Larry Bolduc has been a truck driver for more than 25 years and is now the head of the family business Transport Raoul Bolduc in Girardville, Que., in the Saguenay/Lac-St-Jean region of Canada. He also launched another business in parallel, called Électrocamion. The business plan is to convert forestry or mining trucks into hybrid diesel-electric vehicles, whether they are new or existing.
Like many inventors before him, Bolduc first tested his mechanical concepts on himself, or on his truck, we should say. His massive Kenworth C500, which he uses every day to transport freshly felled trees to processing plants, became his hybridization laboratory.
Loads of 150 tons and more
In an interview with Transport Routier, he explains that an all-electric engine was not an option for very heavy off-road transport. And when we say very heavy, we’re talking about a gross vehicle weight of between 150 and 160 tons. “You’d have to have a trailer full of batteries,” he says to illustrate the commercial non-viability of an all-electric truck that carries its payload in battery weight.
On the other hand, he mused, backing up an electric motor with a diesel engine could make the latter consume less fuel when a power surge is required, such as when climbing a hill. And the good thing about a slope you climb is that it inevitably comes down on the other side, allowing the batteries to be recharged through regeneration.
This regeneration also provides an estimated 240 hp of braking force, reducing wear on the service brakes as well as the engine brake. “You hardly ever use it, except when you have a really steep grade,” he says of the engine brake.
A team effort
His first discussions with the electric motor manufacturer TM4 (then part of Hydro-Québec) took place in 2009, when he was considering installing electric motors on his axles. It wasn’t until six years later, however, that the dream began to crystallize, when the folks at TM4 (now Dana-TM4) contacted him again. “It started to crystallize when the folks at TM4 made an engine and said, ‘We might have something for you.’ That really started in 2015,” he says.
The self-taught man has surrounded himself with people who could support him in his project to hybridize a truck of this size. Companies like Kenworth Quebec, to whom he turns when he has specific technical questions, researchers Jan Michaelsen and Dave Waknin of FPInnovations, LTS Marine for its first generation of batteries and the touch-screen on-board computer that manages the interaction of the diesel and electric engines, and the St-Félicien Diesel workshop for practical mechanical questions.
Based on experience with the current prototype, the contribution of the electric motor to reducing the effort of the big diesel Cummins, as well as its fuel consumption, is tangible. Asked to put a figure on these savings, he replies: “It depends on the sector. We’re looking at 12% to 15%. The more mountainous the areas, the more the regeneration savings there are.”