Consortium developing next-generation, zero-emission powertrain for electric commercial vehicles

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A consortium established to develop electric powertrains for heavy commercial vehicles has been awarded £15.9m in funding from Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC) and Innovate UK for a next-generation, zero-emission electric solution that will provide commercial vehicle OEMs the technology to meet global CO2 reduction targets.

The Electric Powertrain Integration for Heavy Commercial Vehicles (EPIC) consortium is led by US-based Meritor and is joined by Danfoss Editron and Electra Commercial Vehicles. The £32m project’s latest boost of funding will help design and develop Meritor’s 17Xe electric powertrain system, for heavy duty electric trucks and buses equipped with single drive axle.

The fully integrated solution of the 17Xe powertrain drops into existing chassis with minimal or no modifications to suspension or frame, providing up to 430kW of continuous power to 4×2 and 6×2 vehicles up to 44 tonnes without wheel-end reduction, and up to 65 tonnes with wheel-end reduction.

As part of the project, Danfoss Editron will create a Low-Carbon Innovation Centre next to its existing facility in Edinburgh, providing an anchor for its electrification activities in the UK, creating jobs in research and development, plus manufacturing when the system moves into production.

The commercial vehicle industry is transitioning to electric powertrains, a move driven by international legislation mandating CO2 reduction, the growing number of zero-emission zones in major cities and the rapid decline of battery costs. As a result, industry experts predict that over 2.2 million commercial vehicles will be electric by 2030, including 13-20% of heavy-duty vehicles. However, the electrification of heavy-duty vehicles is currently lagging behind that of light and medium-duty vehicles, partly because existing electric and hybrid powertrains can be costly, heavy and restrict battery packaging.

Through the EPIC partnership, the three members will design and develop an electric powertrain system consisting of a high-power electric motor and high-efficiency silicon carbide inverter delivered by Danfoss Editron and a three-speed transmission, geared differential and lightweight brakes provided by Meritor.

Meritor will integrate all of the components into a single, uniquely architected system that can be installed in an existing chassis with little to no modification required, a hugely significant breakthrough in heavy-duty electric powertrains. Electra Commercial Vehicles will be responsible for the mechanical and controls integration of the battery-electric chassis and build up four different chassis for validation. Once fully-developed, it is planned that the electric powertrain system will be industrialized and marketed globally to commercial vehicle OEMs under Meritor’s Blue Horizon brand.

Danfoss Editron’s motor will be based on a patented architecture and thermal management methodology which exceeds the APC’s 2035 Roadmap targets for power-density. It will also mean that only one motor will be required in the electric powertrain design, a significant step forward as existing products on today’s market need two motors to meet this product segment’s power requirements. Only requiring one motor is seen as a step-change in the industry, as it will lead to a reduction in parts, weight and costs.

Danfoss Editron’s global sales director for On-Highway Adrian Schaffer said:

“The EPIC project will deliver an innovative and revolutionary approach to electrification by commercializing a new, fully-integrated solution for the on-highway market. The electric powertrain system will be a fantastic new option for customers interested in integrated solutions, plus complement our existing robust offering and leadership in electric systems. There is currently a tremendous change happening across heavy-duty markets, with more companies demanding electrification solutions than ever before. This technology will play a vital role in meeting this growing demand.”

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