Why Not Try a Battery-electric?
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THE latest issue of the Ministry of Transport Returns shows that there are now 4,674 electrically propelled goods vehicles in use. This number, whilst considerable and showing the increased •progress which this type of vehicle is making, is roughly about 1 per cent. of petrol and oil vehicles; and the reason for this small number warrants investigation, since it is undoubtedly true that many of the existing petrol and oil vehicles could be replaced by electric transport.
Many potential users are not fully aware of the advantages of the electric vehicle, nor are they aware of the disadvantages of it, and as transport is to them merely one small factor in their business, they take the line of least resistance and purchase more conventional types.
The advantages which the electric vehicle has are that the motor can exert full torque from standstill and as a , result no clutch or gearbox are required and the motor does not rim when the vehicle is stationary. Therefore, there is no wear and tear going on while the vehicle is at rest.
This, obviously, makes it an ideal type for use where a large number of stops for comparatively short periods has to be made, and it is in this service that the majority of electric vehicles will be found to-day.
It, of course, follows from this that the wear and tear on the vehicle are much lower on this class of service than with petrol vehicles; there are therefore lower maintenance costs and a longer life. Less maintenance also means reduced time loss during maintenance and more availability for use.
• Some Important Advantages • The electric motor and the absence of a gearbox make for a silent vehicle, a feature which is of considerable importance in some businesses, such as milk delivery, which has to be carried out in the early hours of the day. Then there is the entire absence of fumes, which will also be of importance where the handling of foodstuffs and other articles which are liable to be contaminated is involved.
The power for operating these vehicles is supplied from batteries carried on the vehicle. These will take up some space, although they do not as a rule, in their arrangement, cut into the useful space for carrying goods, but at the same time they are somewhat heavy. Fortunately this extra weight does not penalize the user because operators are permitted to deduct the weight of the battery before weighing for licensing purposes.
An electric battery cannot be recharged in a short time, therefore vehicles can be available for only part of the day and night, the rest being given UP to charging unless replacement batteries are available. The usual period allowed for charging is 8-12 hours, although it can be reduced to about six hours if necessary.
The size of battery which can be carried is, of course, controlled by the size of vehicle, and this imposes a al0 ,. limitation as to the distance which the vehicle can._ travel. This is in the order of 30-50 miles per charge, depending upon the size of battery mounted and the performance expected from the vehicle, also the character of the district in which it is working. Hilly districts and a large number of stops will tend to reduce the distance.
The electric vehicle is also more expensive in first cost than the corresponding petrol vehicle, but its longer life and lower maintenance charges, together with lower fuel costs, will make it a more economical vehicle to operate. The life of the electric vehicle itself is some 10 years and that of the battery from three to four years. If the costs be taken out to include all possible costs, including depreciation, then undoubtedly the electric vehicle will show to advantage in many cases, • Correct Costing is Essential • There are numbers of transport users, particularly those who have retail deliveries to make, who do not treat their transport as something separate and take out full detailed costs. Many of these probably have no idea as to the cost of their transport and treat it as merely one item of their business.'
Were they to take out their costs on the basis so often recommended by S.T.R. they would find that many of their customers to whom a special delivery has to be made are anything but remunerative. It has been the policy of The Commercial Motor continually to advocate that users should keep a complete record of their costs of transport, and the writer most strongly agrees with this.
The result of not keeping proper costs does act detrimentally to the electric vehicle, for the all-important question in a potential user's mind is "What is a vehicle going to cost me?" Meaning "How much have I got to pay for a new one?." He will obviously go for the vehicle which will touch his pocket least, although in the long run it may well be the more expensive vehicle to operate.
In many businesses other difficulties do arise in adopting an electric vehicle, due to the restricted mileage which they can do on one charge. Many businesses operate vehicles which come well within the limits for most days of the week, but Saturday, or some other special day, may find them called upon to do double the normal mileage. From the writer's observation one of the trades which may find itself in this difficulty is the butcher's, where there is a great concentration of delivery on Saturdays.
There are, however, many businesses which have a perfectly regular round day in and day out. Two such trades are the dairy and baking, and it is in these two. businesses that we find the majority of the electric vehicles to-day. Other big users are co-operative societies, because their transport is treated separately from the business which it serves.
The present international situation warrants those who depend upon transport investigating much more closely the advantages of the electric vehicle. This vehicle is not dependent on imported fuel, nor on a fuel for which the fighting services might make immense demands, and whilst the Ministry of Transport has recommended that they be included with other vehicles under its grouping scheme, there is little doubt but that they will be left within the area to a considerable extent to enable essential retail deliveries to be carried out.
The investigations should first take the line of costs and then consider how far existing transport could be converted to electric and how far alterations could be made to permit of a-proportion of the fleet being converted to electrics. Few users will find it possible to convert the whole of their fleet to electrics, but nearly every transport user operating more than two. or three vehicles could find a use for some of the type.
• Electric Not Competitive with Petrol Vehicles • It should be emphasized that the electric is not a com petitor of the petrol vehicle. It has been designed mainly to take the place of horsed and hand transport, and it is only where these have been replaced by petrol vehicles that the electric can effectively displace the last named.
_Potential users may feel that operating two types of transport may involve them in maintenance difficulties, but this is not so, since much of the equipment is common to both types of vehicle and it is only the electrical equipment which will be different.
• The only attention that the batteries will require is that they should be kept clean and topped up with dis tilled water about once a fortnight. The motor will require greasing at the same time as the chassis and an occasional inspection of the brushes and commutator. Any handy man can replace 'a brush, the only care necessary being to see that the correct grade of 'carbon is used, but as in all cases the brushes should be purchased from the supplier of the vehicle, no difficulty should arise.
Charging of the battery has been made an essentially simple operation and is entirely automatic. Every vehicle is provided with an amp-hour meter; this is an instrument which shows how much current has been taken from the battery, and when the battery is being charged will show how much has been put into it, running anti-clockwise and clockwise respectively. '
• Charging Is Now Acme of Simplicity •
The method of charging is, therefore, to insert the charging plug and switch on, and the amp.-hour meter will revolve slowly in an anti-clockwise-direction until the indicating hand comes back to zero. At this point it engages the small switch which cuts out the charger, the battery thus having had sufficient current put back into it to replace that which was taken from it. Batteries actually absorb more current than they return but the meter is designed to take this into account.
• There is, however, another method adopted. This is by means of a special relay which is mounted on the charger. When a battery is nearly fully charged the voltage rises very quickly and this relay embodies a device for accurately measuring the battery voltage. When the rise takes place the relay switches on a synchronous clock which runs for a predetermined time and then switches off the charging current. In either case all that is necessary to do is to insert the plug, switch on, and next day the battery will be found charged.
In fact the whole method of working is so simple that once a user has adopted electrics he will wonder why there should be any suggestion-that they are complicated.