An electric vehicle start-up is converting semi-trailer trucks into electric heavy-haulers that will be powered by a quick-change battery network on Australia’s east coast.

The audacious bid to switch the country’s 100,000 articulated, semi-trailer and B-double trucks, onto a renewable electric platform has the potential to wipe out significant carbon emissions and reduce notoriously harmful airborne diesel particulates.

Trucks chew up about 23 per cent of road transport fuel used in Australia.

Janus Electric, a company founded by Bevan Dooley and Lex Forsyth, has orders to convert 67 vehicles this year, maxing out its workshop capacity on NSW’s Central Coast.

As well as transforming existing articulated trucks with a Dana 720 horsepower electric motor and interchangeable batteries, the company is negotiating with service stations on the main highways between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to set up a network of large battery-swap terminals. The Sydney to Brisbane leg will have six such stations.

Dooley said Janus intended to fund the network rollout by selling capital in the business to raise $100 million from energy-conscious investors within the next 12 months.

“Even though Lex and I are both very passionate about decarbonising the heavy transport industry, this system is based around a return on investment for all parties.”

Janus Electric co-founder Bevan Dooley

“Even though Lex and I are both very passionate about decarbonising the heavy transport industry, this system is based around a return on investment for all parties,” Dooley said.

The trucks being converted in Janus’ workshop are “seed” vehicles for multiple owners, with a combined fleet of more than 4000 vehicles.

“What they’re doing is to say, ‘Well, we’ll put one [truck] in, we’ll change it [to electric], we’ll see how it goes and then we’ll start converting our entire fleet over’,” Dooley said.

Transport giant Qube and $8.5 billion ASX-listed mining company Oz Minerals are customers.

Qube operates heavy-haulage transport at OZ Minerals’ Carrapateena copper mine in South Australia, trucking the ore to Whyalla.

Both companies are partnering with Janus to fit out the country’s heaviest road-going electric vehicle, a super quad road train, which will be powered by renewable energy battery stations at each end of the route.

OZ Minerals chief executive Andrew Cole said the self-funded trial is at an early stage and will be phased in over 12 months, beginning later this year.

Dooley maintains the cost of converting an existing truck is the same as a diesel vehicle.

“If we get a brand-new truck without a motor, gearbox, fuel tanks, etc, we’re able to put that on the road for pretty much the same cost as a diesel equivalent,” he said.

The company is also converting older used vehicles for about $150,000. Most diesel trucks need a full engine and gearbox rebuild after five to 10 years of service.

“Rather than essentially setting your truck up to be a diesel again, we encourage people to change it over to electric,” he said. “We can pretty much convert any bonneted truck and about 80 per cent of cab-over trucks to the Janus system.”

The forklift-operated battery swap takes about three minutes. An automated stack-and-swap system under development will take even less time, Dooley said.

Decoupling the battery system from the truck gives the vehicles a longer life and allows them to benefit from rapid advances in future battery technology. The electric truck’s 720 horsepower is at the top end of most diesel motors’ power output and supplies a range of 400 to 600 kilometres.

“Change and charge” battery stations are used in China and electric vehicle maker Nio has a swap system in Norway for its electric cars.

Other companies are also turning to electric trucks. Asahi Beverages is transitioning its VB beer deliveries to a Linfox electric fleet with inbuilt batteries.

Truck operators that change to electric will save on diesel costs, reduce the burden of volatile fuel prices, and lower their maintenance costs, it said.

Janus also has an eye on other markets. “We will be able to take this into the US, into Europe very quickly. We’re already fielding inquiries from overseas on a daily basis,” Dooley said.

“As part of the trial, a battery recharging and replacement station will be set up at Port Augusta; once ready, the station will be used as a battery changeover pit-stop for the battery electric truck, expected to take the same time it takes for traditional refuelling,” he said.

The mining company, under pressure from investors like many of its peers to progressively decarbonise its operations, said the trial is a step towards reducing emissions across its value chain.

Extracted in full form: Entrepreneur: Janus Electric push into fully electric trucks (smh.com.au)

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