Silverstone-based vehicle restoration and electrification company Lunaz Applied Technologies has revealed details of its first-of-its-kind upcycled electric vehicle (UEV) – a recycling truck based on the Mercedes-Benz Econic platform. Lunaz has secured a number of government contracts that will see the UEVs soon begin operating recycling collection routes for several councils, including a number of London boroughs.
To produce the vehicles, Lunaz retrofits the commercial vehicles with its own electric powertrain. According to the company, its upcycled trucks are cleaner, cheaper and better equipped than their all-new battery electric counterparts.
The product of some 240 collective years of intensive development by the Lunaz’s engineering and design functions, the trucks feature a 7,000 Newton metre powertrain fed by batteries that can not only be replaced individually in less than ten minutes but comply to the same safety standards as the latest EV road cars; between 275kwh and 400kwh of battery capacity for varying route lengths; advanced thermal management that improves range by up to 25 per cent; and proprietary technology that allows the vehicles to not only manage low-speed torque demands but also deliver higher cruising speeds, helping to prevent the traffic congestion that can be caused by these vehicles.
According to Lunaz, UEV recycling trucks will save millions of tonnes of embedded carbon from landfill. An independent environmental audit commissioned by the company confirmed that more than 80 per cent of embedded carbon over total lifetime is saved when upcycling rather than replacing an existing rubbish truck with a new EV equivalent.
Engineers at Lunaz also spent a significant amount of time considering the ergonomic, material and safety characteristics of the UEVs’ interiors. Following lengthy primary research, including interviews with drivers and crews, and participation in several recycling collection rounds close to the recently expanded Lunaz UEV campus in Silverstone, safety, comfort and connectivity improvements were made to each UEV.
Improvements included the addition of cup holders for all vehicle occupants, not just drivers, and a shelf for wireless and USB device charging, along with a device-storage cubby. To support the recyclability and circularity of the UEV, a mounting bar was added across the dashboard for simple removal and replacement of fleet management hardware, avoiding the need to drill into the dashboard to fit these devices. This also increases the forward recyclability of the instrument-panel component.
The analogue gauges common to the Mercedes-Benz Econic were also replaced with a 12-inch high-definition driver screen, displaying range, current power usage, route data, powertrain health, battery status and diagnostic information. In addition, two ten-inch displays are connected to form a 20-inch panoramic display that combines 360° bird’s-eye camera views and additional safety views, including blind spots. The outermost screen, which is designed to be operated by crew, contains multimedia and communications functions, including full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
A camera monitoring system also dramatically improves driver awareness. Two assemblies containing three cameras are mounted on the top corners of the UEV, feeding digitised rear-view mirrors. The 14-inch screens that replace the mirrors display not just the rear and blind spots around the UEV but what’s directly in front and below the vehicle, via a dedicated downward-facing camera. The screens also feature object detection, highlighting cyclists, pedestrians and potential hazards to the driver. Unlike standard mirrors, these operate under all conditions, including rain, snow and total darkness, further increasing safety.
Fleet operators were also key consultants in the development of the UEVs. They identified the need to be able to determine from afar how much fuel remained in each vehicle. Lunaz responded by adding state-of-charge LED lights in the trucks’ front grille, enabling operators to instantly determine which vehicle is ready to use from up to 200 metres away.
‘When we embarked on the Lunaz journey in 2018, it was our mission to upcycle internal-combustion-engined vehicles of all kinds into clean-air solutions – from Rolls-Royces to refuse trucks, said David Lorenz, founder of Lunaz. ‘Lunaz Applied Technologies, a separate arm under the Lunaz brand, began with a rendering of a recycling truck. This outlined not just an incredibly ambitious technological vision for an upcycled electric vehicle but a wish list expressed to us first hand by the people who operated them, from service engineers and fleet managers to drivers and crew. I am delighted to confirm that the vision outlined in this rendering has been met across the board and that LAT UEVs will begin their nationwide roll-out imminently.’