“Not many automotive companies can say that the inspiration for their existence began under miles of icy water.” So began our interview with Robin Mackie, CEO of Tevva Motors Ltd., a UK electric truck technology company.
He went on explain that Tevva’s founder, Asher Bennett, was serving as an officer on submarines when he realised that the diesel-electric hybrid technology used in submarines was a perfect solution for by the medium duty, urban distribution industry, which is faced with similar challenges of range, payload and cost efficiency.
Bennett established Tevva in 2013.
Mackie, whose automotive experience includes projects with Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus and McLaren, says: “Tevva has adopted a precision engineering approach to develop a range of innovative eTruck technologies that, combined, can lower harmful emissions to zero or almost zero, decrease vehicle running costs by at least half, minimise total cost of ownership starting from day one, eliminate range anxiety and provide drivers and operators with a more satisfying driving experience.”
Mackie notes that Tevva’s technology has already been proven viable by the likes of logistics giants UPS and Kuehne + Nagel, amongst others.
“The certainty of the technologies and the peace of mind that comes with the real-world proof that it works means that the future of electrification is already here.”
He adds: “The electrification of the medium duty, urban delivery industry is all but inevitable given (UK) government and EU Parliament regulations but the scale, economics and timescale for achieving this is still largely unclear across the commercial OEM sector.”
Technology That’s Patented and Protected
Since its inception, the company has developed a range of products, software and technologies that can be integrated into any OEM vehicle. At the heart of its offering are four core, proprietary innovations.
Tevva Power is the name of its battery module and bespoke battery management system. This governs the flow of energy back into the battery under regenerative braking, how the battery is discharged under load and how it is recharged – this is key to battery cell longevity.
Tevva Drive is its intuitive drive system. The e-motor takes inputs from the driver and translates that input into seamless and accurate torque delivery at the wheels, with high energy efficiency, reliability and safety.
Tevva Link is a cloud-based control system that is connected to the vehicle’s communication network. It captures all vehicle data to provide detailed performance diagnostics.
Mackie explains: “This telemetry allows fleet managers to not only see where their vehicles are, but also to view dozens of other information points, allowing for proactive planning and predictive action in case of any potential vehicle issues and for pre-emptive maintenance.”
Finally, Tevva ReX is an optional range extender which is autonomously controlled to engage pure electric mode when the vehicle is in an urban area or a clean air zone meaning that electric only power is deployed where it is most required.
“These are patented and protected technologies that deliver superior performance with no compromise on cost, range or payload,” says Mackie.
“The vast majority of OEMs have no immediate response to the increasingly urgent need for electrification.”
In 2019 the company launched the Tevva Electrify initiative which offers urban distribution companies, in a range of different industry sectors, a six-month rental of a 12-tonne GVW 3.9-metre wheelbase truck at a market competitive cost.
The scheme aims to arm businesses with the proof that electrification not only delivers the required environmental impact but also works financially to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO).
Mackie explains: “The initiative is designed to help businesses position themselves as a leader in freight transport decarbonisation while also gaining invaluable experience in how electrification can work in their fleets.
“This, in turn, will allow customers to understand better what scale and specification of EV fleet their business will require in coming years while also proving the TCO gains internally for their sector and duty cycle.”
The UK’s CEVA Logistics became Tevva’s first partner in the initiative. Two 12 tonne vehicles will provide daily deliveries to medical facilities in central London.
“The overall aim of this 3-6 month trial is to find ways to reduce the impact of commercial vehicles in air, noise and congestion,” notes Mackie.
A second company has now signed up to trial one of Tevva’s range extended electric vehicles. The UK food supplier Savona Foodservice has just joined the initiative.
Savona Foodservice managing director, Mike Morgan, says: “We’re delighted to have found a partner whose approach is collaborative and forward-thinking and who have a solution that works and is good for more than just the last mile. Just as important is their intelligent approach to energy management using their PREMS (predictive range extension management system) technology, which uses geofences to autonomously control deployment of the range extender to maximise battery capacity.”
“We anticipate that this solution will prove to be at least as commercially viable as traditional, diesel-based options,” adds Morgan.
The Green Logic of Logistics
Robin Mackie believes that the giants of the logistics world – DHL, Amazon, UPS – have forged ahead with electrification solutions. Whereas the companies you might expect to be leading the charge – the commercial vehicles and the truck manufacturers – are being left behind.
“While there is undoubtedly work going on behind the scenes at OEM development facilities, the vast majority of OEMs have no immediate response to the increasingly urgent need for electrification. If anything, manufacturers should be getting concerned at the sheer number of vehicles being ordered from new businesses and start-ups like Arrival.
“And, if they have no solution to offer in the immediate future, they should be looking to partner with a company that does – much in the way that Hyundai and Kia have done with their investment in Arrival.”
Mackie tells us that there are three elements of the delivery process that present the biggest challenge for the logistics giants in terms of finding a cleaner or zero-emission solution: long haul to depot; depot to consolidation centre and last mile.
“Of these, last mile electrification has had the lion’s share of attention in recent months because of the accelerating need to reduce cost and comply with incoming legislation around air quality, congestion and urban noise pollution.
“Perhaps part of the reason there is less than expected coming from commercial vehicle makers is the challenge to address the three key duty cycles, and the heavier weight ranges and not just last mile. And that’s where Tevva comes in,” concludes Mackie.