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Cummins will make electric medium-duty truck prototype for Isuzu

Cummins repurposing electric bus powertrain for battery-powered straight truck

Cummins Inc. is repurposing an electric powertrain used in buses for an Isuzu Class 6 medium-duty truck prototype. (Photo: Cummins)

Cummins Inc., which signed a long-term deal last year to make diesel powertrains for Isuzu medium-duty trucks, is adding a Class 6 battery-electric powertrain prototype to the mix that will go into customer demonstrations in Q2.

The PowerDrive 6000 is used in Gillig transit and Bluebird school buses. A PowerDrive 8000 version will go into a Kalmar terminal tractor this year capable of pulling gross vehicle weights from 80,000 to 195,000 pounds, Cummins announced in December.

“It’s the same powertrain, so we’re leveraging that and extending it into the medium-duty truck space,” Brian Wilson, Cummins (NYSE: CMI) general manager of electrified components in the company’s New Power division, told FreightWaves. 

“We’ve built a really strong relationship with Isuzu over the years. We continue to look for other places to collaborate, and this was an extension of those conversations. You can imagine a world where success happens, they could think about extending it,” Wilson said.

First fruit of powertrain partnership

Japan-based Isuzu Motors Ltd. is a leader in Class 4-5 medium-duty cabover trucks. The Cummins prototype will start in Isuzu’s Class 6 F-Series in North America. It is the first zero-emission product to result from the Isuzu Cummins Powertrain Partnership formed in May 2019.

“As part of the path to carbon neutrality, it is significant for us to start this project in North America,” Koichi Seto, Isuzu director of the board and senior executive officer, said in a press release.

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Other than saying there is a “long list” of customers in queue, Cummins would not disclose which Isuzu fleet customers will test the battery-electric prototype. There is no guarantee of commercialization but Wilson is hopeful.

And for good reason.

Demand for zero-emissions electric trucks is growing along with burgeoning last-mile and regional pickup and delivery. Six states, starting with California, will introduce sales quotas for zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024. Fleets are being asked by customers for electric trucks to meet sustainable transportation goals that are becoming mainstream.

Future technology pathways

“That’s going to be the same across all of our different power choices, so whether that’s electrification or fuel cell or clean natural gas or clean diesel or hybridization based off natural gas and diesel, these regulations are right in the wheelhouse of what Cummins has done for 100 years,” Wilson said.

“The tougher the regulations, the better Cummins is across all our different power types.”

The Isuzu relationship could extend to trying new forms of electrification still in the research stage, Seto said. 

For example, Cummins in December invested in Sion Power Corp., a developer of high-energy lithium metal battery technology. 

“As we look to invest further with companies that are pushing the battery technology, you need a vehicle to test out that product,” Wilson said. “So these strong partnerships that we’ve created with companies like Isuzu and the credibility that we’ve built up with these fleets allow us to find paths to testing out some of this technology.”

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.