Back in 2014, I outlined an electric vehicle, Trell, that could be made by inmates at Verdal prison, where I worked teaching technology and associated subjects. Trell was mainly a pedagogical vehicle, but if actually built, could be used to solve a number of transportation challenges at the prison. A blog post on the original Trell will be published in the future.
Now it is 2018, and I see a need for an battery electric autonomous truck emerging.
Let’s begin by qualifying that statement, by examining it word by word.
Battery: While a battery may be needed for last kilometer situations, there is no reason why electric vehicles have to store significant quantities of energy onboard. It only adds to vehicle weight which increases capital and operating costs. The term dynamic wireless charging is often used.
Electric: This vehicle will be electric powered. Electric motors are preferred because they generate maximum torque even while stopped.
Autonomous: All contact with the vehicle will be through electronic devices sending and receiving encrypted messages. This vehicle will not require a driver. In fact, there is no space on board for a driver. Using the Society of Automotive Engineers’ levels for automated driving systems this vehicle will have to be at either level 4 or level 5. At level 4 vehicles are “designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip.” It is limited to the operational design domain (ODD) of the vehicle, which is an incomplete set of driving situations. At level 5 this ODD restriction is removed and the vehicle’s performance to expected to equal that of a human driver, in every driving situation including extreme environments, like snow covered roads.
At this prototype stage there is no need for a functioning autonomous vehicle. Many prototypes lack drive trains entirely. A compromise will be fitting the vehicle with remote control equipment, so that the entire movement of the vehicle is under the control of a living human being.
Truck: This vehicle is to be used for the shipment of goods. Minimum cargo capacity is arbitrarily set to LxWxH 2 500 mm x 1 250 mm x 1 000 mm. No people will be transported under any circumstances.
The Trell 2 is inspired by the Subaru Sambar more than any other vehicle. The vehicle is designed to transport bulky materials. Target materials are plywood and other construction material sheets. This would require a vehicle design width of 1 600 mm, which includes 50 mm on each side for side doors that open upwards into the roof. The doors would be 2 500 mm long and 1 000 mm high. The vehicle would have a length of 3 500 mm of which 2 500 mm would dedicated to cargo. This is fitted with one door along each side. At both ends of the vehicle 500 mm is used to make an aerodynamic front and rear end. Most of this volume would also be available for transporting goods.
This is far too big a project for me to work on alone. Or more correctly, I have so many other projects that I am interested in, I can’t devote all of my energies to a time thief like this. However, I see it as an opportunity to work with several others at the new Hastighet = Velocity workshop in Straumen.
The first recruitment session will be at the annual meeting of the local Friends of the Earth group, at the end of February. Once vehicle specifications have been agreed upon, I imagine a prototype could be built using components from scrapped vehicles. EVs for drive train components, smaller pickups (such as a Subaru Sambar) could provide many useful parts.