Range Energy, a start-up specializing in powered trailers for the trucking industry, debuted its 53-foot full-scale electric trailer, RA-01, at the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo earlier this month. The RA-01 is designed for various purposes, including yard operations and reducing the load on a semi-truck’s diesel engine while hauling cargo, according to the company.
Several manufacturers, including Daimler, Freightliner, Tesla, and Volvo, among others, have zero-emissions tractor offerings in their portfolio. But electric trailers are relatively new, and Range Energy estimates that the trailers’ ability to move by themselves can improve the tractors’ overall performance.
How Does It Work?
Range Energy’s platform includes an electric axle (e-axle), a floor-mounted battery pack, and what the company calls a smart kingpin, which houses sensors capable of detecting lateral loads caused by acceleration and braking. The sensors measure the force exerted by the tractor, following which the trailer's e-axle reacts with a proportionate amount of torque, reported Elektrek.
This set of equipment also powers auxiliary devices, pre-cools the Transportation Refrigeration Unit (TRU), and improves the efficiency of the tractor’s diesel engine to ultimately reduce emissions, said the company in a press release.
The trailer has a battery pack with a capacity of 200 kilowatt-hours. Its e-axle generates 350 kilowatts (476 horsepower) and a little over 10,300 pound-feet of torque (14,000 Newton meters). The company said the battery can charge fully in 10.5 hours with 19 kW AC charging, while 350 kW DC fast charging can do the same in just 45 mins.
Eletrek tested a smaller prototype version, which you can see in the video above. With the power switched off, the trailer doesn’t move because of its sheer heft. But with electrical assistance switched on, the prototype moves simply with an arm’s strength.
With the trailer’s ability to produce its own torque, Range Energy estimates a 41 percent reduction in diesel expenditure without additional operational costs. The potential advantages include easier maneuverability around tighter spaces, faster acceleration, and improved cargo hauling, especially on gradients.
Adding control to the rear axle might also enhance stability and offer improved protection against jackknifing. Moreover, the trailer’s regenerative braking is likely to reduce brake fade and reduce the truck’s fuel consumption.
Range Energy’s trailer tips scale at 4,000 pounds, which could eat into a Class 8 semi’s gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds. By regulation, electric semi-trucks are permitted additional 2,000 pounds of payload capacity. But Range Energy’s product is a trailer and not a truck, so it doesn’t qualify for the additional allowance.
The powered trailer is not on sale yet, and we don’t know its pricing, which might impact its viability. However, it’s too early to draw any conclusions on its real-world impact. Continue watching this space for updates, and let us know in the comments what you think of Range Energy’s RA-01.