Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) CEO Roger Nielsen declared his company’s intentions for alternative power in trucking nearly two years ago.
“The road to emissions-free transportation is going to be driven with battery-electric vehicles,” Nielsen told the ACT Expo in April 2019. “I believe the future is electric.”
Throughout 2020, the No. 9 company in the FreightTech 25 recorded hundreds of thousands of battery-powered electric miles as it prepares for regular production of electric trucks. Daimler rose from No. 19 on the 2019 FreightTech 25.
The Freightliner eCascadia Class 8 tractor and Class 6 eM2 straight trucks quietly and sans tailpipe emissions completed hundreds of drayage runs to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The eM2 models delivered groceries and other consumer goods.
Fleet operators NFI Industries and Penske Truck Leasing rolled up most of the 500,000 miles recorded on 30 trucks. A Customer Experience Fleet of eight more trucks placed single trucks with J.B. Hunt Transportation,and Schneider National among plans for 14 fleet trials before regular production begins in 2022.
“It’s critical that we collaborate with customers across multiple segments to further our understanding of how commercial battery electric trucks will be part of a long-term solution in CO2-neutral transportation,” said Richard Howard, DTNA senior vice president, on-highway sales and marketing.
Not going back
One of the early NFI battery-electric drivers won’t return to diesel trucks unless required.
“I drove all kinds of trucks over the years,” Karl Williams told FreightWaves in February. ”It’s a lot of work compared to this. These trucks drive themselves. You don’t get beat up.”
Daimler is far from alone in testing electric trucks in climate-conscious Southern California.
Volvo Trucks North America began fielding Class 8 day cabs and is taking orders for its VNR Electric model. Chinese manufacturer BYD has a Class 8 fleet in the works. PACCAR Inc.’s Kenworth brand is conducting drayage runs with hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks in partnership with Toyota Motor Corp.
Daimler’s commitment extends to heavy-duty truck charging. It is building an Electric Island with Portland General Electric on Swan Island near its Portland, Oregon, headquarters. Daimler saw the lack of charging for large vehicles when bringing eCascadias from Portland to Southern California.
Though initially dismissive of fuel cell trucks, Daimler is warming to the subject. It recently finalized a fuel cell manufacturing joint venture with Volvo that will bring heavy-duty fuel cells to North America in the latter half of the decade.
“Daimler Trucks has a 125-year history of innovation in the commercial vehicle space, and that trend continues to accelerate as we enter an era of unprecedented advancements in the industry,” Nielsen told FreightWaves.
“Whether it be offering unparalleled efficiency, leading in CO2-neutral propulsion technology, or connecting our vehicles to the Internet of Things, we do so with a singular focus on delivering the best customer experience for fleets of all sizes.“