Swedish steel prize nominee 2008
Zero emission vehicle
2008 | Modec | Great Britain 6 min read
Electric drive, quiet running and no exhaust gases, but as powerful as a diesel. These in a nutshell are the properties of the British Modec electrically powered commercial vehicles for city conditions. Advanced high strength steel for vital parts of the vehicle were decisive to meeting the specific design requirements set by the company. The design has been nominated for the Swedish Steel Prize 2008.
The environmental demands on vehicles are continually being tightened up. The requirements on commercial vehicles are particularly strict. This is what Modec Ltd., which was established in 2004, focused on when developing its vehicle.
”The environmental demands on our vehicles concern not only the emissions,” declares Colin Smith, Technical Manager and one of the founders of the company. “The sound level in cities is becoming increasingly troublesome. Our electrically powered vehicle is entirely quiet and can be used basically around the clock, without disturbing the residents. So it can be used for delivering goods in built-up areas even at night.”
Lively performanceElectric drive is no obstacle to lively performance, and the acceleration of the Modec is on a par with many equivalent diesel-powered vehicles. Another valuable benefit is its tight turning circle diameter.
”The turning circle diameter is only 10.8 metres,” explains Colin Smith. “Its properties make the vehicle ideal for city environments. It is easy to handle and efficient on narrow streets in built-up areas.”
The range on one battery charge is about 150 km, which is ample in city conditions. An electric power socket is used for “filling up”. The top speed is 80 km per hour, which is the maximum permissible speed for trucks in Europe. If equipped with an appropriate gearbox, the vehicle can negotiate gradients of no less than 33 percent.
Safety is importantThe battery pack is located mid-way along the vehicle and low down for a low centre of gravity and therefore good roadholding.
“We considered the low, central location of the battery pack to be important,” emphasises Smith. “It provides the right balance of the vehicle and high safety. In the event of a collision, the battery pack - which is surrounded by a special protective frame – is assured of maximum protection.”
The frame is important not only for safety reasons. It also helps to resist the bending and torsional forces to which the vehicle is subjected during its life cycle.
“On ordinary trucks, the way the rear doors move in relation to one another while the truck is travelling is clearly visible,” continues Smith. “This is entirely inadmissible in a vehicle with a battery pack in the chassis, since it would be likely to lead to short circuit in due course. The only material that could meet this challenge is high strength steel. This material has enabled us to meet our demands for a functional and practical design. We are using a hot rolled, extra-high strength steel with a minimum yield strength of 650 MPa. We are also using this material in the “crumple zone” that protects the front of the vehicle in the event of a crash.”
42 minutesThe Modec production factory is a plant in which parts purchased from neighbouring subcontractors are assembled. The proximity to subcontractors is a deliberate strategy.
“It enables us to keep track of costs and minimize stocks to one week’s production,” says Chief Buyer John Ford. ”All vehicles are built against firm orders.”
A vehicle is built in a number of stations at the factory. The parts are taken into production on the just-in-time principle. Customers can order different lengths of the basic chassis. This enables different types of equipment to be fitted to the chassis, such as a van body or a platform. Since it is all based on a standard model, the production work is done quickly.
“We estimate that it takes 42 minutes to assemble a chassis,” declares John Ford.
The market is maturingCustomers include well-known companies such as UPS, FedEx and Tesco. In addition to the UK, the company has sales offices in the USA, Ireland and the Netherlands. The market is expected take off in earnest by next year.
”We note that growing numbers of cities are introducing charges for polluting vehicles. But electric vehicles are exempt,” says Catherine Hutt, who is responsible for the market. “In pace with the general public and companies becoming aware of environmental issues, suppliers will come under growing pressure to meet certain requirements. The demand for our vehicles will then take off in earnest.”