back to article Truck, sweet truck: Volvo's Chinese owner unveils methanol/electric truck with bathroom and kitchen

Chinese auto maker Geely, which owns Volvo, Lotus and other car brands, has unveiled a hybrid electric truck it says will go on sale in 2024 offering all the comforts of home. Launched yesterday by Geely's commercial vehicle brand, Farizon Auto, the "Homtruck" is named to reflect that it's a semi-truck to handle any hauling …

  1. xyz

    Truck or jail cell

    The wetware steerng the thing will never be allowed out.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Truck or jail cell

      Of course they will.

      Someone has to load, unload and hitch the trailer.

      Now get back in your box, you've had your fun Mr Driver.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Truck or jail cell

      This has been the lot of truckers for years.

    3. Tim 49

      Re: Truck or jail cell

      Hauliers could charge the drivers rent, since the cab's facilities mean that drivers wouldn't need to rent conventional, stationary accommodation.

      Everyone's a winner: driver saves spending all their disposable on a crappy hovel that they seldom see, and haulier can set the rent and service charge at roughly the same rate as the driver's renumeration. The cooking facilities could be designed to handle only the produce which is solely-available in the haulier's shop, at reasonable rates.

      1. ZeroPete

        Re: Truck or jail cell

        Renumeration ? Is that when you add digits to paper money to compensate for daily inflation ?

      2. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: Truck or jail cell

        But wouldn't that lower the truck's hauling capacity to 16 tons?

    4. Mips
      Childcatcher

      Re: Truck or jail cell

      Hello

      Is this 1st April? Ha ha ha.

      Let me out now.

      Please let me out now.

      I want my mummy.

  2. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge
    Trollface

    Just don't use it in Europe!

    And the first thing the French, Germans, Belgians and Dutch will do..... is ban it!

    https://www.mw-spedition.com/en/ban-sleeping-in-a-truck-cab/

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Just don't use it in Europe!

      In countries where the ban applies, the employer is obliged to provide drivers with a possibility to have their weekly rest in a convenient place of accommodation, in decent sanitary conditions.

      Absolutely shocking.

      1. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

        Re: Just don't use it in Europe!

        Unbelievable. Next they'll be asking for a living wage.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Just don't use it in Europe!

      They don't make it explicitly clear, but the inference from the clues in the text seems to indicate that this only applies to long stops, eg overnight or proper 2-day breaks and even more specifically to doing so in, eg a lay-by. It's certainly about time truckers were treated better and this sounds like a good start. Clearly the employers are doing nothing, so it's well past time for legislation to force them. Another good start would be more and upgraded truck-stops with decent shower blocks and bogs.

      As for this new truck, I know some trucks are already a little like a mine-flat/studio apartment, but most of the ones I've seen seem to be poor attempts to jam scaled down "furniture" into available spaces. When you look at some of the incredible engineering that goes into caravans and camper vans, it makes you wonder why the truck builders aren't hiring those designers.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Just don't use it in Europe!

        This provides some clarification, also as this article makes clear the rules have applied in the UK since 2017...

        Do You Sleep in Your Cab?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Just don't use it in Europe!

          Thanks, that does make it more clear. I drive a car, and our company has a 2hr limit on driving, we have to take a 15 minute break. I usually find a services or roadside cafe, have a wander around, have a coffee. But finding somewhere to pull over and have a walk is much easier in a car, and the vast majority of the time, I'm sleeping in my own bed at night. On rare occasions, it might be a hotel.

  3. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    sorta like a motor home instead of a sleeper cab

    that's my take on it - aside from the autonomous claims.

    An actual truck driver might appreciate not having to get a hotel room or even go to a truck stop for cross-country hauling though. This is a thing in the USA where it might take a few days to get from one coast to the other, with Rocky Mountains in between.

    (or it's a place to "wait it out" if you get stuck at the bottom of a mountain because the pass is frozen or filled with mudslides or something similar)

    I would have included a diesel generator to at least partially re-charge while you sleep.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: sorta like a motor home instead of a sleeper cab

      "I would have included a diesel generator to at least partially re-charge while you sleep."

      For the sort of trips you mentioned, which are also a thing in other parts of the world too, ie could be days between charging points, yes, some form of charging while parked up is going to be a must. Or, as per the article, hybrid rather than full electric. I wonder how much charge an over-day sleep break and driving at night would help? I'm thinking solar panels across the trailer roof too, where possible. Maybe in places like Oz with long, straight outback roads. I've no idea if that's a bad idea from either the drivers point of view or night-time animal hazards in the dark.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: sorta like a motor home instead of a sleeper cab

        not sure why methanol instead of diesel fuel though. Diesel tanks would be physically smaller, and the engine more efficient. It's the nature of the fuel. Alcohols are already "partially oxidized" causing them to have less heat content.

