New breed of electric trucks put to work on Central Interceptor

A tipping point has been reached for big tipper trucks working on a sprawling key piece of Auckland infrastructure.

The trucks working on the massive Central Interceptor project look almost the same as any other dump truck.

But they're working at a whisper, and with a 13 tonne payload are the first full-size electric tipper trucks in the country to work in construction.

Drivers are reporting less fatigue and a more enjoyable ride without the fumes and vibrations they find on a diesel truck.

"It's very smooth, it's very quiet and it's a relaxing drive," driver Renée Hunter told 1News.

The trucks can charge in 90 minutes or it takes just 10 minutes to swap a battery completely.

"Think of it like a battery powered tool, like your normal electric drill," Ulrick Noesgaard from Ghella Abergeldie Joint Venture said.

"Battery out, new battery in, you're off again."

The trucks are averaging about 180 kilometres of range between battery charges or swaps.

"We can work all day... so the range, sort of, you almost forget about it," Noesgaard said.

Range anxiety remains a niggle for some in the uptake of electric vehicles.

University research underway at the moment is aiming to make it a thing of the past.

The truck working on the massive Central Interceptor project in Auckland.

Nestled inside a Downer industrial site in Auckland is a machine being used to look into it.

University of Auckland researchers are using the Accelerated Pavement Test "rocker facility" to find ways of putting wireless chargers into the roads.

It simulates a truck wheel running over a road with integrated pads to test fatigue over time.

Associate Professor Doug Wilson said it'll mean charging on the move, and hopefully within a decade.

"We will have one line on the motorway, for example, and you will have these pads buried into the surface. Nobody will see them," he told 1News.

Wilson and his team have dubbed this "power snacking".

It means batteries in electric vehicles could be smaller because they are constantly being charged by the road.

There are key steps before that - making them work in the likes of a garage where cars are still, and then in places like taxi stops.

Getting charging systems that are durable and last the test of time is key to the research.

"This is as efficient as charging with a socket, it allows us to move away from having to have large batteries that add a lot of weight into the vehicle," Wilson said.

It would also mean less cost and less use of rare earth minerals.

Downer, which the university is working with, is eager to be involved and contact manager Richard Carter says it's a case of "innovate or die".

"One of the challenges for us is, how do we maintain roads? So when it's time to resurface and there's an electrical pad in there, how do we install them? How do we work around them? How do we make it a smooth process?"

Researchers say in-pavement charging will be challenging but worthwhile as the country changes to a low carbon future.


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