ELECTRIFYING LOC UDELIVERY WORK
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/NCREASING attention is being paid to the urgent necessity of utilizing indigenous fuel for operating road-transport vehicles in this country, and recent events have merely added emphasis to this need. There is also the important point that the purchase of foreign fuel means that huge sums of money are leaving the country, and practically the only return is in freightage when the imports are carried in British ships.
One of the most promising means for transport, which has not hitherto progressed to the extent which it undoubtedly merits, is the electric vehicle. There are in operation here fewer than 3,500; yet there exists a vast potential market for the type, in view of the estimate that some 60 per cent. of all goods-carrying vehicles is employed in urban areas, of which the bulk averages only 30 miles per day. It is in the sphere of heal work and house-to-house delivery that the electric vehicle should find its metier.
The electric power is available at cheap rates for the night load, and the power companies would heartily welcome increased use being made of this facility. Then, why is the electric vehicle not making the progress that its apparent merits deserve ?
There are several factors : (I) the high cost compared with other types; (2) some chassis are merely modifications of petrol models, and not designed especially for the peculiar needs of the type ; (3) the difficulties of battery servicing—a battery may last for three years or more, but for quite half this period it cannot give its original output, and thus the range and speed constitute a dropping curve; (4) the fear of• operators that the battery may die in the vehicle. (5) the lack of encouragernent from official quarters.
The picture in Germany is vastly different. There, over 22,000 electric vehicles are in service, involving the consumption of some 250,000,000 units of electricity per year, this being practically all night
• loading and charged at id. per unit. Also, by law, the size and capacity of each battery have been standardized, another requirement being that they must be . capable of easy exchange.The small vehicles use One standard battery ; the larger, two or more, as required, and as a single charge is 17 units the current cost per .
battery is Sid. The same price applies to night charging in Britain.
Some time ago, Mr. E. Cecil Kny, who is well known in road-transport circles. began to develop the idea that an operator should not be compelled to purchase an electric vehicle and its battery simultaneously, for no one would think of buying a petrol vehicle and a petrol supply, for, say, three years, at the same time It must be realized that with the electric vehicle the cost of the " fuel " is almost negligible; it is the battery that counts.
He considered that a practical scheme would be to pay for the battery and its charger "through the meter" with the current consumed. First, he got into touch with the power companies in the bigger areas, and in conjunction with them he developed the scheme by which they would build and equip efficient service stations for standard batteries, on the condition that he (Mr. Kny) would accepithe responsibility of management and of providing the personnel.
In London alone this scheme has progressed so far that, out of 15 statiOns arranged for, eight are already in being.
Next, the Westinghouse Company was approached and arrangements made for the supply of charging equipment. Finally, an important group of battery manufacturers fell into line', realizing that their future success might depend upon the development of the traction battery: .
The essential factor in the system adopted, is hi pro vide British-built vehicles and trucks of highly efficient types, and to market these in such a way 1..hat the buyer pays over a period of five years. In the case ol the 15-20-cwt. model, which would probably be one of
the most popular, this would involve a payment of £1 per week for the vehicle, and, perhaps, El 2s._ 6d. per week, which would cover complete battery servicing,. exclusive only of the cost of current. It may, later, be found possible to reducer this second charge also to El.
Out of this amount the power companies will be paid for collection from the meters, the battery, makers • for providing the batteries, the Westinghouse Company for its chargers, and a reasonable sum will be deducted for Service expenses.
At the end of every three months, an operator will send his vehicle to the nearest service station, when the battery will be changed either for a new one or for one completely reconditioned, the time taken at the station being five minutes or less. In addition, if at any time the vehicle be required for work which would mean a heavy drain on the battery, the current may be used up to the safe limit and then a fully charged stand-by battery obtained at a cost of only 2s. 6d. Thus the operator will be freed from all battery troubles, and, so far as the service stations are concerned, partly used batteries may be employed on those vehicles which, awing to the nature of their work, are restricted as to mileage ; therefore, the scheme is entirely economic.
It must be realized that, in the ordinary way, an
electric chassis costs but little less than one of the petrol type, but to purchase a battery outright represents about £100, whilst the charger is another £50, and the spreading of the cost of the latter two items in the eze manner suggested should prove a tremendous attraction.
To realize his'ambitions, Mr. Kny founded a company, Battery Traction, Ltd., 4, Deans Yard, Westminster, London, S.W.1, with a capital of £82,000; and secured the financial support of a wealthy and powerful group not at present connected with transport or electricity. This company is constructing, near London, an extensive works for the manufacture of suitable and highly efficient vehicles, the rights of which have been acquired from a famous Continental engineering concern.
They will be known as "Q" trucks and have been evolved to meet the specific requirements of the work, the construction saving a large proportion of the weight as compared with the ordinary delivery vehicle, in addition to providing remarkable accessibility, and
The range will cover delivery vehicles, factory trucks, crane and tiering trucks and special types for the post office, railways, aircraft industry, etc.
It is important to note, however, that the sale will be strictly confined to London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester and six other large urban areas, where it is considered that the main fields of operation will lie, whilst there will be a guarantee that the range of one charge at the " middle " load, i.e., full out and empty return, will not fall below 50 miles at a speed of not less than 20 m.p.h.