Deutsche Bahn subsidiary DB Schenker has been testing the Fuso eCanter, a small electric truck since 2018. Two units are in operation in Berlin, three more in Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Paris. But testing is not the end of the story.
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DB Schenker had ordered 36 more eCanter, Cyrille Bonjean, who is responsible for transport at DB Schenker, told the German Handelsblatt. Once delivery completes by January 2021, the company will have “the largest eCanter fleet in the world”, the manager claimed.
Like Amazon who just presented their custom van designed with Rivian, the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary has had problems to find a suitable alternative to conventional delivery trucks fo 7.5 – 12 tons. While StreetScooter of Deutsche Post had such EVs on offer at the time, DB Schenker needed a vehicle with a lifting platform as they mainly transport pallets, an employee told Handelsblatt.
Only the Fuso eCanter would fit all the boxes at the time. The small truck now labelled E-Fuso is the result of a collaboration between Daimler and Mitsubishi and currently being produced in Portugal and Japan. While the development goes back to September 2017, deliveries were cautious, to begin with. Only high-level clients would receive the first eCanter such as UPS in the USA, Yamato and 7-Eleven in Japan, as well as DHL and of course DB Schenker in Germany. According to Daimler, they have delivered over 150 units of the electric 7.5-tonne truck to clients worldwide to date.
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Still, the 36 units ordered by DB Schenker make for half the annual production of the small commercial electric vehicles. The rail subsidiary plans to deploy the eCanter in eleven European countries, primarily in cities such as Oslo, Copenhagen, Madrid, Salzburg, Vienna, Hamburg, Rome and Milan.
Employees and drivers interviewed by Handelsblatt in Berlin praise the usual advantages when switching to electric vehicles. The higher price is offset by low maintenance. And, with the eCanter being lighter than its combustion-engined counterpart, it would allow DB Schenker to carry 750 kilos more, they said. Just not too far. The current eCanter has a range of about 100 kilometres, so just enough for inner-city logistics.
It is not their only array into electric mobility anymore. DB Schenker began integrating a new Volvo FL Electric truck into the fleet of the distribution centre in Oslo this August. The order includes another 23 e-trucks from Volvo, with delivery expected by the end of the year.
While unrelated, note that Daimler and Volvo just agreed to share the market place when it comes to hydrogen heavy-duty vehicles. Daimler Truck and the Volvo Group signed a letter of intent to establish a joint venture to “develop, produce and commercialise fuel cell systems for heavy-duty vehicle applications and other use cases”. While non-binding, expect the conclusion of the agreement by the end of the year. Daimler then intends to bundle all of their current fuel cell activities in the joint venture as the two partners aim to achieve series production “in the second half of the decade”.
Still, for the lightweight logistics segment, Mitsubishi will take the lead as part of Daimler Trucks. Fuso already last October presented the Vision F-Cell at the Tokyo Motor Show. The latest concept is the eCanter F-CELL, the hydrogen version of the eCanter, only with a range of 300 kilometres and refuelling in less than ten minutes. Daimler has yet to publish plans for series production but last said they would generally target 2022 to upscale.
Update 12 October 2020: Daimler has since confirmed the order from DB Schenker. “Europe’s leading land transport provider is thus strengthening its sustainability strategy and further expanding the use of electric vehicles in its mixed fleets,” Daimler writes. The vehicles for DB Schenker are currently being built at the Portuguese plant in Tramagal. “In the next few weeks”, they are to receive a box body with tail lift from various body manufacturers. In the case of the vehicles for Germany, the body will be built at the Spier company in Steinheim.
Update 06 May 2021: DB Schenker has ordered eight more Fuso eCanter for use in Oslo. These will join another 26 e-trucks in the Norwegian capital from an order placed in autumn 2020. DB Schenker operates the small electric truck fleet out of the ‘Oslo City Hub’.
Frank Rohde, Head of Fleet Sales Fuso Europe, considers the hub “an impressive demonstration of what logistics could look like in the future.”
Manufacturers Daimler and Mitsubishi say they have been producing and delivering the new vehicles to DB Schenker since the beginning of the year.
The Deutsche Bahn subsidiary now owns a total of 41 Fuso eCanter which run in eleven European countries, including Norway and the UK.
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