At the CES (Consumer Electronic Show), in the US, electric trucks in the spotlight saw heavy truck makers make their own mini-exhibition of electric heavy trucks. Diesel News’ US Correspondent got to have a drive of a selection of the trucks on display.
Peterbilt showed its new medium-duty 220EV which joins the previously announced heavy-duty 520EV trash-truck chassis and the 579EV regional-haul conventional prime mover. They feature a battery-electric powertrain module by San Diego-based TransPower. It is almost a ‘drop-in’ replacement for the conventional diesel power for OEMs to offer as a line-built alternative power plant.
Sister division, Kenworth, showcased its battery-electric using Toyota hydrogen fuel-cell-technology from the Mirai sedan that first saw the light of day in 2017 as the Project Portal. At the show, Kenworth announced it will be producing 10 units in a demonstration project with the California Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
There’s been no additional news about Tesla’s Semi that was revealed mid 2018 but a Los Angeles startup, Thor Trucks, has been making a small name for itself with the Darth Vader-like ET1, a rebody of an International class 8 cab and chassis and using an e-axle battery-electric drivetrain. Thor says its limited production trucks will be available during 2019.
Late 2017 saw the reveal of the Nikola One, a class 8 highway prime mover with a chassis developed by Meritor and drivetrain by Bosch. Its distinguishing feature is a hydrogen fuel-cell range extender that gives the rather science-fiction looking unit up to 1,200 miles (1900km) between fill-ups of hydrogen to recharge the drive batteries. It has since announced a day cab Nikola two and, most recently, the Nikola Tre cabover for Europe and due to be previewed at an Arizona press event set for April this year.
Navistar’s International brand is also working on electric traction for commercial operations but has yet to announce its plans or products. It will likely make its announcements during 2019.
Driving the Electrics
Just ahead of the CES Daimler Trucks North America took its line-up of electrics out to the Las Vegas Speedway where North American trucking journalists were given an opportunity to drive them on a short, closed course.
The Daimler line-up includes the Fuso eCanter, which has been in fleet demos since the autumn of 2018, two of its recently unveiled medium-duty eM2 trucks, one of which was the truck delivered to Penske’s Los Angeles leasing operation just before Christmas. Star of the line-up was a very cool eCascadia with axle-mounted motors at the wheel-ends specced for regional hauls that is to be ready for production in 2021.
There was also the cute Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner electric school bus nicknamed Jouley which has a powertrain developed by bus maker Proterra. Daimler announced at last September’s IAA in Hannover that it has taken a significant position in the Silicon Valley, California -based electric-bus manufacturer.
But, despite all the hype, only Daimler has presented trucks to drive. And they are pretty convincing though maybe not to the extent that consultant McKinsey & Co., and the Department of Transportation, predict. That forecast is for commercial electric vehicles in North America to grow to 100,000 by 2022, 500,000 by 2026 and one million by 2030.