Big rigs go electric as Navistar, Cummins and Daimler revive next-gen trucks

The electric vehicle revolution is far bigger than the electric pickup from Teslas and Fords, as the world’s leading heavy-duty truck and powertrain manufacturers, including Navistar, Daimler, Cummins, Hyundai and Volvo, also intend to disrupt their industry with next-generation batteries and hydrogen. -engine models that reduce carbon pollution and exhaust emissions.

A stone’s throw from the sprawling ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, North America’s largest freight container terminals, truck manufacturers, and engine and energy companies have packed the Long Beach Convention Center at the Clean Transportation (ACT) expo this week to debut, display and test dozens of medium-duty and heavy-duty electric commercial truck models, many of which will first enter service in these Southern California ports. Improvements in battery and hydrogen technology, along with new federal support for clean vehicles, have paved the way for wider adoption by fleet operators and soaring oil prices are only making them even more more convincing.

“The cost parity point (of electric trucks), according to the app, is much sooner than many think,” said Mathias Carlbaum, president and CEO of Navistar. Forbes. “We’re seeing battery technology moving forward, really on the chemistry side, and all of the battery capabilities that will be very unique and bespoke to us going forward.”

Although Navistar currently offers the International eMV battery-powered truck, with around 135 miles of range per charge, Carlbaum says the company is working on more advanced electric trucks with a range of over 500 miles per charge with 1-car batteries. megawatt hours which should be ready around 2025. And while Navistar also sees a role for hydrogen fuel cell trucks, especially for very long-range applications, it is more optimistic than competitors including Daimler, Volvo, Hyundai and newcomer Nikola, that battery power is the best option for most heavy-duty applications.

“The cost parity point (of electric trucks), according to the app, is much sooner than many think”

Mathias Carlbaum, CEO of Navistar

This is partly because the Volkswagen Group subsidiary will benefit from technological improvements stemming from VW’s plan to spend $100 billion on research and development on batteries and electric propulsion. As a result, “we believe 50% of our sales will be electric by 2030,” Carlbaum said. “It’s 50% by 2030 and by 2040 100%.”

Alongside Navistar, the world’s leading truck manufacturers and brands including Daimler Truck, Volvo, Hyundai and Hino, Peterbilt, Kenworth, International and Mack, China’s BYD, engine giant Cummins and electric truck startups including Proterra , Nikola, Hyzon, Hyliion and Xos. are scrambling to get zero-emission utility vehicles into service with trucking and logistics customers, as well as city fleets. As the purchase price of battery-powered and hydrogen-powered vehicles outstrips diesel, gasoline, and natural gas-powered trucks, potentially by tens of thousands of dollars, the companies all say the total cost of ownership , including fuel and maintenance expenses, gives them an advantage . Add in generous incentives, such as rebates of up to $120,000 per truck offered by California, and the shift to electric vehicles seems even more compelling.

Tesla was a notable absence from the advanced truck show. Elon Musk said his electric car company would shake up the trucking industry when he unveiled the Tesla Semi in 2017, promising a heavy-duty hauler that would travel 500 miles per charge and hit the market in late 2019. The company said missed that goal and hasn’t announced a new official release date for the Semi. Musk said on Tesla’s earnings call last month that it could go into production by 2023 at the new Giga Texas factory in Austin.

Its competitors are not waiting. Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Volvo, BYD and Lion Electric are already selling battery-powered tractor-trailers to US customers, with more models to come. This week Freightliner, a Daimler brand, unveiled a new version of its Cascadia electric truck that travels 230 miles per charge, and last month Nikola began delivering its Tre BEV truck that reaches up to 350 miles per charge.

“Across all sectors, fleets are increasingly turning to an array of advanced clean vehicle technologies and low-carbon fuels to not only meet their sustainability goals, but also improve their fleet bottom line. “, Erik Neandross, CEO of GNA, the organizer of the ACT Expo GNA, said in his opening remarks at the start of the week-long event.

GNA’s Market Trends Survey released this week found that heavy-duty electric truck deployments in the United States “will grow from tens to hundreds this year and next, with some sectors already seeing early scale.” Fleet demand for BEVs is huge and continues to outpace availability, while vehicle and battery costs remain stubbornly high and the supply chain is still developing.

Cummins, the largest supplier of heavy-duty diesel engines, this week announced its partnership with Daimler on hydrogen fuel cell systems, an electric propulsion system that several competing companies also see as the best long-term option for big trucks. Freightliner’s Cascadia tractor-trailers would be modified to use Cummins’ powertrain and could arrive to customers by 2024. Hyundai also announced this week that it would test XCIENT fuel cell trucks at the Port of Oakland. Toyota and Kenworth already operate a test fleet of hydrogen fuel cell trucks at the Port of LA

“Hydrogen fuel cells are a promising solution for the demanding needs of heavy trucking,” Amy Davis, president of Cummins’ New Power unit, said in a statement. The partnership with Daimler “is an important step for both companies as we strive to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy.”

Musk, a longtime critic of hydrogen, reiterated his opposition to the fuel in remarks to the Financial Times this week, describing it as “the dumbest thing I could imagine for energy storage.”

Still, the growing interest in hydrogen trucks by companies such as Hyundai, Daimler, Volvo, Toyota, Hino, General Motors, Cummins, Bosch, Nikola and Hyzon suggests that Musk’s views are not universally shared.

“Depending on customer application and energy infrastructure considerations, hydrogen vehicles can absolutely complement battery electric vehicles to accelerate our carbon-neutral journey,” said Rakesh Aneja, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. eMobility for Daimler Trucks North America. the Cummins collaboration.

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