Smith electric truck trial generates savings

Electric truck trial shows running costs to be a fraction of an equivalent diesel vehicle.

Smith electric truck trial generates savings
Smith Newton Electric Truck

An Australian trial of the Smith Newton electric truck has recorded running costs at around 20 per cent of a diesel-equivalent vehicle on a per kilometre basis, according to Glenn Baird, Executive Director of Patico Automotive, which is the distributor of the vehicle in Australia and New Zealand.

In an address to the upcoming ComVec commercial vehicle engineering conference to be held May 27-28 at the Royal International Convention Centre, Brisbane Showgrounds, Baird will talk to conference delegates about the advantages of electric vehicles, lessons learnt from a trial with Toll and what the future holds for this technology.

The medium-duty Newton made its debut at the 2013 Brisbane Truck Show and since then has been on trial with Toll IPEC in Queensland.

UK-based Smith has been involved in the manufacture of electric vehicles since 1920 and the range also includes the Edison van, though this is not currently available in Australia.

The Toll trial has seen the Smith electric truck clock up 5,500 kilometres so far, and according to Baird, feedback from both Toll and drivers has been positive.

"The trial has so far proved that this vehicle is fit for purpose," he says.

The IPEC trial involved the vehicle being used on a number of routes.

"Clearly this kind of vehicle suits back-to-base operations and IPEC is an ideal example," Baird says.

The Newton uses Lithium Ion batteries for power and the driveline recovers power by using regenerative braking. These kinds of batteries can deal with irregular charging intervals and don’t need to be completely exhausted before recharging.

Data from the trial so far shows that between 17 and 23 per cent of the energy used by the truck during the working day is being recovered from the vehicle’s braking system.

End-of-shift charging times are typically between five and six hours, according to Baird.

"Feedback from drivers has been positive, they often said it was car like to drive and very quiet," he says.

"They also commented on the Newton’s off-the-line performance with all of that torque available from a standing start."

Though not its intended environment, Baird does concede, however, that the vehicle doesn’t perform as well at high speeds as torque from the electric driveline is reduced at high RPM.

While the initial outlay for the vehicle is higher than that of a competing diesel engine, he says that this evens out over the life of the vehicle.

"We’re seeing running costs at about 20 per cent of a diesel equivalent vehicle on a per kilometre basis," Baird says.

Cost of ownership and environmental concerns are the main advantages being touted by Smith.

While the majority of electricity in this country is generated by coal-fired power stations, which could impact the Newton’s environmental credentials, Baird counters by saying "opportunities exist for companies to recharge using energy from renewable sources, and if they do their carbon footprint can be zero".

It seems that there is more on the way for the Smith brand with announcements on new developments likely in the second half of 2014.

No doubt more light will be thrown on the subject at ComVec 2014 in late May.

For more information on ComVec commercial vehicle engineering conference, staged by the Commercial Vehicle Industry Association of Queensland (CVIAQ) and sponsored by, visit

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