Fuso has  announced and confirmed that the next generation of its all-electric eCanter  is set to be launched locally here in Australia in May, promising a full model line-up consisting of 14 variants.

It is the first time that the Daimler owned brand  has offered a  full line up of models in its eCanter EV  range, with the new trucks coming with an updated and more efficient driveline, the choice of both a narrow and regular cab width along with the choice of six wheelbases and three battery configurations and four different weight ratings.

Truck and Bus News had the chance to drive one of the new eCanter’s  for a limited  test around the suburbs and city of Melbourne last week covering about 70 quiet and drama free kilometres in the electric eCanters.

We can report that the  new gen eCanter  comes equipped with  the latest iteration of Daimler’s own e-axle, incorporating  the  truck’s  electric motor, regenerative braking/charging generator and the differential all in one unit as part of the truck’s rear axle.

The e-axle concept is cited by industry observers as a big step forward for EVs because of the  great efficiencies it offers particularly in regards to reduced entry losses, better packaging that allows improved positioning of battery packs in the centre of the truck. It makes for better overall flexibility in trucks configuration, allowing engineers to extend the wheelbase far more easily than with the ‘motor-propshaft- diff’ model used in the previous  gen eCanter. It also delivers lighter weight, better efficiency and less power loss.

The eCanter e615 models we drove  included both a Wide Cab model, land a narrow cab version loaded to 5160kg  with a route covering a mix of suburban, city motorway and stop start driving around Melbourne.

The  e615 sits right in the middle of the  new eCanter range which includes  four GVM options with the  4.5-tonne car licence legal version, the  6-tonne e615 as well as a , 7.5-tonne and 8.5-tonne option.

The big news for a lot of fleets, like the Woolworths and Coles home delivery fleets is that the 4.5 tonne option enables drivers with car licence only ratings and limited truck  experience to steer the eCanter, a factor that will put this truck on the shopping lists of many fleets.

There is  also the choice of three battery configurations, as well as the option of a City Cab or Wide Cab.

The  e615s we tested featured an electric motor that produced 110kW peak power electric motor or 85kW continuous power. Along with that  the electric driveline had a maximum torque of 430Nm, which of course is  produced from start up.  The test trucks  both featured  two lithium iron phosphate battery packs  which  delivers an 83kWh capacity.

Daimler being the conservative and risk averse organisation that has allowed it to  stay in business longer than any other automotive company, is not surprisingly  conservative when quoting range mileage. With the test trucks Daimler quotes a range of 200km, however  after we navigated a course of around 60 km around Melbourne we reckon that in  the stop start melee of city driving, where braking regen clearly assists with range by replenishing the batteries, we recon. you could easily eek out more than 250km fairly easily with the two battery pack truck. There is an option of having three battery packs which Daimler estimates would deliver a range of  around 300km.

Daimler reckons that with access to a 100kW fast charger the eCanter  could easily handle a big morning’s work  before the driver would need to plug the truck in for a 45 minute charge to take it from five per cent to 90 per cent using a fast DC charger. That means that while the driver is having lunch and a break the truck  can be replenished to handle another productive afternoon.

Again being the conservative states-people of the auto industry that they are, Daimler has devoted a lot of time to ensuring the battery tech  it uses in its trucks is both reliable and safe and  delivers the best  capacity and range, all aspects critical to safe and efficient EV operation. That is certainly the case with the latest gen Daimler battery electric trucks. We saw this recently with the eActros rigid we tested recently. Daimler and this case Fuso has utilised a modular  battery system that allows multiple battery packs to be fitted to trucks (within limits) and  also to enable a liquid cooling system  to ensure  thermal stability and control.  Think about those cheap e-bike and e-scooter battery fires and you understand how important thermal stability is for the latest Lithium iron phosphate batteries. The modular system has allowed Fuso to put its liquid cooling system around the battery packs to maintain optimum operating temperature.

Inside the cabin the new gen eCanter displays more of the increasingly Daimler DNA, with a much improved treatment of the interior, with less of the drab grey familiar in most Japanese light duty trucks, and more black  and pleasing tones including a black leather trimmed steering wheel with red stitching, which is very snazzy.