        The focus seemed to be more on the electric side, though, swapping out the entire battery assembly and things like that. In my view, a diesel generator would be separate but connected up MOSTLY to charge batteries while you're stopped (or maybe run while you drive for hill climbing). Maybe it's the kind of thinking that comes from having been on a submarine...

        An advantage to not running the diesel generator continuously is that when an engine is operating at max power it's also operating at (or close to) max efficiency. This is especially true for diesel engines due to the way they work. In general they should pollute less in this configuration, and you would not have to run the thing inside a city (let's say) and just run on batteries within urban areas when you can. Then of course when you need the extra power to climb hills you'd have both batteries AND diesel engine to do that.

        But mostly, it would charge batteries when you're stopped. I guess [un]loading counts for that, too.

      2. Denarius Silver badge

        Re: sorta like a motor home instead of a sleeper cab

        Bob, Oz truckers on long haul trips like East coast to Perth, a mere 2500 km or so have decent sleeper cabins for the reason you cite. When their daily hours are coming they can park on the truck pull-off areas along the main highways, joining grey nomads in mobile homes or big SUVs towing stonking caravans, bikers like myself and sane car drivers napping instead of dying. Sometimes there are fueling points with cafes and less often, accommodation. Some of the Nullabour accommodation leaves some preferring to sleep up road in scrub. As for electric trucks, Bwahh hahaha. Load and range. Pulling a B-double or in NT, a semi with 5 trailers road-train is big diesel engine or nothing.

  4. wolfetone Silver badge

    Given what Vulva have done with Polestar, and what LTI have done with the taxi, the smart money surely is on Geely to deliver this truck rather than Tesla playing at delivering the truck?

    Also, given the total shit show HGV drivers are forced to endure in the UK with the total lack of facilities, it could be a real winner here and will go some way to improve the working conditions of HGV drivers? Not because of the autonomous driving which would mean those drivers would then have to go and flip burgers at McDonalds, but having a nice bathroom on board instead of a Volvic water bottle?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Also, given the total shit show HGV drivers are forced to endure in the UK with the total lack of facilities, it could be a real winner here and will go some way to improve the working conditions of HGV drivers?

      It's easy to improve the working conditions of HGV drivers, the British government just doesn't want to.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "It's easy to improve the working conditions of HGV drivers, the British government just doesn't want to."

        It's not all their fault. The truck stop owners have to shoulder some of the blame. But then truckers don't want to pay too much either. I've no idea of the economics of running a truck stop. Land prices? Taxes? General running costs? Owners assuming they are owed a couple of international holidays per year so won't invest in facilities?

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Have a look at this article, including the embedded twitter thread for a few reasons as to why the UK's service stations are so poor.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Thanks, that was an interesting read. On the other hand, it seems local planning is part of the problem too, so, as I said, it's not ALL the Govts. fault. It's a large and wide ranging problem with multiple causes, including, according to that article, the profit-centric nature of the UK, which matches my comment about lorry park owners want their multiple international holidays :-)

            Also, as a campaigning website, there was no mention of successful or new lorry park planning applications. It'd be interesting to see if that is a smaller or larger number than the rejected ones.

            As I'm not involved in the industry, the only new one I can comment on is the new Services on the M1 extension just outside Leeds. north of the M62 junction since I pass there frequently and occasionally stop there, Oh yes, and the relatively new one further up, on the A1(M) at Wetherby.

            I believe there are or were plans for a services just north of Borobridge too, just off a Motorway junction, that some locals were opposed to for no obviously good reason since it's a few miles north of the town and literally just off the junction.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        >"It's easy to improve the working conditions of HGV drivers, the British government just doesn't want to."

        Not been listening to the news in recent weeks, the British government is not the problem here(*), it is the haulage industry and specifically some major operators. Basically, we have to accept it is going to cost more to move stuff around.

        (*)Although it did cause the cross channel and cross Irish sea freight problems...

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          The government has relaxed regulation over HGV driving hours, has no interest in improving or adding parking or services for HGV drivers, and the law over sleeping in cabs in the UK only fines drivers not employers. These are things that the British government could improve.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not because of the autonomous driving which would mean those drivers would then have to go and flip burgers at McDonalds, but having a nice bathroom on board instead of a Volvic water bottle?

      Judging by the size of the cab in the image, I'd be surprised if they could fit any sort of toilet facilities onboard, let alone a nice bathroom.

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge
        Joke

        any sort toilet facilities onboard, let alone a nice bathroom.

        2-in-1 ?

  5. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Not sure about the reason for a (presumably) methanol fuel cell but the swap out battery option seems a good idea given current charging technology. If it could be automated so much the better - pull up, hit the button and wait much like a car wash ...

