DON Trucking’s Electric Truck Test Week – interview with our driver

September 26th, 2023

Last week, we informed you that thanks to our collaboration with Designwerk Technologies AG, we had the opportunity to test the Designwerk High Cab 6×2 electric truck with a whopping 900kWh battery capacity.

Join us for an interview with Radosław Pułkowski, one of our top drivers, who had the chance to put it through its paces on the ‘battlefield’ on “DON Trucking’s EV Test Week“.

Good morning, Radosław. To start, could you please tell us what your role is at DON Trucking?

Radek: Hello. I’ve been with DON Trucking since the very beginning. Currently, I work in the fleet department of our company, holding the position of Head of Drivers Training. I assist our drivers in adapting to our modern fleet powered by bioLNG and maintaining high driving standards. I also conduct test drives for potential new trucks in our fleet. In the past week, I had the opportunity to perform test drives with an electric truck from Designwerk.

So, what were your impressions? Is it a completely different experience compared to traditional trucks?

It may be quite different in some aspects, but there are differences that both drivers and transport planners need to get used to. I’d be happy to elaborate on them. Ultimately, trucking is trucking, and an experienced driver won’t have trouble adapting to a new tractor. The Designwerk model we tested is a high-end truck, and driving it, regardless of other aspects, is a pure pleasure. However, there are distinct differences in the driving style between an electric tractor and a traditional passenger car.

What is the main difference in using an electric-powered truck?

The main difference is actually trip planning. In a traditional vehicle powered by diesel or even bio-LNG, we can fairly accurately determine the range of travel. With an electric truck, it depends on many factors and driving conditions.

Can you expand on that? What were the differences in range depending on driving conditions?

The range of an electric truck is much more dependent on conditions than in the case of traditional trucks. During my test, I covered a total of 1360 km, but it’s important to note that my drives took place in various conditions. For example, when driving in the mountains or in the rain with the air conditioning, ventilation, and mirror heating on, energy consumption was higher, and I covered just under 600 km on one charge, using 85% of the total energy reserve. This shows that you need to be more aware of your driving style and conditions to make the most efficient use of available energy.

What about driving in heavy traffic?

Driving in traffic jams turned out to be surprisingly efficient. Power consumption was low, and the vehicle rolled smoothly. Every electric brake translated into a significant amount of energy recovery, which is incredibly economical. This is undoubtedly an advantage but requires some adaptation to this new braking method.

Speaking of efficiency, what other aspects of using an electric truck positively surprised you?

Certainly, I should mention acceleration and overall performance. An electric vehicle is incredibly quiet, there are no vibrations, and its startup is silent. This is commendable, but on the other hand, it can be dangerous, especially in situations when it moves at low speeds. People often don’t realize that such a large vehicle is nearby. So, I had to use the horn frequently in parking lots to get the attention of other drivers and pedestrians.

From what you’ve shared, these don’t seem like significant negative experiences. Was there something that negatively surprised you?

Unfortunately, yes. One of the main problems I encountered is the lack of charging infrastructure. Every time I needed to charge the truck, I had to find the right place, disconnect the trailer, and return to the charging station. I expected it wouldn’t be easy, but the reality was even worse than I anticipated. Many times, I encountered situations where the stations were too small, and sometimes there were even restrictions on vehicles over 7.5 tons. Yet, the electric tractor itself weighs over 14 tons, and the total length of the combination is over 17 meters. This is a huge problem that needs to be resolved to make electric vehicles more practical in freight transport.

What about the charging process itself?

Another issue is the unpredictability of the charging time. Even if the station has the appropriate power, we are not always sure how long it will take to fully charge. For example, with the tractor at 30% energy, I connected it to a charger that was labeled 300 kW, but the charging speed on the screen kept fluctuating between 140 kW and 180 kW, then 111 kW, and so on. The more vehicles are charging at the station, the less efficient it becomes. This can be a problem, especially when planning routes and deliveries.

In summary, driving an electric truck is an incredible experience, but there are many challenges that need to be addressed to make it more practical and accessible for truck drivers. Do you agree with this assessment?

Yes, exactly. Driving an electric truck has many advantages, but it also requires certain adjustments and infrastructure solutions. I’m convinced that as technology advances and infrastructure expands, electric vehicles will become increasingly competitive and environmentally friendly. This is the direction the transportation industry should be heading.

DON Trucking’s management board perspective

We hope that Radek’s insights were interesting to you. For our company, his feedback is extremely valuable in planning our fleet strategy for the coming years.

Join us this Friday for another interview with member of our company’s board, where he’ll discuss the potential for these trucks to become a permanent part of our fleet and the conditions under which it could happen. Stay tuned!