While the real-life Tesla and Edison, ground-breaking inventors, became fierce rivals, Edison Motors has a way to go before catching up with Elon Musk’s car company. But the journey has begun: Chace Barber and Eric Little are building hybrid electric logging trucks, backed up by diesel generators.
“The fact there’s a car company called Tesla and we’re called Edison is pure coincidence,” Barber, CEO of Edison Motors, said over the phone, the sound of his tongue in his cheek coming through clear. “Our company’s slogan is, Edison Motors: Stealing Tesla’s Idea, a nod to Thomas Edison stealing Nicola Tesla’s idea.”
What Edison Motors has come up with is a unique diesel-electric powertrain with a 6,000-pound generator. “We’re seeing a 70 per cent reduction in fuel,” Barber said. “Basically, you go from a 50 litre diesel (engine) to a nine litre diesel and you can drive for, depending on your load, about two hours off the batteries and then the generator fires up for another 30 minutes. So, you are only running a nine litre motor for a half-hour to drive off electric for two hours, instead of running a 15 litre diesel 100 per cent of the time.”
The reason the truck is particularly suited to logging, Barber added, is drivers head up the mountain electrically with empty truck beds and come back down full, the brakes regenerating the batteries all the way down. “You use the stored potential energy to get to the top of the mountain and then turn that into kinetic energy on the way down. It works pretty slick.”
The hybrid logging trucks can be plugged in to charge, meaning you can bring it into town and hook up to a charging station, but making them fully electric would have meant outfitting the prototype with 40,000 pounds of batteries, Barber said.
Barber and Little met at Thompson Rivers University where, although mechanical (Barber) and electrical (Little) engineering were their passions, they were business students. Diesel trains have been using the technology for almost a century so, like the real Edison borrowing from the real Tesla, the two thought why not make what is basically a train on wheels?
The prototype truck’s cab is a retrofitted 1962 Kenworth Needle Nose, which made a lot more financial sense than building a truck from scratch. The main work is replacing the axles, dropping a transmission and installing a generator.
“We realized a lot of these trucks out here, they’ve got good bones,” Barber, who also happens to be a third-generation logging-truck driver, said. He and Little, to their astonishment, have also become Tik Tok stars, their videos seen by millions. That caught the eye of NBC’s Today Show, which flew a crew to interview Barber in Merritt and at a trade show in Hope. What piqued NBC’s interest is the videos appeal to those who traditionally have been against, or felt threatened by, the transformation from fossil fuels to electric power for vehicles.
NOTE: With so many major changes and innovations being rolled out in log transport (electric, hydrogen, diesel hybrids, in-forest log truck platooning ….), the first log transport event, Wood Transport & Logistics 2023 for over five years is being planned at the moment to run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 24-25 May 2023. Programme details will be posted shortly and early information on the planned event can be found on www.woodtransport.events.