Electric trucks are coming, says DTNA president

UPS has received one of the first eCanter electric trucks in the U.S.

Roger Nielsen says heavy-duty use cases are coming “very soon” during press conference announcing Freightliner, Western Star updates

A wide-ranging morning-television style event to kick off its participation in the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta ended with a bit of a tease from Roger Nielsen, president & CEO, Daimler Trucks North America.

“If I brought out my crystal ball, I’d say sooner than you think,” Nielsen said in response to a question on how soon North America may see all-electric Class 8 trucks on the highways. “There are definitely use cases where it makes sense … in light duty, in medium duty. There will be use cases in heavy duty very soon.”

Tesla is set to unveil a prototype Class 8 truck later this month; Nikola Motor is working on a hydrogen-electric model and Cummins last month introduced a prototype Class 7 truck, the AEOS, that features and all-electric powertrain, but it was Daimler that was first out of the gate with an electric model, the eCanter, introduced two weeks ago in New York.

The eCanter will be available before the end of the year and features a 35% reduction in fuel costs and 45% reduction in maintenance costs. The medium-duty model, which produces zero emissions and zero noise, is designed for urban city delivery with a 60-mile range.

“We see this truck as the perfect pickup and delivery truck for urban environments,” said Jecka Glasman, president & CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso of America.

She noted that 80% of inner city deliveries are made with medium-duty trucks. The eCanter can be fast charged in one hour with a DC charging unit or overnight with an AC unit.

The Fuso eCanter offers a GVWR of 15,995 lb. and a body/payload capacity of approximately 9,380 lb., depending on body and usage. The vehicle’s electric powertrain contains six 420V Mercedes-Benz lithium-ion battery packs with a total capacity of 82.8 kWh. Compared to an equivalent diesel truck, it offers operating cost savings up to $2,000 per 10,000 miles of operation.

There is also expected to be new battery technology available within two years.

Daimler is also expanding its reach into the local delivery and last-mile markets with a new longer wheelbase Metris van. The Metris, launched in 2015, is what company officials call a “right-sized” van that is the smaller sibling to the iconic large-size Sprinter.

In 2018, there will be a Metris model with a 9 inch longer wheelbase, giving customers even more choice.

“Our vans are ready to grab that last-mile logistics,” said Robert Veit, vice president and managing director, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Freightliner Vans. “That last mile holds great opportunity … in e-commerce.

 Mercedes-Benz showed its Vision electric van concept, which includes a drone on the roof to make deliveries and an innovative loading system.
Mercedes-Benz showed its Vision electric van concept, which includes a drone on the roof to make deliveries and an innovative loading system.

Veit also talked briefly about the Vision van concept on display at the NACV show. The Vision is an all-electric van designed for parcel delivery and includes the ability to attach a delivery drone to the roof to improve efficiency. It is also designed with an autonomous loading system, allowing an entire van’s worth of goods to be slid into the van – speeding loading and unloading – on a rail system.

During the show, Daimler executives touched on all areas of the business, including new platooning and connectivity developments.

On platooning, Nielsen talked about how Detroit Connect technology helps with safety and the “pairing” process of getting multiple trucks connected through vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications. DTNA is testing platooning in Oregon and Nevada and is preparing for a fleet trial early next year.

V2V brake reaction times have dropped to about 0.2 or 0.3 seconds, which is much faster than humans can respond.

Daimler is also showing its Detroit Assurance advanced safety systems in a virtual reality display in its booth. The company announced that its Detroit Connect Analytics safety reporting feature will be included at no charge for five years with the purchase of the Detroit Assurance suite of safety systems on the new Freightliner Cascadia.

Detroit Assurance 4.0 offers new, advanced features and will be offered retroactively at no charge for all new Cascadias spec’d with Detroit Assurance built before October.

Safety reporting will be accessible via the Detroit Connect portal. This feature reports and scores safety event data such as lane departure warnings, collision mitigation braking, hard and severe brake events and following distance warnings. Additionally, on-board sensor readings are captured from 15 seconds before a fault event occurred to 15 seconds after specific events, letting users know what to focus on to improve driver behavior.

On its Cascadia model, Daimler announced three new mid-roof cab configurations for regional hauling operations such as bulk and flatbeds. The 48-, 60- and 72-inch mid-roof XT sleeper cabs are available on both the 116- and 126-inch BBC platforms. All three configurations offer two levels of aerodynamic packages, the Aero or AeroX, Freightliner’s most fuel-efficient specification.

Delivery will begin in January.

“The addition of the mid-roof configuration allows more customers in different applications to experience the benefits of the new Cascadia,” said Mike McHorse, manager, on-highway product marketing, Freightliner Trucks. “Since the new Cascadia debuted in September 2016, it has earned praise as the most productive, efficient and driver-friendly truck Freightliner has ever offered to the industry.”

Features include:

  • A service-friendly electronic vault (eVault) that offers convenience and protection from the elements while also increasing uptime. The eVault’s central location allows for easy access when troubleshooting most electronic control units.
  • All LED-lit interior and exterior lights, making the lighting system more maintenance-friendly than ever.
  • An ergonomic dashboard and display screen designed for the driver. Its layout helps drivers access gauges and switches without reaching, and includes an easy-to-read instrument cluster display.
  • Detroit Connect and Detroit Assurance 4.0 seamlessly integrated into the new Cascadia, provide enhanced fleet management, increased uptime and improved safety.
  • Improved fuel economy compared to previous models, an upgrade stemming largely from rigorous tests in DTNA’s proprietary full-scale wind tunnel and millions of miles of real world testing.
  • A Driver Loft option is available in the 72-inch mid-roof XT configuration featuring a two-seat dinette/work table and opposing seating. These seats can be folded flat to allow a full Murphy-style bed to swing down in less than 15 seconds.

The Cascadia will also now be available with an exclusive Hendrickson Optimaax 6×2 liftable forward tandem axle for applications that feature diminishing load weights, such as bulk hauling.

Automated controls sense the load capacity and either lift or lower the axle without relying on the driver. The axle design is compatible with drum and air disc brakes, and the axle is fully welded, not bolted, offering additional strength and durability.

On the vocational side, Freightliner’s medium-duty models now have options of the Detroit DD5 and DD6 engines and the 114SD model can now be equipped with the Allison 4700 RDS automatic transmission.

Other medium-duty options include LifeGuard RollTek seats, improved routing and clipping for easier upfitting, M2 LED headlines and a 122SD low-profile auto hauler package.

Also, the Bendix Tire Pressure Monitoring System is available across the entire vocational line.

On its Western Star brands, DTNA announced new Michelin X Multi D tires, new forward lighting options on the 4700 model, an in-cab 4-battery box for 5700XE day cabs and factory-installed LED headlights on 4800 and 4900 truck models.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.