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ACT Expo showcases electrification tech, but where’s Tesla?

The Thor ET-One. ( Photo: ACT Expo 2018 )

The exhibition hall of the Long Beach Convention Center, where ACT Expo 2018 is currently being held, is full of newly available battery-electric transportation products as well as concepts still under development. Battery-electric sedans like Honda’s Clarity Electric were displayed next to electric trucks like Thor’s ET-One and a seriously cool double-decker electric bus built by Chinese company BYD. Rival electric charging stations by Delta, ABB, and ChargePoint jostled for space. 

In other words, competitors challenging every aspect of Tesla’s business model, from consumer sedans to heavy duty trucks and charging infrastructure were well represented at the show, but Musk’s brand was nowhere to be found. The most hyped, over-valued electric vehicle company in the world was conspicuously absent from the high-profile California trade show celebrating clean transportation technology. 

The Thor EV-One, set for production beginning in 2019, had an impressive silhouette but looked unfinished on closer inspection, with some panels not lining up correctly around the wheel wells and a few unsightly weld seams. It’s obviously still a prototype, and we’re waiting to see how well Thor scales up its manufacturing operation. Thor says its battery-electric truck will have a range of up to 300 miles, with a top speed of 75 mph (laden), and can handle grades of up to 15%. The electric motor generates 470 hp and 5,000 lbs-ft of torque. Thor thinks its EV-One can run at a fuel cost per mile of 15 cts, with 4 cts per mile of maintenance costs ($0.19 per mile total), compared to a traditional day cab’s 54 ct fuel cost per mile and a 12 ct maintenance cost per mile ($0.66 per mile total). Thor says that the EV-One will start at $150,000, comparable to a traditional diesel tractor, and thinks it’s ideal for LTL, regional haul, drayage, refuse, and dump operations.

ChargePoint’s EV charging station. ( Photo: FreightWaves )

The electric charging station displays demonstrated how far electrification infrastructure has come in such a short time. The vendors FreightWaves spoke to—Delta, ABB, and ChargePoint—emphasized that one of the biggest advantages their systems had over the Tesla SuperCharger was that the SuperCharger is a proprietary technology that only works with Tesla vehicles, while all other automakers have adopted industry standards to enable cross-compatibility and widespread adoption. ABB Inc. offers a high-powered EV charger designed for the more powerful, long range electric vehicles of the future: the Terra HP offers an ‘ultra high’ current of 375 amps, with a power capacity of 175-500 kW. The Tesla SuperCharger, by comparison—which was not displayed at ACT Expo—charges 100 kW at a rate of 250 amps. 

The Delta DC Wallbox EV Charger, comparable to a Tesla Wall Connector, provides a maximum of 65 amps of current, comparable to the Tesla’s Wall Connector’s maximum current of 72 A. ChargePoint’s Express 250s, which are comparable to a Tesla SuperCharger, can deliver 62.5 kW of power at a maximum current of 78 A. 

The trade show floor abounded with impressive electric-based products, like eNow’s innovative solar-powered reefer system, which uses photovoltaic cells mounted on the top of the trailer to supply energy for refrigeration, telematics, air conditioning, and other electricity-consuming truck components. Trucks equipped with eNow’s panels have more than enough power to keep produce cool without idling the truck or running a generator. eNow has even developed a technology to allow solar panel-equipped trailers parked in a yard to feed energy back into a depot to reduce the energy expenditures and carbon footprints of their customer’s buildings. 

FreightWaves was gratified by seeing the wide range of electric product offerings in the transportation space—Tesla’s absence was noticeable, but the company, truth be told, wasn’t really missed. Elon Musk’s vision for the electrification of the automotive and transportation industries was groundbreaking and far-fetched when Tesla was founded nearly 15 years ago, but now technology is moving rapidly into the future, with or without him. 

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John Paul Hampstead

John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.