Production of a modular truck and bus diesel/electric hybrid driveline promising to “revolutionise” this sector of the commercial vehicle market has moved several steps closer, according to its developer.
The company behind the driveline is Charge R&D (formerly Charge Engineering), a fledgling British-based (Oxfordshire ) firm headed by Glenn Saint as Technical Director. Saint is a former Chief Technical Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at Optare, the Leeds-based bus-builder. After a 17-year career with Optare under several owners, Saint left the company in late 2014 to become Charge’s first employee. Since then he has recruited a team of around 40 engineers.
Charge R&D is not yet ready to reveal full technical details of its first project but Saint is confident that the truck and bus electric driveline that has been developed is close to being ready to sell to vehicle manufacturers and operators. A prototype six-tonnes-GVW truck based on a Fuso Canter cab and the Charge driveline has been undergoing tests at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire since late last year. More vehicles are expected to join the Charge testing programme soon.
“We believe that very soon we will be able to demonstrate that we have found the ultimate target of emissions-free heavy vehicle technology – ultra-low emissions at much less than the cost of diesel power,” says Saint.
The cost of the Charge driveline (excluding battery cost) will be no more than that of a conventional comparable diesel engine driveline, he promises. It is designed for use in an exceptionally broad range of vans, trucks and buses, with gross weights from 2.5 to 26 tonnes. “We believe there is a real opportunity for a low-emission truck and bus range-extended electric platform which is a revolutionary departure from current chassis design in layout and low weight, with a high degree of zero-emissions capability,” says Saint. “It will be financially attractive to operate without external incentive while offering users advanced features new to the commercial vehicle sector.”
Charge’s financial backing comes from Kinetik, a US$500 million investment company (not to be confused with QinetiC, an entirely separate UK defence company formed by privatisation of the government’s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, DERA). Kinetik was set up by Denis Sverdlov, a former Deputy Communications and Mass Media Minister in the Russian Federation government. Sverdlov made his fortune with Yota, a giant Russian mobile broadband services provider.
“We believe the biggest asset a company has is the people at its helm, and simple yet powerful ideas at its heart,” says Sverdlov. “We are not restricted by borders or specific markets and industries. Great invention transcends this. Our vision is to find the world’s brightest minds who share our energy, commitment and drive and help them create game-changing products and technologies to improve the way we live.”