Before Lion Electric Co. decided to make electric trucks, the Canadian company developed a line of battery-powered electric school buses. More than 300 are in service in North America.
The result, according to Lion Electric President Marc Bédard: Its trucks are more mature and better road-tested than those of closest rivals — such as Freightliner’s eM2 and eCascadia.
“What we’ve been doing has been based on the technology we’ve been using for the past four years and has been developing for the last eight,” Bédard said.
FreightWaves spoke to Bédard in April 2019 shortly after Quebec-based Lion unveiled its Lion8, a Class 8 truck with a 250-mile range and a gross-vehicle weight rating of 54,600 pounds. The company is positioning the truck for urban deliveries, with prices ranging from CA$300,000 to $400,000 (US$230,000 to $307,000).
A year and a half later, Lion has launched a Class 6 truck, the Lion6, and is planning to begin deliveries in October. Meanwhile, the order book has grown to hundreds, including orders of 50 Lion8s from CN and 10 Lion6s from Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
Truck’s minimalist design evokes Apple
The minimalist design has touches that evoke Apple — with the cab’s rounded edges and the three LED lights that indicate the charge.
“It’s cool. It’s a smart truck. It’s quiet. It’s smooth,” Bédard said in 2019 from the passenger seat of a Lion8 on display at the Expocam truck show in Montreal.
The minimalism extends inside. The instrument clusters have digital and analog readouts of speed, range and performance, while the center console has more detailed telematics information.
The Lion8 uses four lithium-ion battery packs that have a total capacity of 480-kilowatt hours. The motor produces the equivalent of 470 horsepower, with a maximum speed of 65 mph.
How a little bit of diesel preserves the Lion8’s range in the wintertime
Lion also came up with a solution to preserving the performance of the batteries during the notoriously harsh Canadian winters: an optional diesel auxiliary system that heats the cab. When diesel system is deployed, the Lion8 only loses about 10% of its range.
“If we don’t, then we lose 40 to 45%,” Bédard said. “So instead of being zero emissions, it’s like 1%.”
Lion is working on a way to allow the cab heat to run off batteries while preserving the charge. But in the meantime, customers that want the full range in cold climates will have to live with using that little bit of fossil fuel.
The company says it has the capacity to make about 2,000 trucks per year from its factory near Montreal. It plans to build a second facility in the U.S.
“We’re attacking only the urban market,” Bédard said. “People are calling to say they want to do Montreal-Toronto on a single charge, but that’s not our focus.”