Range Energy has developed a revolutionary trailer, the RA-01, aimed at making semi-trucks more efficient and environmentally friendly. The 53-foot trailer is equipped with a 200-kWh battery and an 800-volt e-axle powertrain, providing up to 14,000 Nm of torque and 350 kW (469 hp) through the rear wheels. The trailer’s innovative design allows it to work seamlessly with any electric or diesel-powered cab without modifications.
The RA-01 operates by responding to the acceleration and braking loads imposed by the tractor cab. A smart kingpin senses these loads and activates electric motors to provide instant and proportional torque assistance when accelerating. Similarly, regenerative braking is engaged when the cab brakes, contributing to increased fuel efficiency.
In fuel economy tests conducted by Mesilla Valley Transportation Solutions, Range reported an impressive 3.25 mpg (72.4 L/100km) boost, representing a 36.9% efficiency gain compared to a standard truck’s fuel consumption. The test involved a 25.5-mile urban/highway loop at a gross vehicle weight of 59,000 lb (26,760 kg) and top speeds of 60 mph (96.5 km/h).
“We’re essentially matching the fuel economy you’d get if you were bobtailing your tractor,” Range CRO and founder Ali Javidan tells The New Warehouse podcast – bobtailing in this case meaning driving the cab without a trailer attached.
Range aims for a 40% efficiency improvement over a 200-mile range, with even higher gains in specific driving conditions. Beyond the 200-mile range, the trailer still offers a 10-15% efficiency boost through regenerative braking.
Range says its first trailers are targeting around a 40% efficiency boost over a range of 200 miles (322 km) – “In a highly loaded city drive cycle, that number’s actually 48%,” says Javidan, “on a mixed highway and city cycle, it’s 41%, and if we’re looking at just over the road long-haul trucking, it’s a little bit lower than that.”
“It’s still a trailer, we default as a trailer,” he says. “One of the analogies the guys use is that we’re like an escalator. We help you get up to the top, but if we fail, we’re still stairs … Worst case scenario, if all the Silicon Valley bullsh#t fails, it’s still a trailer.”
The RA-01 can be charged at either end of a journey, taking 10.5 hours on an AC connection or as little as 45 minutes using a 350-kW DC fast charger. In addition to fuel savings, drivers appreciate the trailer’s lightness and safety features. Moreover, the trailer introduces a “shopping cart mode,” allowing it to be manually pushed like a hand trolley with electric motor assistance.
Looking towards the future, Range plans to deploy these trailers with customers in the coming year, to start scale production in late 2024. The company envisions widespread use on the road by early 2025.
The trailer’s adaptability extends beyond its initial design, with potential applications in powering refrigerated trailers. Range is also exploring integration with other control systems, potentially enabling remote or autonomous movement within logistics operations.
While the price of the trailers is not disclosed, the potential for significant fuel savings suggests a compelling business case. Range’s approach offers a promising avenue for reducing carbon emissions in land transport without requiring extensive infrastructure changes or the premature retirement of existing trucks. The development of this innovative trailer marks a noteworthy step towards a more sustainable future in the trucking industry.