I like hybrid electrical powertrains, so I was excited to see these being produced. Some of our readers may remember an article I wrote on the history of hybrid cars and in that article I listed quite a few of the newest hybrids that are available to the public (click here to see that article)
Don’t get me wrong, I still do love EV’s, but…by me supporting hybrids, it allows both sides to hate me! But are there any “real” benefits to a hybrid? I’d say yes, and I think the major one is the charging infrastructure. I live in a small town in central Kansas, and if I bought any kind of EV, I’d need to have my own charger in my garage. I don’t know what someone would have to do if they lived in a rental, and it seems as though the entire next generation will have to rent while being unable to afford to buy a house.
That being said, as you cross the country, sometimes the public chargers are full with a waiting line, or they are broken and don’t work, or they are even the wrong type of charger. (To see our article on charging plug standards, click here). With a hybrid drivetrain, there is no range anxiety, because you have an engine on board to drive a generator.
A “parallel hybrid” is like a Toyota Prius that allows a motor OR engine to drive the transmission, but…the Edison trucks have a series-hybrid drivetrain where the engine only drives a generator. Edison uses a large battery pack, which also makes it a “plug in” hybrid, meaning it has the capability to operate as an electric only drivetrain for short ranges, and this is my personal favorite style.
In fact, the series-hybrid drivetrain is well known from cargo-train locomotives all across the world, and also from WWII submarines. I was a crew-member on a nuclear-powered submarine from 1978 till 1981, and even though the reactor simply made steam for a very simple turbine drive, we also had a series-hybrid diesel-electric back-up system, and that Fairbanks-Morse diesel was a part of my job. I’m sure it’s obsolete tech by now, and we used a very large room-sized lead-acid battery, but…none-the-less…my submarine could make it home on the diesel-electric drive if needed.
The Drive System
The pic below shows the electric motor adapted to a standard “off the shelf” drive axle found on the tractors used on 18-wheelers. Edison can build a customer a ground-up new tractor, or adapt their system to an existing tractor, if a customer already owns one. You can have them build a truck with one, two, or even three drive-axles, plus other custom options seen farther below.
This graphic below is a layout of the drive system they can install in just about any common truck frame, such as a Kenworth, Peterbilt, Mack, or others. Their battery packs are the black boxes in the middle of the system, just in front of the drive-axles, tucked up safely away from road debris. The inline 6-cylinder Caterpillar diesel is a common and well-regarded drive unit that spins a large generator. Under normal operating conditions, these engines routinely drive over a million miles before overhaul, and as a hybrid drivetrain, I fully expect that number to be double.
The hybrid-drive system components that Edison chose are from Danfoss Editron (click here to see their website). The diesel engines are from Caterpillar (to see their website click here). The battery pack modules are made by Flodraulic from Toronto. (click here to see their website). The generator is the Danfoss EM-PMI540-T2000.
Edison can convert a truck that you already own, but they also purchase generic frames to build a brand-new tractor to their spec. They place an emphasis on access to all components and ease of repair. This really appealed to me since I often perform the maintenance and repair of my own vehicles, and I frequently see discussions on the internet on how difficult wiring problems are for new vehicles. Shop-time is expensive, and if a mechanic needs to remove the dash-board to perform a “minor repair” on a heater core…it is going to be expensive.
Their new-built trucks are the “L” series, with the L500 having two drive axles, and the L750 having three.
Their first application was a truck that is working the mountains in Canada, and this is one area where an electric drive really shines. The majority of my time driving a CDL truck was on a simple 2×5 10-speed, which is very common. However I did spend some time for a while on a 10-speed with a gear-splitter for the mountains, for a total of 20 very close-ratio speeds available.
A truck with a full load that is forced to stop at a red light on an uphill was the worst part of that job. You had to be careful to avoid stalling the engine or frying the clutch, and at the same time you were going through every gear while accelerating at a painfully slow rate.
