Are commercial trucking OEMs betting on all-electric?

Are commercial trucking OEMs betting on all-electric?

As battery-electric and hydrogen-electric commercial truck production grows, where will the alternative fuel chips fall?

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency recently coined the term “messy middle.” It refers to a time we’re in right now that will likely run into the 2030s, in which battery electric trucks might make sense for certain fleets, but maybe not for others – and this means fleets are finding other methods for reaching low- or zero-emissions goals, such as hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

While many alternative fuel options exist for fleets today, we can see that hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric are emerging as two of the most promising options for the future of commercial fuel. In general, as the technology stands today, battery electric is well suited for regional delivery, whereas hydrogen electric fuel cell-driven powertrains are better poised for long-haul applications.

So, major trucking OEMs generally aren’t putting all their chips on battery electric. Instead, most are considering all available fuel sources, and are investing in developing vehicles with a range of fuel technologies to cast a wide net regarding the needs of fleets today.

But, don’t get me wrong, the investment in battery electric trucking keeps growing. Interestingly, despite what I just said about what sustainable fuels are viable for what types of commercial trucks, truck manufacturers are constantly making electrification announcements for trucks of all classes, even Class 8. The past year or so, especially, has really opened our eyes to the appetite to make electric heavy-duty trucks a sight on American roadways.

Here are a few examples of what we’re seeing from some of the major truck OEMs: This past April, Daimler Trucks North America opened its order books for its all-electric Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia and Class 6 & 7 eM2. Production will start on these vehicles in 2022.

Capping off a busy fall of electric truck-related announcements, Kenworth announced a battery electric version of its Class 8 T680 truck. This was the third electric vehicle Kenworth has announced in 2020, following the K270E and K370E medium-duty models.

Mack Trucks recently delivered a pre-production Mack LR Electric model to Republic Services to begin in-service trials in real-world refuse routes.

In early November, Peterbilt’s Model 579EV became available for customer order, with production expected in Q2 of this year. This follows the announcement of Peterbilt’s Model 220EV last summer.

And, in early October, Hino Trucks announced “Project Z,” outlining its plans to develop and release several zero-emissions vehicles over the next few years, including battery electric trucks.

Of course, I’ve only looked so far at some of the major commercial trucking OEMs. There are, of course, no shortage of emerging players in this space today. And, we haven’t even started talking about manufacturers of components, like batteries and eAxles, playing a huge role in the advancement of electric truck development.

When it comes to electrification, the big question for everyone from fleets to truck OEMs to aftermarket suppliers is the same: What will be the adoption rate? It’s a tough question, but experts in this space are getting closer to uncovering the answers.

Volvo Trucks North America, which opened orders for its VNR Electric regional haul truck in December, has spent the better part of the past two years learning what it takes to run electric trucks through its LIGHTS program. It’s a partnership between the Volvo Group, California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, and industry leaders in transportation and electrical charging infrastructure.

During a media event in February, Volvo Trucks’ president, Peter Voorhoeve, explained there are a several important factors that need to be considered when it comes to increasing electric truck adoption rates from an OEM’s point of view. In his words:

“First of all, we look at those geographical areas in North America where there are good reasons to start with electric vehicles. That also needs to be supported with an incentive structure. The depreciation of electric trucks, especially now in the beginning regarding asset value, is higher than diesel trucks. In order to gain momentum, we need to have an incentive structure that helps us to take that initial step to accelerate into an electric transport environment.

“At the same time, we also need to look at infrastructure, including customers and dealers who are interested in electric vehicles. We need to talk with the utility companies because getting the chargers on site and getting permits takes some time. Then, of course, and this may be the most important thing: companies that have a sustainability agenda will drive and lead the journey towards electromobility and towards zero-emission transport solutions.”

All in all, there are parallel issues between the consumer and commercial world when it comes to the adoption of electrification: components and infrastructure. Adoption rates are growing, but until obstacles around charging infrastructure and limited range are addressed, for many, the benefits of electrification don’t quite outweigh the barriers – yet.

My name’s David Sickels, and this is The EV Impact Show. See you next time.

You May Also Like

AMN Drivetime: Rick Maxwell

Rick and Bill talk about what it means to continue the legacy of a family business.


In this latest episode of AMN Drivetime, Babcox CEO Bill Babcox sits down Rick Maxwell, president and owner of Cleveland-based United Motor Products.

Rick Maxwell is what some in this industry call a “lifer.” He’s been involved in the industry since he was about eight years old, working along his father, who began as an aftermarket salesman in 1965 for the originator of B’laster.

How much U.S. EV infrastructure is enough?

As charging technology changes, so will our estimates of infrastructure needed to keep up with EV adoption.

Why BP bet big on electric in 2022

The global energy giant is investing a gasload of money in electrification and charging infrastructure.

Can federal cash rein in EV range, cost, recycling concerns?

The whole EV landscape is getting an adoption boost courtesy of government incentives out the wazoo. But is it enough?

Up close with the Sono Motors Sion, a $25k solar-powered EV

The Sion’s 190-mile battery range can be extended by about 70 miles per week in typical weather via solar power.


Other Posts

Hino Trucks to add EVs to its product portfolio

The Hino Class 5 M5e cab over and Class 6 L6e conventional models have battery capacities of 138kwH and 220kwH.

EPA certifies Shyft Group’s Blue Arc vans with 200-mile range

The EPA’s certification helps clear the way for Blue Arc vehicles to start production and be sold across the U.S.

Cummins to provide zero-emissions solutions via Accelera brand

Accelera will concentrate on zero-emissions solutions like hydrogen fuel cells, batteries, e-axles and traction systems.

How wireless charging could forever eliminate range anxiety

HEVO founder and CEO Jeremy McCool explains his view on the tie between wireless EV charging and mass EV adoption in the U.S.