Chelmsford tech company develops ‘world’s greenest truck’
PUBLISHED: 17:05 21 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:27 21 June 2018
Rising to the challenge to reduce vehicle emissions for the sake of our environment, a Chelmsford-based automotive technology company has developed ‘the world’s greenest truck’ — the first to travel hundreds of miles on clean energy alone | Words: Nicky Adams
About 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are pumped out by transport – cars, trains, ships, planes, and particularly lorries and large vans. The burning of fossil fuels to power engines pollutes the atmosphere and contributes to global warming on an alarming scale.
No surprise then that the race is on to devise trucks that run on clean energy. While billionaire tech innovator Elon Musk is hitting the headlines in the US with his ideas of revolutionising the world’s transport, from his headquarters right here in Essex, Israeli-born automotive technician Asher Bennett’s company, Tevva Motors, is quietly developing technologies designed to get electric trucks on roads around the globe. With great success!
“A truck’s number one job is to deliver,” explains Asher. “Truck operators want to be kinder to the environment, but electric trucks will never catch on until they can drive distances diesel trucks can drive. At the moment, electric trucks are being used, but just for short journeys; the big impact will only be made if trucks use green energy for the long journeys.”
But electric vehicles can only keep moving for as long as they have battery life. “I drive an electric car and it’s hard to find somewhere to charge it, even in London,” says Asher.
“It’s unrealistic for truck drivers to stop every few hours for a couple of hours to charge and that’s why my company has developed a new system that increases the life of a vehicle’s battery while it is in motion, so it can travel on green energy much, much further – making it the most environmentally-friendly truck technology in the world.”
With Tevva’s genius “range extender technology”, 7.5 to 14 tonne trucks can maximize their battery life and travel hundreds and hundreds of miles without plugging back in to the mains, rather than the standard 30 or 40 miles.
“We say our trucks will always get you back to base,” says Asher. “You’ll never be stranded with no battery. Drivers can even forget to charge overnight and the truck will still go out and drive more than 100 miles the next day.”
Unique software, developed by Asher’s team of experienced automotive and electric vehicle specialists at Tevva’s Chelmsford technical centre, predicts the truck’s energy requirements for a day on the road.
It then optimises the vehicle’s performance to ensure that as much of the distance as possible is powered by electricity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95% — which exceeds even the most stringent air quality standards.
Tevva’s technology can be fitted to new vehicles as well as old and, after four years of testing, is now ready to hit the streets. A fleet of trucks for the courier delivery service UPS is currently lined up in Tevva’s garage, each waiting to be fitted with two lithium ion batteries and the all-important range extender, which will make sure each truck drives greener for longer.
The fleets of several other large companies, including DHL and Whitbread, are next in the queue.
“The system is modular and every component is designed and built here in Chelmsford,” says Asher. “Each module has its own computer, which connects to every part of the vehicle and manages it for safety, longevity and control.
“A cloud-based system makes all the decisions about the battery and the range extender from afar, and puts it all together, so as you’re driving along it’s making all those autonomous decisions that allow the vehicle to drive at maximum efficiency.”
The inspiration for this solution came from Asher’s first career back in Israel, as an officer on British-built, diesel-electric submarines, which are propelled by a battery and an electric motor, complete with diesel engines to re-charge the batteries, and governed by a pre-planned energy management system.
With the idea of translating this technology to trucks, Asher relocated to the UK six years ago on an Entrepreneur’s Visa, teamed up with an engineering partner and founded his company in Essex.
“This county has a good automotive eco-system,” says Asher. “It’s not hard to find talented and skilled engineers here.”
Tevva’s workforce has doubled twice in the past year, and is set to double again in the next few months, with new contracts flooding in as Asher’s technology starts to come to the attention of major truck operators, and also the British government.
Asher was among a delegation of 50 UK business representatives who accompanied Prime Minister Theresa May on her landmark trade visit to China earlier this year to promote the new golden era of UK-China trade relations.
“The invitation from the Prime Minister’s Office was unexpected,” says Asher. “Certainly, we are at the forefront of what the UK wants for new technology in the automotive space. China is an exciting market to be in, so we would definitely be looking to develop partnerships there.”
Tevva is also looking for partners in the US, continental Europe and India for business development or production, now the initial stage of development and production is complete.
“Our work needs a level of localisation to adapt to the regulations and design culture in each market,” expands Asher.
“Our modular technology means we can be flexible – for example, engines in American trucks tend to be upfront, but in Europe the driver sits on the engine and the front is flat. Indian trucks have a completely different layout.
“Our technology is such that we can work with those different types of designs. And, as the cleanest solution in the world, we can easily exceed the environmental regulations in each country.”
Proof then that Tevva, based in Chelmsford, is definitely going places. In fact it’s going global. “We need a larger base now, but we won’t move far,” assures Asher.
“We’re well-funded, we’re growing, we have great technology, but we still have a start-up mentality. We have a good team here and every member of it really matters.
“People here are proud to work on the most advanced technology – and not just to produce another vehicle that harms our planet.”