Self-driving electric truck changes the concept of transport

This autumn the Swedish company Einride will move out onto the public road system when its T-pod truck is installed with DB Schenker in Jönköping. By combining electric power with self-driving, the ambition is to fundamentally change the transport system. The truck contains components from Swedish and Dutch suppliers.

Einride’s T-pod is a self-driving, battery-operated truck with neither a cab nor a driver’s seat. Einride is responsible for the design and final assembly, with suppliers from Sweden and the Netherlands manufacturing all the components. Einride describes itself as a software company.
“We work with a number of different partners for everything from the plastic subcomponents to the chassis,” explains Linnéa Kornehed, marketing manager at Einride. “The components must be able to handle an electric powertrain and we place high demands on having good minerals in the batteries. Everything we do has a sustainability perspective and we also demand that from our suppliers. It’s fundamental to our whole company.”

Two official partners are Phantom Auto and Nvidia from Silicon Valley in the USA, who supply the sensors and memory cards respectively. In contrast, Einride has no official partner for the T-pod’s hardware, although the company does want to work with its suppliers on a long-term basis.
“The requirements are a bit different for self-driving and electric vehicles. But as long as the suppliers have experience with electric powertrains and batteries, there’s no major difference.”

What’s your view of the innovative ability and technology level among Swedish suppliers?
“The expertise and diversity create a good foundation for innovation. An extra plus is the fact that Sweden has many small companies that are owned and operated by entrepreneurs with passion and a desire to grow their companies.”

The big challenge with ordinary electric-powered trucks is profitability, because it costs money to have the driver idle while the batteries are being charged. When Einride was founded two years ago, the ambition was therefore to combine electric operation with self-driving. In the long run the challenge is to alter the entire transport system by adding such features as remote control and company-owned charging stations.
“There’s been huge interest and we’ve received many enquiries about the model. We’ve succeeded in finding a niche where there is a need and where the customers are willing to make the shift.”

A first step is a stretch of road about 300 metres long between two of DB Schenker’s facilities in Jönköping. The choice of Schenker in Jönköping was no coincidence – both the immediate area and the facilities are well suited to this historic first step. Part of the stretch is a public road.
“Of course this means a huge amount to us and it’s terrific to be able to demonstrate it in commercial operation,” Linnéa Kornehed concludes. “We’re offering them a service that they need help with – it’s not just a prototype but an actual installation. For us, getting this project in operation will be a milestone.”

Published
6/25/2018
Images
Einride’s T-pod is a self-driving, battery-operated truck with neither a cab nor a driver’s seat.
Einride’s T-pod is a self-driving, battery-operated truck with neither a cab nor a driver’s seat.