Three Questions on the Electric Trailers of Tomorrow, Answered
Electrification has come a long way in the past half-decade, and the transportation industry has taken notice. With the goal of producing fewer CO2 emissions, lowering fuel costs, and perhaps even having fewer stops for unplanned maintenance, fleet managers in many applications are beginning to experiment with swapping out their trucks with diesel engines for those with huge batteries.
But are there opportunities for trailer electrification, too? Absolutely, and the industry is getting closer every day to understanding the potential benefits of all-electric trailers, with perks like eliminating diesel fuel usage for the TRU and opportunities for regenerative braking to generate enough electricity to remove the need for shore power topping the list. Here’s what it will take to get there.
What Will the Electric Trailer of Tomorrow Look Like?
It’s unlikely that there will be a single architecture built for trailer electrification.
Instead, fleets will have several options featuring different technologies from which to choose.
ConMet’s PreSet Plus eHub is one of these options. The system pairs an in-wheel electric motor with a ConMet PreSet Plus hub assembly and is engineered to capture kinetic energy and convert it to electricity. The technology uses energy that would otherwise go wasted from braking to power auxiliary systems, such as an electric TRU, or to charge the system battery.
Another option is SAF-Holland’s TRAKr e-axle, which converts rotational energy from an internal driveshaft into energy that is stored in a lithium-ion battery system. The TRAKr electric trailer axle can provide an alternate source of power generation that is better for the environment, quieter, and more efficient.
“While electrification is not yet viable for every application, advancements like this continue to expand the possibilities,” said Colby White, electrical product manager for Great Dane. “We are fully committed to supporting our partners as they expand their capabilities on electrification and are happy to work alongside of them as a committed OEM to realizing an electric future.”
There are also companies on the market installing solar panels on the tops of trailers, pairing this form of energy generation with a large battery that charges via AC power.
Read more about the role of electric trailers in trucking’s more sustainable future.
How Much Will Electric Trailer Batteries Weigh and How Big Will They Be?
One of the main goals for fleet managers interested in moving to an all-electric system is to remove the diesel engine and fuel tank from their refrigeration units. However, the weight of an all-electric system can add as much as 1,500 lbs. to the trailer, and there are still who will still choose to keep a diesel engine onboard as a backup.
Today’s battery manufacturers are working to reduce both the physical size and weight of future batteries while increasing energy density. In this case, a battery’s size and shape will continue to become better tailored for specific applications.
How Will Servicing an Electric Trailer Change?
There is no doubt electrical systems on trailers will change, evolve, and become more complex. As such, Great Dane will prepare its service centers to handle these changes. For example, those branching into electric trailer maintenance will have at least one designated bay to work on these trailers.
As trailer technology increases, so will the need to have service centers equipped with the most up-to-date electronic analyzers for troubleshooting the needs of this equipment.
This will include a completely different set of shop tools, along with specially-trained, qualified technicians. Electrification will bring new opportunities and jobs to many Great Dane service centers, and electrification services are likely to be included in every Great Dane service center.
As trailer electrification gains traction in the trucking industry, Great Dane will continue to provide innovative solutions to the fleets that need them.