The truck is also fitted as standard with ISRI seats which combined with excellent ride makes the eCanter a very comfortable truck to steer or ride in.

Immediately in front of  the driver is a new, big digital dash  which delivers all of the relevant data a driver needs, most importantly the power you are using and how much is being regenerated under braking and coasting. There is also a large speedo display as well. Obviously with an electric truck  there is no need for an oil pressure gauge, a tacho, or for that matter a water temp gauge, so all the  important info is there.

In the centre of the dash is another large infotainment screen that enables the driver to manage audio, shows the images from the reversing camera, nav and has access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also features a real volume knob that allows the driver to easily and safely turn the audio up or down, unlike the press controls on many touch screen systems.

Fire the electric system up by turning the key like switch on the steering column and the dash lights up  with a ready message that tells the driver they can engage drive or reverse and it is just a matter of putting. your foot on the accelerator and gliding away from stop with minimal fuss and even less noise.

Unlike a diesel truck the Fuso eCanter has just one forward gear and there is no loss of drive as  the electric motor whirs its way to cruising speed. That is where that maximum torque at start up comes into its own. If you didn’t know the eCanter  was loaded to near full GVM, you’d swear it was empty. It just blasts away up the road  outdistancing ICE power trucks  and vans and even surprising some motorists.

Then when it comes time to pull the eCanter up  the miracle of regen braking kicks in. Thanks he eCanter has three levels of regen force, similar to different levels of exhaust braking, but of course there is no exhaust, only electrical force  which is a whole lot better. On level three the truck pulls up quite quickly and you find yourself adjusting the levels to coast to a storm at the lights, often without the need to touch the service brakes. It is fantastic to use and instills the driver with enormous confidence. It will also mean fleets with properly trained drivers will save a poultice on brake maintenance and replacement.

In this case the regen braking is controlled via the eCanter’s gear stick, not via a stalk on the steering column, but it still works fine.

The other big step forward for the eCanter is. the independent front suspension  which delivers car like ride to the small cab over truck world. It rides, handles and corners like a large SUV or 4WD, more than a light truck, most of which usually ride and handle like  a large dray. Along with that it also has rack and pinion steering  not the vague old recirculating ball steering systems in most trucks. It makes for precise and nicely balanced steering that will make a day at the wheel far less fatigue inducing than it has been in the past, not to mention being safer.

Melbourne’s crowded stop start traffic  is the enemy of efficient diesel operation, but. it just the opposite for an electric truck. The stop start helps with the rebbe and puts more power back int he batteries. It really is the sweet spot of operating environments for  electric trucks and underlines just how efficient. they are in these conditions.

Of course  electric vehicles are a lot more  costly to buy than their ICE  counterparts. Although Daimler is yet to reveal actual pricing  for the new eCanter it is likely to be a lot more than  the traditional Canters. Unlike the first gen eCanter it is superseding, which was only available on a lease basis. This eCanter will be available for outright purchase. Remember that while it is a lot dearer to buy the new eCanter will be a lot cheaper to run that a diesel, with lower running costs, maintenance and servicing downtime. So that has toes an advantage.

Among the other updates for the second generation range is the addition of an electric power take off (ePTO) to run auxiliary items like a crane or fridge unit on the back of the truck.

Fuso has also given the truck its full suite of  active safety technology , some of which  are not yet available on the regular Canter models, including advanced brake assist 5 with pedestrian detection, active side guard assist, lane departure warning, stability control assist and high voltage shut off crash sensors. The eCanter also has an acoustic vehicle alert system (AVAS) fitted, which produces sound at speeds below 20km/h to alert pedestrians and road users to the otherwise silent truck

Exterior changes include LED headlights with daytime running lamps (DRLs) and a more modern appearance that differentiates the truck from its fossil fuel-drinking siblings.

Fuso was the first-to-market bragging rights with the original eCanter,  and the use of Daimler’s e-axle technology in its second generation eCanter is also a first for the light-duty truck segment.

After an all too brief 55 km run around Melbourne we can tell you that the new gen eCanter has redefined the light duty electric truck market  with what is a standard setting truck.