South Africa’s latest all-electric commercial truck – the JAC N55 EV – recently started its job transporting car charging infrastructure in Gauteng.
The N55 EV is owned by Aeversa, a company that aims to electrify South Africa’s commercial fleets.
We were fortunate enough to go for a ride in the N55 EV, and driving the truck was Rick Franz – founder and CEO of Aeversa.
Franz shared details about the N55’s daily life, and added that when it’s not carrying chargers, you can find it delivering tonnes of wooden pallets or doing its next media interview.
He is confident that the N55 EV will attract many new customers in South Africa, and after a 15-minute ride around Johannesburg, I agree.
The JAC N55 EV landed in South Africa in July and is sold and serviced at JAC dealerships nationwide.
The starting price for the truck is R834,900 excluding VAT and is exchange rate dependent, and Franz said that after all the calculations have been made, the N55 EV slides in at just under R1 million.
He said this is on the expensive end of the spectrum for a truck this size, but there’s a good reason.
According to data that Aeversa and its fleet of couriers have sourced, Franz predicts the N55 EV will take around three years to pay itself off.
Throw in the fact that you receive a 97kWh battery that is warranted to last for 700,000km – or in Aeversa’s case, an estimated 14 years of service – and it means the N55 EV will have 11 years of “basically free” service.
This is not counting the costs of charging, tyres, and general maintenance items – which JAC said is up to 30% lower than with standard commercial trucks of this size.
Franz said that he spends around R200 in Eskom rates to charge the N55 from empty to full, but that this cost is halved when using one of the Aeversa solar chargers.
A full charge then affords roughly 210km of range, and takes around 100 minutes.
This is perfect for small and medium-sized businesses doing multiple rounds of deliveries per day, said Franz, as 30 minutes on a plug while the truck is getting loaded will add almost 100km of range.
The JAC N55 EV is also rated to accelerate to 50km/h in eight seconds, reach a top speed of 90km/h, and carry up to 2.5 tonnes.
The JAC N55 EV looks like a regular truck.
On the outside it is unassuming, but once inside it becomes clear that it is unique.
It has three seats, a large infotainment display, loud speakers, built-in Waze navigation, a multifunction steering wheel, an air conditioner, electric windows, a seatbelt warning, and an ECO mode button that limits power output and top speed.
Out of habit, I was waiting for the engine to start, but before I could remind myself there were no diesel components below me, we were already on the road.
The more noticeable attributes throughout the drive were the soft seats, heaps of features, quiet cabin – akin to most passenger cars on the road – and the fact that every stop street came closer much quicker than anticipated.
The N55 EV is fast, even for a truck, and this is due to its large “pancake” motor that sits one metre from the rear axle and provides it with instantaneous torque via a direct driveshaft.
While Franz said he hasn’t timed the truck to see if it can complete the reported 8-second run to 50km/h, after a few pulls up and down various hills I would not dispute JAC’s claim.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s no low-riding sports coupe, but I’m willing to bet that even seasoned truckers will be surprised at how this one pulls.
During its daily duties that mostly consist of deliveries around Johannesburg, Franz said it performs as well as any truck this size.
According to Franz, he regularly loads the N55 EV up to 3 tonnes, gets it up to 100km/h despite the 90km/h reported max speed, and drives around 220km thanks to the truck’s regenerative braking that adds range if you drive responsibly.
He also said that he enjoys racing bakkies on his way back to the office just to see the drivers’ surprised faces.
Aeversa is a new agent for the N55 EV in South Africa, and it will continue to use the truck to show what electric technology is capable of, and to accelerate the transformation to EVs in the country, said Franz.