Story by: Anwesh Koley

Away from the glitter and attention of the Tesla Semi and other efforts by global CV makers to design, develop and validate heavy e-CVs – electric trucks especially, a little known entity called Infraprime Logistics Technology (IPLT) is testing a heavy e-truck in India. Based at Delhi and specialising in catering to infrastructure companies like the Lucknow Metro (as transportation service provider for aggregate and dust), Delhi Metro (as tier 1 service provider), Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (as transportation partner and an associate in the development of an integrated automated technology platform) and Ghatampur Thermal Power Plant (as service provider for transportation of basic construction material to RDC concrete), IPLT is working towards a commercial launch of the e-truck next year. Stressing on the vehicle to be the first heavy 60-tonne e-truck in the country, Siddharth Das, Executive Chairman, IPLT, mentioned that they are pursuing a goal of ‘Make in India’ rather than import technology and plunk it here.

Christened as Rhino 5536, the 60-tonne e-truck is pure electric in nature. Claimed to be twice as capable as the Tesla Semi in terms of load-carrying capacity, the vehicle, according to Das, was born out of a sole ambition to develop an e-truck locally. In this direction, the company has invested in an 11-acre site at Faridabad. The facility, with a capacity to produce up to 50 units per month per shift, also includes a dedicated test track. Powered by a 276 kWh Li-ion battery and developing 360 hp, the vehicle is a 6×4 tractor with a range of 200 km under full load. Developed by taking into account the Indian operating conditions, the e-truck, without payload, is claimed to achieve a range of 400 km. Currently being tested in Punjab, according to IPLT sources, the Rhino 5536 is capable of a top speed of 85 kmph. Having a grade ability of 20 degrees, which is higher than many diesel trucks with similar tonnage, according to Das, the e-truck is equipped with an ABS-enabled S-Cam air brake system.

Construction and mining
The automatic transmission offering the advantage of safety and comfort by letting the driver concentrate better on the road, the Rhino 5536, said Das, is being worked upon to target the construction and mining industry. Pointing at the company’s focus on infrastructure, innovation, and empathy, IPLT, informed Das, is confident of the Rhino 5536 tasting success. We have done a lot of groundwork to ensure that the product succeeds, he added. Operating roughly 500 diesel trucks in North India, IPLT is leveraging its knowledge and experience to fine-tune the e-truck. Claimed to have invested close to USD-eight million towards infrastructure after embarking on the project in 2017, IPLT, Das explained that they are looking at investing another USD 100 million in the next four to five months. Keen to substitute its entire fleet of diesel trucks with e-trucks in a few years, the company is chalking out plans to manufacture no less than 1000 large electric trucks by 2020. By 2021, it is hoping to reach the 10,000 e-trucks mark.

Claimed to have developed one bus unit for a large OEM in the CV segment already, IPLT, according to Das, is developing a small e-truck for another player. It is confident of the high potential for small-capacity e-trucks in India. Working towards making available five e-trucks by December 2019 for seeding, the company is removing all the stops in the way to launch the vehicle formally next year. Having considerable potential for global acceptance, the Rhino 5536, said Das, is akin to deploying four computers on wheels. One is a vehicle control unit, which controls all the other computers, he explained. Stating that there’s the motor control unit and the transmission control unit apart from the battery management system, Das said, “We have developed battery chargers that are capable of charging the 60-tonne truck battery in around one-and-a-half hours. Electrification saves 20 per cent import, he announced, from the diesel import perspective.

Two-speed transmission
Having equipped the e-truck with a two-speed auto transmission because of familiarity and comfort, it is designed and engineered to enhance the operational efficiency of the e-truck. The transmission is coupled with the hydraulically operated power steering. Stated Das, “The transmission system in the e-truck is for driver comfort. It allows the driver to engage the gear once. Post that, the gear changes are effected automatically.” The transmission of torque to the wheels on the Rhino 5536 is subject to much optimisation. It has to do with the in-house stimulation software the company invested in. Mentioned Subodh Yadav, CEO, IPLT, “The software called for an motor control unit (MCU), vehicle control unit (VCU) and battery management system (BMS). These are our intellectual property.” This vehicle has been designed from scratch, developed and deployed indigenously by us.” Stating that the MCU, VCU, and BMS have been engineered to provide improved mileage in construction material logistics, Yadav said that the proprietary vehicle control software is customisable and can be modified as per the duty cycle data.

The advanced chemistry of materials applied to ensure that there is no thermal runaway, the e-truck has been designed to perform reliably and efficiently in an Indian environment. The Li-ion phosphate battery comes with four layers of protection. Refrigerant cooled, the battery, having an operating temperature of 35 degrees, irrespective of the ambient temperature outside, is designed and engineered to have little chance of heating. With the cooling system in direct contact with each cell in the battery unit, rather than the entire battery pack, an advantage is derived in terms of safety and efficiency. Including an in-built air-conditioned secondary cooling system which maintains temperature around each cell below 35 degree Celsius even when the ambient temperature climbs above 50 degree Celsius, the BMS design and its interface with the VCU, according to Das, have been designed in-house by IPLT. The 265 kWh battery pack weighs more than two-metric tonnes, and amounts to one of the largest packs in use in India, according to Yadav.

The running cost in the region of Rs.10 per km, the Rhino 5536 will make a profitable commercial vehicle proposition, according to Das. The Rs.10 per km cost is less than that of an equivalent diesel truck, he mentioned. Stating that the average cost per km of a diesel truck would be Rs.30, Das averred, “We are leveraging our many years worth of experience in operating truck fleets.” “We know the use cases of trucks and their on-road behaviour,” he added. Doing multiple layers of research and engineering to arrive at a customised product with an electric motor, IPLT indulged in a good deal of simulation. This was followed by test-bench simulation and on-ground testing to authenticate the product viability for mass production. Operating medium-haul logistics and diesel buses on concentrated routes in Lucknow and Delhi NCR region, IPLT is keen to get the front runner advantage in the heavy CV space. For its e-truck, it is looking at setting up five charging bays on existing routes. These will cater to around 500 trucks daily, according to Yadav. Stating that e-trucks are not covered under the FAME scheme, he mentioned that their inclusion is necessary for the interest of reducing vehicular emissions. Inclusion of e-trucks in the FAME scheme, Yadav said, will get more and more players to look at such vehicles. Terming the Rhino 5536 as a complex product in terms of technology, Yadav said that it has the potential of being a sustainable mobility solution. It has been designed, developed and deployed in India, he added.

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