Futuristic Asian-made heavy-duty truck has plans to make EV long-haul a reality—and comfy

Nov. 15, 2021
Battery-swapping and hybrid power train systems, along with many driver comforts, could help make this futuristic truck work in the long-haul segment. The Asian truckmaker wants to release the Farizon Homtruck globally by mid-decade.

China’s Geely has created a prototype next-generation, “smart energy” heavy-duty commercial vehicle that can run on an electric charge or as a methanol hybrid. And until it can drive by itself, the Asian industrial giant that plans to produce this futuristic tractor-trailer is making the cab into a home-away-from-home, complete with a bathroom, mini-kitchen, and washer-dryer.

A prototype for the Homtruck, which appears to rival the U.S-developed Tesla Semi—in appearance and promise—also is being built with more driver comforts in mind, according to photos and details released by Geely Holdings Group.

Created under the Farizon Auto nameplate, the Farizon Homtruck’s parent company has goals to make it available beyond China. It would begin production in 2024, according to Geely. When Telsa unveiled its futuristic-looking Tesla Semi in 2017, it also made bold promises to transform the heavy-duty trucking industry with a battery-electric tractor-trailer available to fleets by 2019. Four years since that launch, production is yet to begin.

Mike Fan, Farizon’s CEO, told CNBC last week that the OEM would target fleet customers in North America, Europe, Korea, and Japan. “This product is designed and developed facing the global market,” he told the channel.

“Farizon Auto’s Homtruck is the result of the synergies between Geely Holding’s technological expertise and its partners in the global automotive industry,” Eric Li, Geely’s chairman, said this week. “The Homtruck represents a significant move towards a net zero-carbon freight transportation system and opens the door to a new era for the logistics industry.”

Unlike the Tesla Semi, the Homtruck prototype doesn’t purely rely on battery-electric power. Homtruck’s architecture offers various powertrain options—including a range extender, methanol hybrid, and pure electric with battery swapping option, based on government standards recently released by China’s Ministry of Industry and Technology. These options, according to Geely, would allow the Homtruck to be recharged at highway service stations “in minutes rather than a substantial amount of time.”

Battery swapping

Battery swapping and hybrid power could be key to making battery-electric trucks work for long-haul trucking in the U.S and Asia. Because it takes so long to charge a vehicle battery, most North American truck makers have turned their BEV attention to regional haul. In China, the Geely Technology Group is working to create a national battery swapping standard. It plans to deploy 5,000 battery swapping stations in 100 Asian cities by 2025. 

The group has about 100 active battery swapping stations for passenger cars in China, which the company said can change batteries in 59 seconds using automated technologies. In a separate announcement this month, Geely announced plans to scale up this battery-swapping service as more BEVs come on the market in China. 

Methanol power

Geely holds 200 patents in methanol fuel technologies and claims to be the only mass-producer of methanol-powered vehicles. In 2022, the Asian industrial giant plans to launch the “Leishen Methanol Hybrid Engine.” 

This methanol engine would have a fuel consumption rate of 9L/100km (or 26.13 mpg), which Geely stated is a 40% improvement from current generation methanol powertrain systems. Geely said that the technology would improve by mid-decade to reduce consumption to 7.6L/100km (30.95 mpg)—improving cost performance and getting closer to net-zero carbon emissions in combination with methanol syn-fuels.

From driver-assistance to driver-free

The prototype’s cockpit includes an ergonomic seat design and high-definition cameras that leverage AI to monitor every angle outside the vehicle. Eventually, according to the company’s timeline, Geely wants to offer a self-driving version of the tractor, which would debut with some driver assisting features before moving to Level 4 autonomy. 

The Homtruck would be able to utilize L4 hands-off autonomous drive functions on some routes, according to Geely’s plans. It would also feature a platooning function that could allow multiple tractor-trailers to communicate with each other to maintain safe speed and distance, which would lower operator stress levels. Hardware sensors such as lidar, millimeter-wave radar, and ultrasonic radar would come standard on the equipment. It would also be outfitted with 5G and V2X communication systems. Farizon would offer over-the-air software upgrades.

Home on the road

The Homtruck gets its name from its designers who wanted to make a long-haul tractor “that feels like home, meeting the living and emotional needs of its drivers,” according to an OEM press release. To do this, the cab features some of the same amenities as recreational vehicles in the U.S., including a kitchen and washroom.

“Semi-truck drivers around the world spend an inordinate amount of time in their vehicles, often more so than they do at home," according to Farizon. "The mobile space created by the Homtruck integrates ‘work, life, and entertainment,’ satisfying the vital needs of its driver.”

Farizon Auto said its engineers studied the needs of truck drivers and fleet operators when developing the Homtruck’s hardware and software solutions. They said it would connect to the logistics network’s big data platforms to help drivers obtain the most optimal orders in real-time, analyze and track deliveries, and calculate operating costs along the routes. According to the OEM, the Homtruck’s operating system would utilize vehicle sensors to analyze traffic data in real-time and receive route recommendations. In addition, the energy management system would also manage the Homtruck’s power or fuel supply to achieve optimal economic performance. The truck would also recommend optimal refueling or recharging routes to the driver.

The potential long-haul truck’s designers put a lot of focus on driver comfort and safety, according to the announcements. Farizon designed a cab “that applies the concept of home and optimizes space to create a driving and a living area,” the OEM said. Inside the concept cab is a bathroom with a shower and toilet, single bed, refrigerator, and tea maker. Accessed outside the cab—hidden behind panels above the wheel wells— is a kitchenette and a small washing machine. 

Inside the Homtruck’s cabin, designers focused on soft-touch fabrics, sustainable plastics, and bamboo grain materials to create “a healthy eco-friendly environment inspired by the peaceful bamboo forests of China.”

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., the official name of the Chinese multinational automotive company, is a privately held corporation based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. The company's main focus has been on various passenger vehicle brands it sells in Asia and Europe. The company sold more than 2 million cars in 2020.

View the photo gallery that shows off the kitchen, washer, inside the cab, and outside the concept tractor-trailer. 

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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