    1. dharmOS

      Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

      This is because methanol CH3-OH is a very dense carrier of hydrogen, better than 700bar compressed H2 gas or even cryogenic liquid hydrogen. Slight downside of course is the carbon atom that is disposed off as CO2.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

        "Slight downside of course is the carbon atom that is disposed off as CO2."

        Capture it.

        Pressurise it.

        Deliver it to the food processing plant.

        ???

        Profit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

          Collect warm flat beer from brewery.

          Deliver cold fizzy beer to pubs.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

            Cold, fizzy beer? Not in the UK! We like it warm and flat.

            1. BenDwire Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

              Not all of us do. Mines a Guinness ->

              1. TimMaher Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: Mines a Guinness

                You can mine Guinness?

                Is that why it looks like coal?

            2. MrXavia

              Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

              Warm? No way... it should be cask temperature... around 11-13C, so cool, not warm....

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

                True. Cask temperature is best. But that seems to be considered warm beer by most of the rest of the world's standards.

                And something nicely malty, nutty and brown. I miss the old Whitbread Forest Brown Ale... Timothy Taylor's Landlord is close-ish, but less nutty.

              2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                Windows

                Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

                > "around 11-13C, so cool, not warm."

                Damn southerner. 11ºC is considered balmy by my standards. Definite shorts & T-shirt weather (and the T-shirt is optional)

        2. Lotaresco

          Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

          "Slight downside of course is the carbon atom that is disposed off as CO2."

          "Capture it."

          The outputs from a methanol powered fuel cell will be water and CO2. This truck would make its own sparkling water and that sells for a higher price than diesel. It's a winner!

        3. tip pc Silver badge

          Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

          CH3-OH

          if you capture the CO2, the weight increases as your adding an additional O (16) while loosing the 4 H's (4) so adding 12 for each unit of CH3-OH consumed, CH3-OH starts at 32 and CO2 is 44.

          extra weight = more fuel needed to move the truck, admittedly likely not that much to the overall mass of a lorry but it must be considered.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

            extra weight = more fuel needed to move the truck, admittedly likely not that much to the overall mass of a lorry but it must be considered."

            Just ban the drivers from eating Yorkies, weight problem solved.

            (cue the outrage :-))

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

        Yes, but seeing as methanol can be synthesised fairly easily (the ETH in Zürich has just developed a prototype) that really isn't so much of a problem. And certainly a far smaller one than the looming lack of generational capacity required for all those charging stations.

        1. x 7

          Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

          Presumably methanol synthesised from methane

          Not very green

          1. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

            SpaceX plan to make methane from water and CO2.

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

              how much electricity will this require?

              (rhetorical question actually)

          2. Steve K Silver badge

            Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

            That's the real reason for the inclusion of a toilet...

          3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

            No synthesised from air using Cerium Oxide. The clever bit is reducing CO2 to CO but it will also split H2 from water, all done using sunlight. The difficult bit is doing this cheap enough to avoid the inevitable problems with the black market. But even these are likely to be small in comparison with the costs of extra-generating and grid capacity required for charging points on every street corner.

            I'm wary of predictions but given all the hype over CCS and batteries, it would be nice to hope that at some point we'll come across a nice, cheap catalyst for the reduction process.

        2. Geoff Campbell
          Boffin

          Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

          TANSTAAFL

          The creation of the methanol will take at least as much energy, and probably more, than charging batteries to drive the same distance, so it doesn't help with your (largely illusory) generational problems.

          GJC

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

            It's also quite toxic and easily absorbed through the skin. But it's an ongoing area of research. Ethanol is also a contender, and blends of various hydrocarbons are also being developed.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

            Yeah, but the energy used to create it will, eventually, be from green renewable, so it's easily transported and stored using existing infrastructure. Setting up charging stations everywhere could well be less efficient, especially in more rural areas.

          3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

            The problem with batteries is not charging efficiency but energy density. Oh, you also use lots of energy producing them. If you can produce hydrocarbons from water and CO2 using a catalyst you have a high enegry-density fuel that is easy to store and transport.

            The problems with generation and distribution of energy for electric vehicles are, unfortunately, far from illusory: in Germany they've started to limit the grants for home connections to so many per street. In fact, if we don't come up with solutions, the current approach will make us completely dependent upon the owners of the charging infrastructure.

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

        Diesel fuel is liquid energy, highly concentrated and relatively inexpensive compared to other fuels. Diesel engines are also very efficient (large scale engines as high as 50%), which is why they are used EVERYWHERE when it comes to producing propulsion power on a large scale (and flexible electric power on a moment's notice, i.e. "peaking" plants). I cannot imagine the physical size of fuel cells and fuel tanks that can crack methanol JUST to get the hydrogen, compared to that of a diesel engine.

        https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2092678216302175

        This article looks very favorably on fuel cells, but it is based on mathematical models, and not actual equipment. What it DOES say is that fuel cell systems are 40-60% efficient on HYDROGEN, or perhaps methane (I may have missed that detail scanning the article). Other fuels require some kind of 'cracking' which could dramatically lower efficiency, and the heat content (volumetrically and by weight) of "lightweight" fuels isn't as good as the heavier ones (like diesel fuel). Hydrogen gas is typically produced in large quantities using COAL, and the tanks that hold it are LARGE by comparison. Methanol tanks would ALSO need to be larger than diesel. So unless we have a spacecraft with liquid H2 and O2 available, fuel cells [from a practical standpoint] make less sense than classic diesel engines.

