As already presented in our previous blog, the new BT Levio LWI160 is built around the modular lithium-ion battery solution. Together with my colleagues Gustaf Gabrielsson (R&D) and Fredrik Nilsson (Product Manager) I'm happy to explain more about the development and possibilities of this RED project.
So, how did this RED project start?
Gustaf: The original idea started with a very simple concept: how can we remove the standard battery box? Eventually, we managed to develop our new battery system consisting of modules so small that we had to add weight to create enough balance for the truck.
Magnus: Both from an engineering and a design perspective we had already started working with lithium-ion technology many years ago. About two years ago we developed our joint prototype, and after some improved design and engineering (according to our kaizen philosophy, continuous improvement), our second prototype resulted in the final design of the truck.
Gustaf: Creating a concept is the easier part of the process, it’s the transformation into an industrialised truck that takes a long time due to the purchase of components, testing, and other aspects that guarantee the Toyota quality.
Magnus: Fortunately, our teams had been working together already for a long time, which resulted in a smooth cooperation.
And how did this cooperation go?
Gustaf: The collaboration between our R&D and design teams is very strong; it goes back and forth between truck design, mechanical design, electrical design and R&D to create a better platform and product all together.
Magnus: By working closely together, the R&D team knows which design guidelines to follow and how to add visual quality on another level, with a focus to detail. This leads to a smart way of working that requires less components and less impact on the environment.
Can you explain what this modular design means?
Gustaf: The modular approach gives us more creative flexibility to design the battery and make a better selection of components. So instead of working with big lithium-ion blocks that weigh more, we are now working with smaller modules, of which the battery cells and their weight are divided throughout the truck.
Magnus: This allows us to do an upgrade in terms of design, to align the machines and simplify the product range.
Fredrik: The unique modular lithium-ion solution is also scalable and allows us to rethink the design, putting the battery modules where they fit best. For the BT Levio LWI160 specifically, 7 modules have been placed with 4 on one side and 3 on the other. This brings benefits in terms of assembly, packaging, and servicing the truck. The full battery pack doesn’t have to be changed anymore, the modules can simply be moved, making it easier for technicians to service. It also helps to keep the number of parts down in our stock, lowering overall cost. Flexibility is also always an important factor that helps us to answer customer needs. In case of the LWI160, the customer can choose their preferred battery capacity and type of chargers according to their operational needs. Especially the possibility for on-board charging is a huge benefit in many industries.
How can a modular approach add value in times like these?
Gustaf: Flexibility is key in the current market, where customer needs can change. A flexible energy source such as the Radical Energy Design (RED) can therefore be the solution in unprecedented times, e.g. to handle peaks in delivery of medical supplies. This allows the customer to upgrade its energy system instead of having to switch to an entirely new machine.
Focusing deeper on the BT Levio LWI160, why is this the first truck with the modular design?
Gustaf: The reason we applied the Radical Energy Design (RED) to the BT Levio is because it provided the biggest opportunity. Powered pallet trucks make up a big volume of the market, answering to the largest customer base because of their versality – meaning this change is valuable and can definitely make a difference.
The new design has already been applauded – can you explain a bit more about the design awards it has earned?
Magnus: The BT Levio LWI160 has already received both an iF and a Red Dot design award. These design awards are the Oscars of industrial design: they serve as a seal of quality. The juries evaluate all aspects of the product design: the overall quality, specific details, branding, product identity, but also innovation, ergonomics, and so on. Most of all, a design should be simple, clean, functional, and easy to understand.
Looking closer at the truck, which benefits can customers expect?
Fredrik: As the weight of the LWI160 is very low, steering is much lighter and easier for the operator, creating less strain. The low and central placement of the tiller arm, in combination with the intuitive buttons also contribute to good ergonomics.
Because of the optimal placement of components throughout the truck, the hydraulic unit is now placed further from the operator. By eliminating the big battery compartment, the sound level has been lowered significantly, not only compared to the rest of the range but also competitor trucks. It is the shortest machine on the market, thanks to the ultra-low chassis, offering drivers a superb view on the forks and load.
The BT Levio LWI160 also comes with a unique safety feature: next to the optimised corner control which automatically reduces speed, the lowering safety prevents foot injuries by blocking the lowering command when the steering angle is over 80°.
Thanks to its small size and low weight, this truck is perfect for transport in a lorry. It’s also small enough to fit between aisles and in tight spaces such as the back of small shops and super markets, but also on mezzanine floors and in elevators. And thanks to the clean lithium-ion battery, it’s also ideal for the food industry.
What are the benefits in terms of energy efficiency?
Fredrik: One of the main improvements is that the truck doesn’t lift and lower the full battery anymore. This in combination with the light weight of the LWI160 and the lithium-ion battery technology, the truck has low energy consumption. In practice, this offers the truck more uptime during the shift per charge, and lower CO2 emissions.
On top of this, customers also still enjoy the standard benefits of lithium-ion: no battery change, no charging room, no battery maintenance, less energy consumption, longer lifetime, quick and easy charging, lower emissions, all leading to lower total cost of ownership.
The LWI160 is also a connected truck: does this bring any additional benefits?
Fredrik: As a smart truck, it gives customers detailed information instantly and remotely about the lithium-ion battery, and warns drivers in time to charge. This allows customers to optimise the utilisation and lifetime of their trucks and batteries. In the future, we will be able to create even more possibilities with new business models.
What are the next steps for this modular design?
Magnus: As a next step, we are planning to redesign more warehouse trucks with the modular lithium-ion design as the standard energy solution. Going forward, the modular concept definitely offers huge potential for automated and even autonomous solutions. On trucks like these where there is no driver, the vehicle can be redesigned completely in a more cost-effective way, since ergonomics does not have to be taken into account. In this case the design can be radically different: focusing more on communication in the warehouse and less on visibility and ergonomics.
|2020 Red Dot Award|
|2020 iF Design Award|
|The Toyota BT Levio LWI160 has won the coveted Red Dot Award 2020 and the iF Design Award. This is how the jury motivated their decision: “The BT Levio has no sharp edges, making it look friendly and uncomplicated. It does justice to this impression through simple and safe handling.”