Another issue is braking on long/steep downhills with a full load. I can’t emphasize enough how beneficial it is to have regenerative braking. If you’ve ever heard a truck making a loud BR-BR-BR-BR sound on a downhill, he was “engine braking” by downshifting the transmission to a lower gear and using the resistance of the engine to slow down as much as possible, with the assistance of the “Jacobs Brake”. What this does is reduce how hot the stock brakes are going to be on a long downhill.
Not only does the Edison truck system have regen braking, it still has the standard truck brakes. As a result, Edison trucks are objectively safer on the roads than the non-electric trucks.
Electric motors don’t need a clutch, and they have the full torque of the system from the first RPM. I would have loved having an Edison truck on my mountain drives. Since AWD trucks exist (while using a common steerable-axle interface) Edison can easily make a specialty frame with a 6×6 drive, or even an 8×8 drive as shown on the graphic, shown here below…
This might be a good place to repeat that one of the reasons I like Edison trucks is that they use generic and common off-the shelf parts in every place where they can.
I do like the new Tesla semi-truck, but…even with their record of having a low incidence of problems, there can be a problem someday that needs to be fixed. If you are working in a remote region and a problem comes up, where are you going to get parts? or find someone who can fix it? Tesla wants you to tow it to the closest Tesla-certified dealer.
The most obvious place where this problem can immediately be seen is the Tesla windshield compared to the multi-faceted Edison style using flat glass. Anyone at any time can get a crack in the windshield glass from a road-debris that’s thrown up by the vehicle in front of you. Tesla tells their customers that they will have to have that glass replaced by Tesla, at the going Tesla-mechanic rate, and whenever they can get around to doing it. Edison uses flat glass that can be cut to shape and installed by any truck repair depot that already exists all over North America. The highway patrol will NOT allow you to drive on the highway with a broken wind-shield.
The engine on the generator-set is a Caterpillar C9, which is only 8.8L of displacement, and this is the main reason for the exceptional fuel economy. The logging truck that Chase used to drive through the mountains of Canada uses a Caterpillar C15, which is 15.2L of displacement, and the Edison was designed to replace that.
The series-hybrid drivetrain battery can provide the power peaks needed for acceleration, and then during the cruise-phase of driving, the engine/generator can top off the battery. The constant RPM’s on the engine has proven to provide a serious improvement in fuel economy, as well as significantly improved emissions. Improved fuel economy is a major benefit to any trucking business.
The Lithium-Iron-Phosphate batteries (LiFePO4) are listed at 540V nominal, and I will continue to look for more details. The battery pack modules come stock with an electric heating pad under them for those times when the truck has to park in the cold, away from a plug-in charger. And when the weather is hot, they have the option for liquid-cooling. The armored modules are mounted far above the roadway between the truck frame-rails.
Conversions and New-Builts
Below is a pic of their “vocational” ground-up new truck on the left, and on the right is their first conversion prototype, which is affectionally been named “Carl”. It’s a run-of-the-mill 1962 Kenworth LW 924.
I think Edison has a bright future, especially for the next decade. I see no reason they wouldn’t do well in the USA, but in Canada, I would certainly choose an Edison over Tesla for the jobs where they are already proving to be successful.
This system was designed by a truck driver/owner, and they specifically mention avoiding “planned obsolescence”, and giving the owner of an Edison truck the “right to repair” themselves.
Here’s a youtube video that I think is the best video they made to show everything you might want to know about Edison Motors and their trucks.
Pick Up Trucks?
As if Edison wasn’t busy enough already, they converted the truck below, and based on the publics response, they are working towards developing a kit that shops can use to convert vintage vehicles to a hybrid drive.
I don’t know yet what the voltage is on these, but one of the big benefits of a system like this is that where-ever you go, you always have a generator with a long run-time with you. Depending on the engine chosen, the resulting vehicle can even be dual-fuel capable.
The diesel engine does not need to run constantly, and it doesn’t need to run at all for short trips. However, when it does need to run, it drives the generator at a constant RPM, and that’s the key to the Edison system getting exceptional fuel economy and low emissions.
Mailing address…PO Box 444, Merritt BC, Canada, V1K 1B8
Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, December 2023