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In Stuttgart, DACHSER is now using the latest generation of electric trucks—with the next generation of drivers behind the wheel: Diamant Demukaj, an 18-year-old trainee trucker, delivers goods to Stuttgart-based companies quietly, nimbly, and with zero emissions.

As he approaches, nobody on the street turns and looks. “It’s not surprising. After all, my truck is almost silent,” says the young driver from DACHSER’s Kornwestheim branch. But there are definitely plenty of good reasons to have a closer look when the 18-year-old trucker, a trainee with the poetic name of Diamant Demukaj, pulls up. You see, he’s behind the wheel of the eCanter, a spectacularly innovative truck built by the Daimler subsidiary, Mitsubishi FUSO. At 7.5 metric tons, it’s the first all-electric truck to be produced. Daimler started shipping the first of them to select European customers early this year.

The small truck is one part of the City Distribution project, in which DACHSER is linking tried and true logistics models with new ideas in a bid to develop robust, sustainable business models for the last mile of tomorrow. The new generation of vehicles is bringing DACHSER farther along in its quest to find the right mix of vehicles for city centers. This practical test in Stuttgart is an integral part of that quest.

Putting everything to the test

The DACHSER branch in Kornwestheim near Stuttgart has embraced this challenge with open arms. This past year, Axel Rustemeier, Operations Manager European Logistics, brought on board Christian Polziehn, a traffic engineer by trade and a skilled project assistant. His mission is to work closely with the head office in Kempten, the fleet manager and training director Martin Dohrmann, and test drivers like Diamant Demukaj in an extensive, long-term study of how the electric truck will handle the demanding terrain during daily use, how temperature extremes will impact its range over the course of the seasons, and what specific loading infrastructure is needed to make city-center deliveries as seamless, effective, and emissions-free as possible.

“Communication and extremely thorough documentation and analysis of data are critical,” says Polziehn. That’s why he uses Truckonnect to link the eCanter with headquarters at all times. The online system records every acceleration, every jerky braking action, and every deviation from smooth and efficient driving when the truck is out on the road. “This isn’t about controlling or micromanaging the driver,” he says, “it’s about working with him or her to determine the driving strategy that will deliver optimum range and then passing this knowledge on to future drivers.” He says the comprehensive tests are also the reason why the electric truck is used in the branch’s own fleet.

Computers along for the ride

Demukaj, the trainee trucker, likes being a test driver. When he looks over the recording of the route on the computer, he can tell Polziehn and his instructor about every warning sign he saw along the way. “That was a construction site with tons of potholes, where I kept having to slam on the brakes and accelerate again. Of course, that pushes energy consumption right through the roof,” he recalls.

Demukaj has been driving the electric truck since early March and is now completely at ease with the new technology. “We deliberately chose one of our best trainees for this test,” says fleet manager Martin Dohrmann. “He just recently got his driver’s license with us and so he’s always closely watching the vehicle and its performance. Also, he’s not yet accustomed to driving diesel trucks, which is why he can drive the electric truck and analyze it without any preconceived notions.”

The fact that his trainees can be entrusted with this kind of special task, and the excellent impression they then make both inside and outside the company, suits Dohrmann just fine. “We also want this testing to make a statement about how DACHSER places great value on the next generation of professional drivers. After all, when interacting directly with customers during the last mile, our drivers are the public face of DACHSER,” he says. “That’s why we’re looking for motivated and qualified young people.”

An energy star that shines

When Demukaj docks at the ramp with the eCanter, he is aware of the attention his electric star gets. “At first, most customers are genuinely surprised and curious. ‘Is that really an all-electric truck?’ they want to know, thrilled to see this innovation show up at their door,” says the trainee. And then he usually has to quickly explain how the eCanter works: how it starts up without a sound; how full torque is immediately available as soon as you step on the gas pedal; how it has a range of around 100 km and can carry a payload of up to 2.7 metric tons; how it produces energy when braking, so that driving down the Drackensteiner Hang mountainside in the Swabian Alps recharges the battery by 3%; and, finally, how he was totally shocked during some recent rainfall at just how noisy the scraping of the windshield wipers sounded compared to the silence in the cab.

Electric trucks have the potential to become an alternative delivery method, at least for city centers. Commercial vehicle makers are working around the clock in this area, as shown by the fact that the eCanter in Stuttgart will be getting an electric colleague this summer. That’s when the DACHSER branch there will also start using a Daimler eActros. The first fully electric 18-ton truck by Mercedes-Benz has a range of 200 km, and full production, after an extensive fleet test, is scheduled to begin in 2021.

The team at the branch is excited—especially Demukaj, who is already set to be the test driver for the eActros. At just 18 years old, he knows better than almost anyone what to listen out for in a silent electric truck. That definitely sounds like a very promising future.

At 7.5 metric tons, it’s the first all-electric truck to be produced. Daimler started shipping the first of them to select European customers early this year. The electric truck is used and tested in the branch’s own fleet of DACHSER Kornwestheim.
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