Einride, a startup based in Sweden, has this week released a full-scale prototype of its T-pod.
The T-pod is an all-electric truck that can be operated by remote.
Please consider Einride’s Full Prototype T-Tod.
The T-pod is a driverless, fully electric truck with a range of 200km and is designed to replace smaller medium-duty trucks on short trips.
But where the Einride T-pod differs from other autonomous electric trucks is that it can be driven by remote control. The deal is that the T-pods will travel autonomously on highways, then when they enter cities and towns, a ‘driver’ will take over by remote control and guide the T-pod to its final destination. Obviously, the T-pods are monitored when traveling autonomously and the driver can take over should the need arise.
The T-pods are seven metres long and because they have no cabin, and not even any seats, they can carry up to 15 pallets and have a total weight of 20 tonnes.
The company’s goal is to have a fleet of 200 T-pods running in Sweden by 2020, with plans to test its first route between the Swedish cities of Gothenburg and Helsingborg late this year.
Einride plans to test its first fleet in 2018 and the founders say that although current laws haven’t been tested for self-driving vehicles, there is nothing technically illegal about using the trucks on Swedish roads. Sweden has also proposed progressive legislation to allow testing of self-driving vehicles, and though the law may not be in place by this summer, companies can apply for permission to start testing early.
The company says it will have to build a network of charging stations for longer journeys but the T-Pods could dock and charge themselves during a trip.
Einride maintains that once in full operation, the T-pod network made up of these driverless trucks will have the capacity to move up to 2,000,000 pallets of goods per year. Einride claims that they may grow the route network across Sweden faster if the trucks work well.
Meet the Einride T-Pod
Can this Concept Work?
A huge cost in trucking is the cost of a driver and benefits. In addition, regulations require a certain amount of driver down time for safety reasons. Drivers have to sleep.
If the benefit in electric trucks is greater than the cost of the driver and fuel, electric trucks are a given.
With non-commercial cars, the limiting factor is driver down time and range. The cost of the driver and benefits do not come into play.
With cars, the primary problem over long distances is charging time that is very difficult to schedule, especially with no fast charging stations that can easily be put in place for trucks.
I expect we will see widespread adoption of the electric trucks before cars, especially in the US.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock