Driven by sustainability initiatives, fuel prices, environmental regulations and public demand, fleets are exploring, investing in and expanding their use of electric vehicles. What makes those objectives increasingly achievable is the growing number of light- and medium-duty commercial electric vehicle technology choices on the market today.
Evolving in tandem with OEM electric vehicle offerings are the technologies that drive these types of equipment. Among the solutions available to OEMs, for example, are direct drive, electric motor and gearbox, and e-axle solutions where the electric motor is part of the drive axle system.
Dana, which is applying its more than 20 years of vehicle electrification expertise on behalf of several OEMs, believes that a systems-focused approach for direct-drive and integrated e-axles is the best path forward to enhanced electric vehicle efficiency.
“Due to the ease of integration into existing drivelines, direct-drive systems will be adopted first, allowing fleets the benefits of eliminating fuel costs without major disruptions to the design of their vehicles,” said Steve Slesinski, director of global product planning for Dana’s Commercial Vehicle Group.
“Integration of e-axles requires additional engineering but offers added benefits,” Slesinski continued. “Included is a reduction in the number of components within the driveline that allows for packaging more batteries within the frame of the vehicle while also offering enhanced performance, reduced weight, lower maintenance costs and less downtime.”
Dana’s Spicer Electrified solutions include direct-drive motor inverter systems that are designed to interface directly with standard rear differentials, gearboxes and e-axles in medium-duty trucks. Supplied through a joint-venture partnership with TM4 Inc., these systems have already logged hundreds of millions of customer miles in more than 10,000 commercial vehicles.
According to the Dana, the combined offerings it brings to market with TM4, along with its battery and electronic cooling technologies, gives it complete in-house e-drive system capabilities and allows it to offer vehicle electrification solutions for numerous markets.
Also part of Dana’s portfolio is the company’s integrated e-Drive axle, which offers optimized packaging for weight savings. Additionally, with more chassis space, the system allows vehicle manufacturers to position batteries inside the frame rails and to accommodate features such as side steps that are common on medium-duty vehicles used in city delivery operations.
Several Dana e-axle models are available for medium- and light-duty applications. The systems feature integrated motor, transmission and axle power systems that replace centralized engine and driveshaft architectures. The systems also have a wide range of gear reduction ratios to enable optimization of acceleration and top speed across a broad range of vehicle applications.
Earlier this year, Dana and Workhorse Group announced that they are working together to design, develop and produce a Class 5 city delivery vehicle featuring Dana’s Spicer Electrified integrated e-Drive axle. Workhorse has been developing electric vehicle solutions since 2007 and has put nearly three million miles on units used in last-mile delivery operations.
While several electric vehicle projects are already underway at Dana, the company is also in talks with all major OEMs regarding their electrification plans in the medium-duty segment.
“The known routes and duty cycles of medium-duty trucks make these vehicles ideal for electrification initiatives,” Slesinski said. “However, one of the major barriers to widespread electrification acceptance is the lack of a charging infrastructure, leading to anxiety about the range vehicles can travel on a single charge.”
For that reason, a growing number of industry efforts to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructures are underway. For example, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies, reported that electric utilities are partnering with stakeholders to support the growth of the nation’s charging infrastructure, and will deploy nearly 90,000 charging stations throughout the country.
Electric company investments in programs to accelerate electric transportation amount to more than $1 billion, EEI also noted, because electrifying transportation offers numerous benefits, including increased efficiency, improved sustainability, and economic growth and energy security.