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A little diesel helps Lion8 electric truck conquer the cold

The first production model of the Lion8 was on display at the ExpoCam trucking show in Montreal. Photo: Nate Tabak

The Lion8 boasts cold-weather performance fitting to the Class 8 electric truck’s Canadian origins – only a 10 percent reduction in range even in sub-zero temperatures.

“That’s because we’re heating the cabin with a diesel auxiliary system. If we don’t, then we lose 40 to 45 percent,” said Marc Bédard, the president of the Lion8’s manufacturer, Lion Electric. “So instead of being zero emissions, it’s like 1 percent.”

Bédard discussed the Lion8 as a stream of curious attendees looked at the first production model on the floor of the ExpoCam truck show in Montreal, which ended on April 13.

The design has understated minimalism with touches that evoke Apple – with the cab’s rounded edges and the three LED lights that indicate the charge.

 Lion Electric president Marc Bédard says the lion8 is designed to be a workhorse for urban deliveries. Photo: Nate Tabak
Lion Electric president Marc Bédard says the lion8 is designed to be a workhorse for urban deliveries. Photo: Nate Tabak

“It’s cool. It’s a smart truck. It’s quiet. It’s smooth,” Bédard said, from the passenger’s seat.

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 experience, Bédard said, will be familiar to for existing drivers – but accessible for ones who’ve never driven a truck.

“Right now there’s a driver shortage, and we think electric will help then recruit the right people,” Bédard said.

 The view from inside the lion8. Photo: Nate Tabak
The view from inside the lion8. Photo: Nate Tabak

Unveiled in March, the Lion8 is being positioned for city deliveries. It can be configured with a maximum range of 250 miles, with a gross-vehicle weight rating of 54,600 pounds. The trucks range in price from C$300,000 to C$400,000. (A Canadian dollar currently is valued at US$0.75.)

Bédard said there are no immediate plans to build longer-range models.

“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.”

The Lion8 was developed from the company’s line of electric buses, which have developed a following among school districts in California. The result, according to Bédard, is an electric truck that is more mature and better road-tested than its rivals –- such as Freightliner’s eM2 Class 6-7 and eCascadia Class 8.

 The truck will enter service in the fall of 2019 for quebec’s government-run alcohol distributor. photo: Nate Tabak
The truck will enter service in the fall of 2019 for quebec’s government-run alcohol distributor. photo: Nate Tabak

“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.

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.

Lion plans to produce up to 1,000 trucks per year, and wants to open a U.S. factory during the next three years.

On April 18, Canadian National Railway (NYSE:CNI) announced that it would work with Lion to produce eight electric trucks, which would be deployed in cities across its network in Canada. The trucks will handle tasks such as urban deliveries and port service.

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Nate Tabak, Canada Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a journalist, editor and producer in Toronto. He covers Canada for FreightWaves, with a keen interest on the cross-border economic relationship with the United States. Nate spent seven years working as an investigative editor and reporter based in Kosovo. He covered everything from corruption to the country’s emerging wine industry. He also reported across the Balkans and investigated Albania’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Nate grew up in Berkeley, Calif. He enjoys exploring Toronto with his wife and is always looking forward to his next meal.

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