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In the world of electric trucks, Daimler gets by with a little help from its friends

DTNA electric vehicle innovation fleet, Las Vegas Motor Speedway ( PHOTO: Linda Baker )

Las Vegas — Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) kicked off its CES festivities on Sunday with a ride and drive event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a presentation on the company’s collaborative EV strategy by Andreas Juretzka, Daimler’s e-Mobility Group lead.

“The journey is co-creation,” Juretzka said. “The customer role in our development process is key.”

Daimler’s electric vehicle innovation fleet has taken some big steps forward over the past nine months. In June the OEM announced a partnership with Penske and NFI to test its commercial e-vehicle technology and in December made good on its promise to deliver 10 eCascadias and 10 eM2s for use in California and the Pacific Northwest.

Another stage in the process advanced last October with the creation of an Electric Vehicle Council aimed at sharing knowledge with other customers and stakeholders. 

The next step, Juretzka said, is launching a suite of e-consulting services assisting customers with route assessments, maintenance, safety, fleet management and economic feasibility.

DTNA aims to use feedback from the tests and council to start commercial production of electric trucks in 2021.

Nonetheless, many market and infrastructure hurdles remain.

To illustrate the scope of the charging infrastructure challenge, Juretzka displayed a graphic showing the 550 Kwh charging capacity of the eCascadia was equivalent to charging 32 smart cars.

The heavy-duty electric truck “is a different animal” from an electric car, he said.

 Andreas Juretzka, Daimler E-Mobiity Group Lead ( Photo: Linda Baker )
Andreas Juretzka, Daimler E-Mobiity Group Lead ( Photo: Linda Baker )

Safety is a big concern. You don’t want to make “one stupid mistake” while working on the 800- volt system of an electric truck, Juretzka said.

Then there’s the perennial bugaboo — range anxiety. The eCascadia, a Class 8 or heavy-duty truck, has a range of up to 250 miles. But nobody driving a Class 8 drives less than 500 miles, Juretzka said. A lot of people are afraid of running out of juice, he said. 

These and many other issues will be addressed as the collaboration between DTNA, customers — and, importantly, electric utilities — moves forward. 

At a very basic level, the current fleet of e-trucks simply substitutes batteries for the internal combustion engine, Juretzka said.  The future needs to be more nuanced, he suggested, with industry creating more “purpose-built vehicles.”

A lot of the technology in the electric fleet comes from DTNA’s German affiliates, Juretska said. “Now we need to make it North America-ready.”

DTNA’s e-trucks were available for the press to test drive before and after the presentation.

FreightWaves is reporting from CES in Las Vegas this week. 

Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to [email protected]