        And In My Bombastic Opinion, re-purposing existing (proven) tech (diesel electric has been used in trains for a LONG time, for example) is better than trusting some new, shiny unproven tech too soon.

        Apparently there is one fuel cell powered ship in operation in Germany, using hydrogen. My guess is that it does not scale well (like to an entire fleet) at this time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

          # Usage - bob-text "Some text you want Bob-ifying"

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          param (

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          [string] $text

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          $text = $text.ToLower()

          $array = @()

          $i = 0

          while ($i -lt $text.Length){

          $letter = $text.Substring($i,1)

          $array += $letter

          $i++

          }

          $newArray = @()

          foreach ($item in $array) {

          $randomize = Get-Random -inputObject 0, 1

          if ($randomize) {

          $item = $item.ToUpper()

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          $newArray += $item

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          $newtext = $newArray -join ''

          return $newtext

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        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Methanol as a store of energy for a fuel cell

          Chemically, the biggest challenge, or the highest energy bump, is reducing CO2 to CO. Once you've done that you can basically pick your hydrocarbon, though shorter chains burn cleaner, which is why methane is popular. The alchohols don't require much pressurising but can still be difficult to handle because they promote corrosion.

          We will, at some point, use fuel cells for everything because the motors can be so much smaller. But in the meantime synthesised hydrocarbons are a relatively good idea.

  6. Mrs Spartacus
    Happy

    Retirement job

    So, a motorhome (RV for Left-Pondians) that hauls freight.... I see an opening for all those touring pensioners.

    All they need to do now is fit a 56-inch TV, a small bath, storage for the ski gear, spare room for visitors...

    What could possibly go wrong.

  7. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Science fiction novel "Coils" (1982) by Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen had this. And different scenes with homicidally inclined machinery, but someone was making that happen... And in the book, the trucks are self-driving and convoying around a "near future" United States: the hero stops one for a necessary getaway. It's explained that the drivers' union insisted on cabs with living accommodation and a bed even if they didn't have to get out of it... or get into it. There is nobody in the truck cabs except for our hitchhiker. (They're not on strike, just unnecessary. Point noted that this is doubtful.) He goes to bed with the truck in motion, and wakes up when the trucks encounter teenagers jumping out in front of them for the fun of making them brake, which is a thing in this setting.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      But do they then proceed to nick all the "GPUs" from the trailer?

    2. TimMaher Silver badge
      Alien

      Zelazny

      Thanks for dragging up that name..

      Somewhere in the house I have a copy of “All the sounds of fear”.

      Remember “Repent Harlequin said the Tick Tock man”?

      Terrifying and brilliant at the same time.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Zelazny

        I'm not sure if I really appreciate the work of Roger Zelazny, because I gather that pieces he was proudest of are ones that I don't like so much. I enjoyed "Coils" and his "Nine Princes in Amber" series about the curious cosmic city Amber, and I believe he wrote the Amber books strictly for money. That said, "all the Sounds of Fear" and "Repent, Harlequin" are by Harlan Ellison, aren't they?

        "The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth" obviously is a fishing story set on and in the mighty oceans on Venus. ...Okay.

  8. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Coat

    All very pretty, but...

    Where are they going to find the drivers? Isn't there a world shortage?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All very pretty, but...

      There is no driver shortage. There is a driver pay shortage, much as there is a severe pay shortage for most jobs right now.

      Quadruple the pay, improve the working conditions somewhat, you'll find the drivers.

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    On the automated trucks...

    I do have to wonder who is going to load and unload the vehicles in a safe and effective manner? I mean if it's purely from warehouse to distribution center (and back again) then no problem. Truck arrives, drops off trailer and loads a new trailer.

    But, have a multi-stop run (say from various supermarkets, dropping off full food cages and picking up empty ones) who's going to make sure the truck's cargo is secure? Would you trust thousands of pounds off stock to your wage slave early morning shelf filler? (having done this as a summer job, the drivers never let us near the trailers).

    It's a mess waiting to happen.

  10. Kev99 Silver badge

    I may be wrong but it seems to me that China seems to be leading the way in innovation. Maybe that's because, at least in the US, the developing companies are more concerned with Wall Street than Main Street and ship everything to China for manufacture.

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