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Jul 23, 2023



There are a lot of exciting developments in the electric car industry, with record market shares in terms of electric car sales now being reported regularly in many countries around the world. Another sector that is also now starting to see some traction is the heavy electric truck sector. Heavy trucks are used for several applications that are just perfect for electrification due to the nature of their operations. For example, trucks in the construction sector or in campus-based sectors such as in mining environments usually have to drive for short distances at well-known intervals. Managing the fleet for things like charging and installation of charging stations at depots or on site in campus-based environments also becomes quite straightforward.

Some of these trucks are built for specific applications, such as tippers, mixers, and cranes. Concrete mixers are a large segment and an important pillar of the construction industry. By using electric trucks, companies can now meet the increasing demand for vehicles with lower noise levels and zero exhaust emissions at and around urban construction sites. The demand for electric transport in the construction industry is also increasing given the emphasis on zero-emission zones in cities and the need for construction companies to meet climate goals as part of their broader ESG targets.

Renault Trucks UK and partners have been working on solutions to electrify this important segment. The UK's first all-electric ready-mix concrete mixer has successfully completed a three-month trial of commercial deliveries across Birmingham for Tarmac, marking a significant step on the path to net zero construction.

The "e-mixer," created in partnership with Renault Trucks and TVS Interfleet, is the first of its kind to operate anywhere in the UK with zero tailpipe emissions. With the same average capacity as a conventional diesel vehicle, it is expected to save 42 tonnes of CO2 annually, with zero emissions per mile compared to 1.55 kg of CO2 per mile for its fossil fuel equivalent.

The mixer forms part of Tarmac's strategy to develop integrated low carbon logistics by offering decarbonized transport for the last mile of a construction project. Operating out of the company's rail-fed Birmingham Plant at Washwood Heath, it builds on Tarmac's extensive logistics network, which includes more than 60 rail connected sites across the UK.

Ben Garner, Tarmac's low carbon logistics lead, said: "We have committed to being at the forefront of implementing low CO2 transport and logistics solutions and the successful operation of this e-mixer is a significant milestone for both Tarmac and the UK construction sector. Our extensive logistics capabilities and strong collaborative relationships with supply chain partners enable us to continue exploring initiatives and innovations that move high quality construction materials to the right place at the right time, supporting our customers with the delivery of a lower carbon built environment. With the arrival of this new vehicle, we’re able to offer something completely new to the market and demonstrate that a fully integrated low carbon logistics model is possible."

As part of the vehicle's development, the partnership team created an entirely new digital operating system alongside improving safety measures during operation. The truck also offers reduced noise and vibrations, while contributing to improving air quality, particularly when operating in urban areas and low and zero emissions zones, such as Birmingham's Clean Air Zone. The e-mixer boasts increased energy savings and has a longer lifespan compared to its traditional internal combustion engine counterparts.

Andrew Scott, Head of Electric Mobility and Product Development, Renault Trucks UK and Ireland, said: "Renault Trucks has been delighted to partner with Tarmac and TVS Interfleet in the development of the first electric concrete mixer in the UK. Like Tarmac we share the highest ambitions to decarbonise the construction sector and see this as the first of many zero carbon vehicles which we can introduce together to help drive carbon out of construction."

Kevin Walker, Technical Director at TVS Interfleet, adds: "To develop the new electric mixer, the TVS Interfleet team was asked to completely forget everything they thought they knew about building mixers and start from scratch, which has resulted in a mixer with several new patents. While the original brief was to deliver energy saving benefits and a focus on decarbonising the construction industry through electrification, other benefits have also been realised including heightened safety and a quieter operation; all of which adds to the long list of benefits the e-mixer delivers. Ultimately, the successful launch of the e-mixer has been possible through the collaborative approach undertaken by all three companies. This new model of working sets the standard for future development and innovation, and one we hope will continue."

The e-mixer has already won some awards. The e-mixer was awarded the BAA Award for Safety and Innovation at the UK Concrete Show in March 2023. Tarmac says it is continuing to work with Renault Trucks and TVS Interfleet to develop the next generation of mixers. The company has ambitions for their eventual widespread use across its urban operations as part of its Act Sustainability Strategy and commitment to be a net zero business by 2050.

This is another exciting partnership for the electric heavy trucks sector. Recently, the Swedish mining group Boliden partnered with Volvo Trucks and will be one of the first in the world to start using battery-electric trucks for heavy underground transport starting this year. Exhaust gases from diesel vehicles are responsible for the majority of the carbon dioxide emissions from Boliden's mines, as is the case in the mining sector in general. Boliden is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 and therefore the electrification of transport will play a critical role for Boliden to achieve its climate goals. The new cooperation agreement between Boliden and Volvo Trucks will start with two heavy electric Volvo trucks which will be used in Boliden's Kankberg mine, outside Skellefteå in northern Sweden.

In South Africa, Volvo Trucks has also started taking orders for heavy electric trucks for the construction sector. Volvo Trucks says conventional trucks with single chassis and built-on applications for a wide range of superstructures, such as tippers, mixers, and cranes, are now offered in an electric version. Volvo Trucks has also opened orders in South Africa for these heavy electric trucks for the construction sector. Customers can choose battery packs from six batteries down to two, to match their specific requirements for range and payload. The new rigid trucks have a battery capacity between 180-540 kWh. Exciting times ahead in this sector, and we will be following the developments very closely.

Images from Renault Trucks

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since.At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.

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