Lex Forsyth, CEO and co-founder of Janus Electric, an Australian startup that converts diesel engine prime movers to battery electric, talks about the future of transport and swappable batteries for trucks in this edition of the Fleet News Group podcast.
Janus Electric was founded in 2020 when co-founders Lex Forsyth and Bevan Dooley tested an idea to convert a diesel prime mover to a battery electric vehicle.
“We thought, well, let’s give this a go and take an old prime mover, which was 10 years old at the time and get a rolling prototype,” said NSW central coast based Forsyth.
A few busy years later, trucks number 17 and 18 are being built at the Janus Electric facility and they have orders for another 100 or so. Some 44 people work there.
“it’s been a ride,” said Forsyth. “We’ve been moving along really quickly at the factory.”
He said customers are lining up for the Janus Electric truck conversions because they want lower emission vehicles but also because it makes economic sense.
“If you can give them something that is cost compelling, where the environmental factor is the byproduct from them making the change, it’s a natural progression for them to change,” said Forsyth.
He said a conversion is ideally suited to diesel prime movers less than 10 years old. He said there’s about 115,000 prime movers on Australian roads at the moment of which about 70 percent are less than 10 years old. He reckons about half of the truck fleets are looking for more sustainable options.
On costs, a diesel engine rebuild costs between $80,000 and $100,000. To convert the diesel powertrain to battery electric the cost is about $175,000. Of that the truck owner will get about $25,000 from the resale of parts that come out of the vehicle. And then running costs are reduced.
“It’s slightly dearer to do the conversion than it is to rebuild a diesel engine. But the big cost savings are always in energy and maintenance costs because you remove a whole schedule of servicing out from the vehicle,” said Forsyth, adding, “There’s no oil filters or fuel filters or air cleaners to change on an electric motor,” and “There’s not a lot that can go wrong with an electric motor.”
The Janus Electric solution involves swappable batteries, and to this end it is establishing a network of depots. It presently has battery swap depots in locations where their trucks are operating — in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, NSW Central Coast, Mount Gambier, and Port Augusta.
“We’re partnering with our fleets to make sure that we put a network together that suits them,” said Forsyth.
“We think this is the most practical solution for heavy vehicles,” said Forsyth. “That’s just where we see the future.”