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The First All-Electric Bucket Truck Hits the Road

Terex Utilities’ Joe Caywood digs into the details behind the company’s groundbreaking announcement.

In June, Terex Utilities introduced the first ever all-electric bucket truck at the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The truck combines Navistar’s International eMV electric chassis (33,000-pound GVWR) with the Terex Optima 55-foot aerial device and the HyPower SmartPTO system by Viatec.

Terex designed the truck for electric distribution line work in urban applications. It offers a 135-mile driving range and the ability to operate the bucket for a full workday on a single charge.

So, what’s the backstory? How was Terex able to bring this truck to market two years ahead of industry forecasts? How many EVs does the company plan to deliver this year? And what should fleet managers consider when ordering an electric bucket truck?

UFP spoke with Joe Caywood, director of marketing at Terex Utilities, to dig into some of the details. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

UFP: In Terex’s press announcement, you said this truck launch is two years ahead of industry projections. What made the shorter timeline possible?

Joe Caywood: We’ve had EVs on our product development roadmap for a while. But we were having to wait until the technology became available.

That changed last year when the pieces started to come together. That’s when we could get line of sight into what it would take to build the truck. And one critical piece was Navistar launching the International eMV electric truck chassis.

Once we saw that the chassis was available, the project gained momentum. We started working with Navistar and Viatec [for the boom power source] late last year. And that put us on the path to go to market with this truck much sooner than expected.

What do you forecast for deliveries this year?

Initial orders are in process with deliveries this year. We’re working with our customers to fine-tune our forecast for next year, but we project a significant increase in 2023 deliveries as utility companies implement aggressive electric fleet sustainability goals.

Let’s talk about spec’ing the initial units. Are the specs standard across the board?

For now, we’re focused on building the 55-foot distribution material-handling aerial device. One of the challenges with these trucks is the extra weight [from the batteries]. You don’t have as much available chassis payload to play with. So, we’re building the trucks with aluminum bodies and controlling the configuration.

Navistar is making enhancements to the chassis that will give us more payload to work with. So, as we go into next year, we’ll start to get some [payload] relief with a bigger, 14,000-pound front axle.

Another improvement we’re working on is single-point charging. The initial trucks have two charging ports – one each for the chassis and the electric boom.

When do you expect single-port charging to be available?

Around the second quarter of next year.

What is the backup power to lower the boom if the ePTO battery runs low?

Visual indicators alert the operator before the battery power gets too low. But we’ve gone about this in a couple of ways to reduce the likelihood of that happening.

First, we’ve increased the battery’s kilowatt rating. Take, for example, a 55-foot aerial device like we have on the EV. When we put it on a diesel chassis as a hybrid ePTO truck, we’ll go with a 14.4- or a 21-kilowatt system. But on all the EVs, we’re going with a 28.8-kilowatt system to power the boom. So, we’re oversizing the battery to give more capacity to ensure the operator can get through a day.

But say, for whatever reason, the operator uses all that energy. The EV chassis has a 12-volt battery like you would see in conventional diesel vehicles. We hook up our auxiliary let-down to the 12-volt system like you would any other aerial device. This way, if you were ever stuck in the air, you could use that auxiliary let-down to lower and stow the boom.

What is the typical charge time for the chassis and the boom?

For the chassis, Navistar recommends a 30- to 60- to 120-kilowatt Level 3 charger. So, the charge time will vary. With a 120-kilowatt charger, it would take about two hours for a full charge. The 60-kilowatt charger would be about a three-and-a-half-hour charge. And if you use the 30, you’d be approaching six or seven hours.

The SmartPTO system uses a Level 2 charger and takes about four hours.

So – depending on the charger – the chassis, plus the Viatec system, can recharge in about a two- to four-hour range.

What factors should fleet managers consider when ordering a truck like this?

There ends up being about three meetings. The first meeting is to discuss and explain what this truck is, the operation of it, the model and the weights. This is to give customers a good understanding of the vehicle.

The second meeting is a deep dive on the chassis. Navistar joins us to go through all the detail of range, recharging, and local service and support. We also do a deep dive on the SmartPTO.

And then the third meeting is an important meeting. It’s about infrastructure and garage recharging. We start talking about, “How should I set up my garages?” What’s the recommended size of the charger to use for the chassis? And based on that, what are the recharge times? We walk them through the charging and infrastructure required to support these trucks.

On what types of routes do utility fleets plan to use the electric bucket truck?

Customers are selecting the EVs for known routes in cities and not in rural areas. The other big thing we hear a lot of feedback on is, “We can’t take these [EVs] on storm response.” And we’re saying, “You’re exactly right. These are not storm response trucks at this time.”

But we reviewed our customers’ telematics data. And we had to look hard for any urban application with this class truck that traveled more than 90 miles.

So, that gave us confidence that a 135-mile range could work in many utility applications.

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Sean M. Lyden

Sean M. Lyden is the editor of Utility Fleet Professional magazine.

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