EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: BAE Systems Takes Transit Experience into MD/HD Space

July 5, 2022

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For more than 20 years BAE Systems has worked to advance electric and hybrid solutions for buses, boats, heavy-duty trucks, and military vehicles. With more than 15,000 electric-hybrid systems currently operating around the globe to cut fuel costs and reduce emissions, many in the transit sector, the company is moving into the medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicle sector to offer its experience and technology to help the industry cut even more transportation-related emissions.

ACT News sat down with BAE’s Derek Matthews, partnership manager, and Tom Webb, director for strategic growth, to get an in-depth look into the company’s current and future plans.

ACT News: How is BAE Systems applying more than two decades of experience with electric propulsion solutions in the transit market to its approach to the medium- and heavy-duty truck market?

Matthews/Webb: With 4 billion miles covered and over 15,000 vehicles in global operation in a wide range of terrains and duty cycles, coupled with its deep understanding of systems design and engineering, BAE Systems (BAE) has developed a revolutionary design for electric propulsion and accessory power.  Its Gen3 electric drive system has been referred to as the ‘swiss army knife’ of propulsion power electronics because of its multi-functional capabilities and its compact, flexible design.

High levels of interest were shown by both vehicle manufacturers and fleet managers attending ACT Expo in May 2022, some in awe of the simplistic, lightweight nature of the system design which makes it easier for OEMs to install as well as cover multiple platforms. The next-generation system was developed with all the capability needed to power both propulsion and accessory power systems for battery electric, fuel cell electric, and hybrid electric heavy-duty vehicles. What’s more, combining BAE Systems’ revolutionary design with its proven integration expertise and aftermarket support, BAE Systems can help manufacturers get to market at a lower installed cost with a proven, reliable solution.

ACT News: Which sectors within the truck markets are primed for electrification? 

Matthews/Webb: For on-highway use, heavy-duty class 7 and class 8 long distance line-haul, over-the-road (OTR), and vocational trucks are rapidly emerging, commercially viable applications for electrification. Vocational applications include refuse, municipal and emergency service vehicles. In addition, school buses and transit buses are also well suited and already being widely electrified.

For off-highway use, yard and port trucks and mining vehicles can also immediately benefit from vehicle electrification.

ACT News: How does BAE Systems work with fleets, as well as vehicle manufacturers, to provide electric vehicle solutions?

Matthews/Webb: BAE Systems provides highly experienced and well-organized development engineering and customer support services. These support manufacturers with vehicle design, development and specification and fleet operators with everything from training and technical support to aftermarket spare parts and service support. With more than 15,000 systems in operation globally, BAE Systems provides 24/7 technical assistance, documentation, extended service contracts, retrofits, upgrades, service contracts and more. With 25 years of experience designing, manufacturing, and servicing electric drive technology, BAE Systems already has the network in place to get fleets to zero emissions to ensure operators can meet their service goals.

ACT News: What best use cases exist for hybrid technology versus battery-electric?

Matthews/Webb: We are finding that some fleets are looking for a longer range than pure battery electric propulsion may give them; some operators need to work their vehicles 24/7 and do not have time to stop and charge batteries. Our electric hybrid drive system can operate in a zero emissions mode for a period, saving fuel and emissions without needing to connect for charging. With a generator on board, our system can recharge the batteries while it is in operation and we can switch off the engine and run on battery power for zero emission periods. In addition to transit operations, some mining and municipal vehicle operators are seeing hybrid as a good option for their requirements.

ACT News: What kind of return on investment/total cost of ownership benefits are evident with moving to either hybrid or battery-electric solutions?

Matthews/Webb: Of course, moving away from fossil fuels and the costs associated with reduced fuel consumption is a large factor in ROI but BAE Systems know-how, proven systems, and product reliability bring forth additional savings. Further, our system’s compact design uses only two components where our competitors might use ten, making way for an easier installation with 40% less wiring. What’s more, vehicle manufacturers will recognize savings by getting to market faster at a lower installed cost.

ACT News: What are the most important first steps fleets can take when looking to electrify?

Matthews/Webb: Firstly, evaluating the duty cycle and determining the range and power needed for propulsion and for vehicle accessories.  Next, being sure that the vehicle with the electric drive system you invest in is proven, has integrity and is backed up by a solid service team to maximize vehicle operational up-time.  BAE Systems has a solid and proven product, with experience to get fleets to zero emissions.

ACT News: What types of products are available specifically for the truck market and what led you into this market?

Matthews/Webb: BAE Systems purposely developed its Gen3 electric drive system to be modular and compact, to address a wide range of heavy-duty vehicles.  Knowing that heavy-duty trucks would need to move to low and zero emission solutions, its next-generation system is designed to be configured using functionally modular ‘slices’ to deliver hybrid electric, battery electric and fuel cell electric solutions — all with based around a common, core system.

ACT News: What benefits do hybrid and battery-electric drivetrains have over diesel and gasoline versions?

Matthews/Webb: Well of course, the emissions piece, but there are also significant benefits to be gained from much higher reliability and the very low or zero maintenance requirements for electric drivetrains.

ACT News: What is the future of transportation, beyond clean fuel technologies like battery-electric vehicles?

Matthews/Webb: Our Gen3 system is the future. Its compact, lightweight nature makes installation much easier and it is flexible, powering electric axles, hybrid electric, fuel cell electric, and battery electric heavy-duty vehicles. The inherent flexibility of our Gen3 hardware adds modules to help power what is next. Our system is future-proof and ready to help manufacturers get to market quicker with their zero emission solutions.

ACT News: Do you have anything to add?

Matthews/Webb: BAE Systems has a deep understanding of systems engineering, a revolutionary design for propulsion and accessory power, proven integration expertise, and aftermarket support. This gives manufacturers a faster path to market, built on proven reliability and with a lower installed cost base.