Opinion: Shock of the new

By: Rob McKay


The future is not all about computers – batteries and how they are handled are crucial

Opinion: Shock of the new
Kings Transport uses SEA Electric’s vehicles.

 

With automotive advancement, society’s gaze has been on autonomous vehicles and that is understandable.

Computers have been in people’s vehicles and part of their lives to a growing extent for decades now and the promise of driverless automation has pushed past the science fiction into facts on the ground, albeit as working proposals.

Even when Tesla’s first car arrived with an outsized digital screen in the dash, it was accepted as a natural progression, given the popularity of tablet personal devices – just as the first screens were echoes of mobile phones.

What more primitive life form would be without such things at its fingertips?

And why wouldn’t future generations plug themselves into their vehicles if that means a more profound and, one hopes, safer experience? 

Speaking of plugging in, advances in electric propulsion has been running in parallel with computers, though the demands of physics have proved more difficult to overcome than the high-powered data crunching enabled by ever shrinking computers – that said, peta-data storage still requires hefty infrastructure, as Amazon Web Services’ 40-foot container-sized Snowmobile, which we reported on in December and January, showed.

It must be acknowledged that pure battery-powered vehicles have more than a century of history but have failed to entirely convince on a personal, let alone business, level.

Weight, up-front cost, charging time and, especially, range have been the major obstacles but the tilt at overcoming them is edging closer than ever to a tipping point.

How close that point is will be defined in no small part by Kings Transport’s use of SEA Electric’s vehicles, just as Toll’s experiment a few years back with the UK firm Smith’s 10-tonne rigid in 2013 showed how much further on all levels such vehicles needed to go.

It will help SEA’s push that the firm shares many of the people involved and that will be aided by the involvement of Kings, so the vans and small- and medium-rigids have commercial customer input.

SEA’s view is that its comparable vehicles will out-perform the Smith truck by about a third on most important measures.

Kings believes it has the routes and tasks to make the test a success on its terms.

These terms are limited by range, an issue international express operator DHL says gave it headaches when using Renault electric delivery vans in Sydney, where a 100km over up to four hours on the road was found to be restrictive due to that city’s sprawl.

With King’s SEAs in Melbourne service, an extra 80km-plus over the Sydney distance will come in handy.

Beyond what big-banger buffs view as vehicular white-goods, the electric revolution is amping up for prime movers, too.

Those with diesel coursing through their veins will have need of their obviously strong constitutions if, as seems likely, line-haul capable prime movers start gaining momentum in the northern hemisphere.

Check out the full article in the August edition of ATN. Subscribe here.

 

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