On yer trike!
Renault Trucks unveiled a concept vehicle at the recent Road Transport Expo that could become a fleet hit. John Kendall explains all
Production of the Kleuster Freegônes e-cargo trike has taken place at Renault Trucks Bourg-en-Bresse plant for around 10 years and now the company is considering launching it in the UK. “It’s unique because it's one of the few e-cargo bikes that can actually carry a decent payload,” says Grahame Neagus, head of LCV at Renault Trucks UK. “In its current state, it's got a 350kg payload, two cubic metres load volume and can actually carry a euro pallet.”
The Freegônes is a pedal-assisted trike, powered by a three kilowatt motor, supplied by a 5.2kWh lithium-ion battery providing a range of 50 miles. The motor produces a very impressive 420Nm of torque at the rear wheels and the three-wheeler is equipped with hill-start assist, enabling it to perform a hill start – without rolling back – on a one in five gradient. “In France and Amsterdam where they sell them currently, many of the delivery points are underground,” says Neagus. “So you go down a ramp and there's an area where you pick up packages or you deliver to restaurants.”
Legal restrictions in some countries restrict motor power to 250W. “The thing is, if you're carrying any payload, 250W won't get you back up to the High Street, so once you're down the ramp and underground, you can't get back up again,” explains Neagus. Hence the more powerful motor, although like scooters and e-bikes, it is limited to 15.5mph.
A decent spec
“We've got a whole load of safety features on it that others might not,” says Neagus. These include hydraulic disc brakes on all three wheels and a toothed drive belt, so there’s no oily chain that can stretch and mark clothing. It is equipped with mirror cams, giving the rider a heads-up display showing permanent side and rear views. “It's even got on-board telematics that you can download, just like we have on other trucks.”
The vehicle on display was fitted with a dry freight box body, which can be specified with a roller shutter door on either side or both. In all, there are five body options. Besides the box body, there is a small dropside body which can be specified with or without a cage and a skip loader, which has been designed to empty into the back of a hopper on a standard refuse collection vehicle. The first of the remaining two options is a chilled refrigerated body that can cover a temperature range from -25°C to +4°C. The chiller body is powered from the trike’s battery pack, reducing range by 6.2 miles. Coca-Cola has been using this variant for events. The final option is a street food and drink variant, which can provide a vending point for a variety of things from ice cream to sandwiches and coffee.
If it’s used on public land, it would need to be registered, taxed and insured – it needs the power of the 3kW motor to climb gradients when loaded
“The law around these vehicles is about 12 years old and when that was written, it was designed around the electric bike,” explains Neagus. He says that supporting the legislation was a test showing that the average adult generated 250W of constant power, hence the rating for the electric motor, which would allow a disabled person to ride an electric bike with similar performance. “It wasn't designed around the invention of a cargo carrying trike,” adds the Renault Trucks man, advising that it creates an anomaly. “Today, if you've got a large estate, if you're a hospital or university, if you're a naval base, or a royal residence, or an airport, you could take this vehicle and use it.” If it’s used on public land, it would need to be registered, taxed and insured – it needs the power of the 3kW motor to climb gradients when loaded.
Neagus says that Renault Trucks has had a lot of interest in the Freegônes from the public sector and hopes to have more news about UK production possibilities soon.