which means you can charge one battery in 10 hours. So, if you’ve got 100 trucks you’re taking care of one, the other 99 are a problem.”

Dooley’s and co-founder Lex Forsyth’s thinking from inception was that to provide the Janus common platform and allow the other aspects to end up being provided by those seeing the opportunity, thereby allowing the service to roll out organically.

Janus engineer Lawrence Ambrose explains that the company went to Melbourne to discuss the idea with SEA Electric, then solely a battery-electric propulsion provider, and left with its blessing to tackle the heavy EV space.

He explains that the Mark 1 battery uses lithium polymer (LiPo) cells, which are just now giving way to lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxides (NMC) technology and allowing a rise from 3.2 volt to 3.7 volt.

“The energy density is a lot higher in NMC,” Ambrose explains.

“So, less wiring, less BMS [battery management system] 50 per cent increase in power density.”

He notes that while what is in the box will keep up with developments, the box itself will be unchanged.

Even with battery weight falling, Janus will likely keep the weight similar in future to gain more power and for other reasons

“We’ve got approximately two tonne on an empty chassis on the front wheels, the road limit is 6.5.

“Obviously, we’ve still got the weight of the chassis rail and the weight of the box itself.

“By the time you count that, you’ve got 3.5 tonne of batteries [give or take a few kilograms].”

Ambrose is keen to keep the weight similar to avoid changing braking characteristics, thereby forcing new brake testing.

Meanwhile, Dooley is in no doubt Janus will have a presence at the next show, perhaps even having a Western Star join the Kenworth and a forklift demonstrating the interchange.


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