Electric cars are a hot topic globally, but electric heavy duty trucks gain momentum every week, appearing in the portfolios of all of the major players, plus some newcomers, on the North American truck scene. Diesel News’ US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, reports.
Volvo says it will have 23 production-ready, electric, heavy-duty trucks at a Los Angeles demonstration project in 2019. The Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions (LIGHTS) program is a $44.8 million joint initiative by Volvo and California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District.
“This is yet another important step towards our vision of zero emissions,” said Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks. “We are convinced that electrified truck transport will be a key driver of sustainable transports, and we’re proud to contribute the Volvo Group’s expertise to this innovative public-private partnership.”
For the North American demonstration, the recently introduced VNR, regional-haul conventional will be the base vehicle for the electric powertrain. It is a full Class 8 vehicle (>15 tonne) that will likely be specced for operation at up to 80,000-pound (38-tonne) gross vehicle weight. The demonstration units will be based on the technology currently being used in the European Volvo FE Electric, which Volvo Trucks presented in May and will begin selling there in 2019. The North American battery-electric VNR is to enter series production in 2020.
The prime movers are to be based on the Southern California’s ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and serve as drayage units hauling containers out to five demonstration locations, currently proposed for Chino, Fontana, Ontario, La Mirada and Placentia – all distribution points in cities local to the greater Los Angeles area.
The significance of these cities is that they are 30 to 50 miles (48-80km) from the ports, so well within the range of electric drayage trucks that in the Volvo case, are likely to have a range of 120 to 150 miles (200-250km) from battery capacities of 200 to 300 kWh. The Euro Volvo FE is being tasked as a refuse truck with a powertrain consisting of two electric motors with 370 kW max power and 260 kW continuous power (500 and 350 hp respectively) with a Volvo 2-speed transmission. Max torque of the electric motors is 850 Nm (627 lb-ft).
The announcement was made by Volvo Trucks North America president Peter Voorhoeve at a round-table press event shortly before the Christmas holidays. “From solar energy harvesting at our customer locations, to electric vehicle uptime services, to potential second uses for batteries, this project will provide invaluable experience and data for the whole value chain,’ he said.
Volvo will not be the only manufacturer demonstrating its electric powertrains in California. Kenworth has announced a 10-truck demonstration of its hydrogen powered Project Portal for Los Angeles in 2019. Daimler also announced in June last year that it would put 30 electric trucks into fleet hands in 2019. These were identified as leasing company Penske Truck Leasing and New Jersey-based dedicated for-hire hauler NFI (National Freight Industries). At a ceremony in Los Angeles shortly before the holidays, Daimler handed over the first of these, an eM2 medium, to Penske.
The medium-duty eM2 Class 6 (under 12 tonne GVM) had been a surprise roll-out to the press earlier in the year, along with the much anticipated eCascadia which will go into regional service with the selected fleets during 2019. More recently, Daimler announced it has assembled an electric truck advisory panel comprised of 30 different fleets that are enthusiastic about electric traction. The plan is to meet on a bi-monthly basis to discuss specifications, applications and share the experiences of operating the test fleet in real-world situations.
Daimler hasn’t offered any sales or market projections and believes electric truck adoption will be slow. “If we sell 500 or 1,000 in the first year, I think it would be a success. If we sell 10,000, it will be a tremendous success,” said Martin Daum, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler Trucks and Buses, at the mid 2018 launch.
The company has established a global E-Mobility Group to maximise its strategic investments in this electric powertrain technology. It plans to spend about $600 million on research and development for truck electrification, connectivity and automation.
At a January 2019 Las Vegas, Nevada press event, Daum said that it was still so early in the development of electric transportation that this input is essential to ensure the vehicles that are still under development would be appropriate to the marketplace when they are available in production in the 2021 timeframe.