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First Freightliner eCascadias readied for customer testing

NFI and Penske will use battery-power Class 8 tractors in drayage and delivery fleet operations

Daimler Trucks North America will deliver the first two battery electric-powered Class 8 eCascadia trucks to fleets in Southern California in late August.

The trucks are part of a 30-unit test fleet partly funded by a $16 million grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. 

“As we work towards meeting air quality standards, it is imperative that truck manufacturers accelerate the commercialization of these technologies that will help clean our air and protect public health,” said Wayne Nastri, executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.  

About a million heavy-duty diesel trucks operate in California each year. That’s a fraction of the total number of vehicles on the road. Yet diesel trucks account for nearly 60 percent of the smog-forming nitrogen oxides and 80 percent of the soot from motor vehicles, according to state regulators.

The two Freightliner trucks were assembled at Daimler’s research and development center in Portland, Oregon. Additional eCascadia and medium-duty Freightliner eM2 trucks for regional haul and drayage use at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are being assembled this year. Series production is expected to begin in late 2021.

The eCascadia is built on the foundation of the Freightliner Cascadia, the best-selling Class 8 heavy-duty truck on the market. The first of the Freightliner eM2s began operation earlier this year as part of a Penske Truck Leasing fleet.

Daimler is relying on real-world use of the trucks and feedback from its 38-member Freightliner Electric Vehicle Council to determine the best approach to charging infrastructure, partnerships with other parties in the e-mobility value chain, vehicle specifications and use cases.  

“Our purpose is resolute — we build for our customers,” said Roger Nielsen, Daimler Trucks North America president and CEO. 

Penske of Reading, Pennsylvania, and NFI of Camden, New Jersey, will receive the eCascadias at their Southern California operations. NFI has 4,000 tractors and 9,700 trailers dedicated to drayage operations. Penske has more than 323,000 vehicles and serves customers from more than 1,100 locations globally. 

Volvo Trucks North America also expects to deliver the first of its battery-powered VNL Class 8 tractors to NFI this year for testing in the Volvo LIGHTS partnership that includes Southern California Edison and other infrastructure partners.

Daimler Trucks’ global electrified truck initiative includes Thomas Built Buses all-electric Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley school bus, the FUSO eCanter and the Mercedes-Benz eActros and eCitaro. 

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.