“It all started with the cell that Flanders Make chose for us”
They already knew all there is to know about the mechanical parts of a truck. But how do you convert a conventional powertrain into an electric one? That was completely new to them. And yet, that was the gap in the market that Beukers Group wanted to explore and led to the incorporation of a new business unit: E-Trucks. CEO André Beukers knocked on our door to develop the electric battery pack.
Beukers Group from Westerhoven in the Netherlands is an all-round bodyshop, specialised in heavy vehicles such as buses and trucks. In the latter segment, they recognised potential in electric trucks, particularly for freight traffic in urban areas, think for instance of environmentally friendly, super silent refuse lorries. And so they incorporated the E-Trucks division within the group, with Lommel as its operational base and headed by André Beukers. Its mission? Building knowledge and expertise for developing electric powertrains. Its purpose? New electric trucks or the conversion of existing trucks into 100% electric vehicles.
Objective and expert answers
“Is it at all possible? That was quite a few years back our initial question”, explains André. “Is it technically possible to drive a truck using an electric battery pack? And which cell technology is most suited for this? Obviously, there are many cells available on the market. And, again obviously, every supplier argues that it has the best solution for your specific application. The answer to this question was extremely important because this cell technology would be the absolute basis of our future battery management system.”
“We turned to Flanders Make for an objective answer. I knew they had gained a lot of expertise on electric batteries and so we would not have to rely on promises of manufacturers. At Flanders Make, they had effectively tested all these different cells: charging, discharging, monitoring of performances in a climate chamber, effect of vibrations on performances, etc. They could tell us years ago already exactly which battery cell would perform best. Today, this cell is still the basic component of all our electric trucks.”
Building on solid foundations
“At a later stage, they also took on the entire design and manufacturing process of the battery pack. All software has been designed by them. They also performed the necessary tests. As for the hardware, this we designed together. The integration of all these elements was our job. At the end of 2011, our first e-truck was ready, a first for Belgium. Then it was back to us to go through the inspection and homologation process.”
“Now, many years later, we’ve already converted several types of trucks into electric vehicles. Flanders Make always continued to support us, even though we are gradually taking over the entire process. Our vehicles are becoming increasingly reliable and user-friendly. In our first versions, the driver literally had a laptop alongside of him. The next step is an embedded computer. We are also looking for ways to increase the range of our trucks. For this, we are focussing our efforts on hydrogen technology. But, it must be said, we owe the absolute fundamentals, the technology that we are still building on, to Flanders Make.”
“Flanders Make could tell us years ago already exactly which battery cell would perform best. Today, this cell is still the basic component of all our electric trucks.”