Home » Electric vehicle logging truck trial underway in South Australia as state government watches on

Electric vehicle logging truck trial underway in South Australia as state government watches on

A truck running entirely on electric power has been launched to transport logs across the Green Triangle forestry region in south-east South Australia.

Fennell Forestry commissioned the project from Janus Electric, which said it was the first of its kind in Australia and only the second worldwide.

The truck has been converted from an existing diesel vehicle over the past year and is powered by a 720-horsepower electric motor.

Sounding more like a large four wheel drive than a truck, the engine also runs a full 40 degrees Celsius cooler than traditional diesel truck engines.

Two-year testing regime underway

Fennell Forestry managing director Wendy Fennell has been completing the truck’s first loads after its launch today.

Wendy Fennell is happy to finally see the truck in use after a lengthy build and testing process.(ABC South East SA: Sam Bradbrook)

“I didn’t think this day was going to come, but it has and it’s exceeded my expectation,” she said.

The electric vehicle (EV) will undergo two years of testing to check its performance and to see if maintenance costs stack up against traditional internal combustion engines.

“This is what the trial is about: is the range going to be there?” Ms Fennell said.

“Is it going to be durable enough for our application?

“So we’ll be monitoring the data very closely, to weigh up the costs associated with operating it.”

Swap and go battery system

The EV has a predicted range of 400 to 500 kilometres on a full charge, but its capabilities will be tested during the trial.

A full battery charge takes four hours, but with a swap-and-go system only five minutes is needed to change the batteries using a forklift.

With only one location for this swap to take place, however, the truck will have to travel within the region.

A large blue truck is parked carrying dozens of logs of timber.
The vehicle was adapted from a diesel engine truck.(ABC South East SA: Sam Bradbrook)

Transport is second only to energy production for high emissions in Australia, with the industry having to find solutions to keep in line with the federal government’s 2030 emissions reduction targets.

Ms Fennel believes there’s a role for electric in the heavy vehicle industry but it requires government investment.

“It’s a considerable investment in the actual vehicle itself, but governments do have a role in providing the infrastructure, if we’re to meet these [emission reduction] targets,” she said.

A women speaks to two others, in front of the electric logging truck.
Wendy Fennell discusses the EV with Minister Clare Scriven and Janus Electric’s Lex Forsyth.(ABC South East SA: Sam Bradbrook)

Government watching on

No government funding was provided to the project but SA Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Clare Scriven said she would need to see the results before committing to any future investment.

“Given that South Australia is such a leader in renewable energy, it’s certainly something that deserves a closer look,” she said.

“What the trial will show is whether it’s going to work in the real-world situation, whether there are any disadvantages that haven’t yet been envisaged.

“But I think, overall, looking at this type of technology is incredibly important to make sure that we have got lower emissions going forward in as many industries as possible.”

Technology ‘for the future’

Janus Electric chief executive Lex Forsyth helped develop the initial concept in 2019.

A man wearing a white shirt looks at the camera, with a large logging truck parked in the background.
Lex Forsyth believes the transport industry will have to adapt to keep costs down and reduce emissions.(ABC South East SA: Sam Bradbrook)

“We saw this as a real opportunity to help transport industry decarbonise and also get some control of their costs back with using electricity as an energy source,” he said.

The original truck was purposefully sourced from an Australian company to allow feedback during the trial, and because imported technology may not be up to the task.

“Australia has unique operating conditions, harsh environments from cold to hot … we’re such a remote country, the tyranny of distance is a huge,” Mr Forsyth said.

“So it’s about putting the technology to test in real world applications that suit Australia, for the Australian operators.”

He believed this launch would be the first of many in Australia.

“I think this this is the technology for the future,” Mr Forsyth said.

“I think in 10 years time if we [Janus Electric] haven’t got 15 to 20 per cent of the Australian market, we haven’t done our job properly.”