The premise is fairly simple. Instead of companies or authorities buying new diesel or electric powered vehicles, they use Lunaz’s technology and processes to restore existing vehicles and convert them to electrical power. This offers potentially large carbon savings compared to the carbon cost of producing a new vehicle.
Lunaz has branded these vehicles UEVs – Upcycled Electric Vehicles – which it reckons is a whole new classification of EVs. It is an approach that breaks the cycle of replacing worn out vehicles with new ones and, according to the research Lunaz has undertaken, saves more than 80 per cent of embedded carbon over total lifetime to upcycle vs. buying new. At the same time, buyers get what is essentially a new product – like with the brand’s passenger cars which are fastidiously rebuilt from the ground up.
So far, Lunaz has performed its upcycling on a refuse truck through its Applied Technologies division. The company performed a bare-metal restoration of the Mercedes-Benz Econoic platform, before removal of the diesel engine and ancillaries. It then swapped the old motor out for a new electric powertrain and battery, along with improving the truck’s usability with the addition of new control software, wing mirror cameras, blind spot detection and 360-degree birds-eye view cameras.
Reengineering commercial vehicles into EVs is only part of the process. With the prototype refuse truck and other commercial conversions, the aim is to understand what an operator really needs and how EV technology can be utilised to make the upcycled vehicle better than the one it is based on.
In this instance, engineers developed these improvements by joining refuse collection rounds to understand the needs and requirements of operators. Alongside developing technology that helps with situational awareness, these real-world experiences led Lunaz’s in-house design and interior team to reimagine the crew cab to make it a more comfortable and user-friendly place.
Lunaz reckons so. Taking the Mercedes-Benz Econic platform in isolation, it is extremely popular and forms the basis of everything from airport vehicles through to fire and rescue trucks. It covers vehicles classes five to eight and across the EU, US and UK, there are around 80 million such units.
According to the company, it has already secured fleet electrification agreements in the US and UK, with its upcycled vehicle programme seeing the first trucks hit the streets in 2023. The gamble – or at least the assumption – is that for many owners, which will predominantly be fleets, if they can reengineer existing vehicles and increase lifespans for less than the cost of new EVs, they are going to go for it.
In the UK, the ban on ICE-powered commercial vehicles will come into force in 2040. Companies that convert viable vehicles prior to this date stand to benefit so it is perhaps a safe gamble on the part of Lunaz.
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