DACHSER is the first logistics company to successfully test a production-ready electric powered terminal tractor at two German locations. The logistics supplier has long been working on robust electric vehicle designs, in close collaboration with designers.

The prototype, developed by specialized vehicle maker Terberg Nordlift, was tested in real operations, pulling trailers from the terminal parking area to the loading bay. “The tractor test at DACHSER locations in Herne and Hamburg was a total success,” was how André Bilz of the Technology/Technical Procurement Division at DACHSER in Kempten summed up the outcome. “We were given an extremely positive report by the drivers. They were especially impressed by its low-noise and exhaust-free operation. And they liked the fact that the cab has been designed like a normal vehicle, so that they could operate the tractor in a familiar ergonomic environment.”

Innovative drive train technology

The drive train technology is entirely new. It has been designed to produce 160/180 HP at 1800 to 2800 rpms. Its battery has a capacity of 206 kilowatt hours – with which the terminal tractor can move a total load of 45 tons. This high-powered vehicle gets its energy from lithium ion phosphate batteries. The system consists of two battery packs with two battery units each and eight battery management systems (BMS), controlling the 92 battery cells. These make it possible to now work a nine-hour day on one battery charge. Charging takes only 4.5 hours, depending on the design of the charging system. But unlike a “normal” fleet, employees have to be trained and certified to do maintenance on high-voltage equipment. And the workshops and tools must meet special safety requirements.

“This new emission-free, quiet system is not only robust but will also be economic, when it is in regular production, once costs and synergy effects are considered,” explains Arno Ortlieb, Terberg Nordlift Managing Director. It is true that the batteries have a limited number of charging cycles – about 3,000 when 80 percent discharged. But because the electric motor is virtually maintenance-free compared to a conventional combustion engine, once it is in regular production, the lifecycle costs are lower in the long run. “As a matter of fact,” says DACHSER technical expert André Bilz, “an emission-free electric tractor becomes an option for use.”