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Meritor readies integrated electric powertrain for heavy-duty trucks

Three new business wins follow years of 14Xe testing globally

Meritor will begin producing a fully integrated all-electric powertrain for heavy-duty trucks, freeing up space for additional batteries while cutting up to 800 pounds from the weight of a conventional chassis. (Photo: Meritor)

Meritor Inc. (NYSE: MTOR) will begin producing a fully integrated all-electric powertrain for heavy-duty trucks, freeing up space for additional batteries while cutting up to 800 pounds from the weight of a conventional chassis.

“We’re not just bolting that onto our axle. We’re integrating it, and that saves space and it saves weight,” said John Bennett, Meritor vice president and chief technology officer. “To do that effectively and reliably is no small task.”

Bennett claims the Blue Horizon 14Xe offers “the most advanced electric powertrain for medium and heavy commercial vehicles that the industry has ever seen.” 

Competitors including BorgWarner Inc. (NYSE: BWA) and Dana Inc. (NYSE: DAN) might challenge that assertion. Both are working on integrating electric component sets.

Winning new business

But Meritor is winning long-term supply deals following its first Class 8 nonexclusive contract from PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR) for the electrification of the Peterbilt Model 579E and the Kenworth T680E. Those trucks go on sale later this year. But PACCAR sees few customer purchases until mid-decade, when it expects to sell a few hundred electric trucks a year.

Meritor’s new contracts for 2022 include:

  • A five-year agreement with specialty truck manufacturer Autocar Trucks LLC, which will purchase a 14Xe tandem-axle for refuse haulers.
  • A three-year supply agreement with Lion Electric Co. The Canadian truck maker will use  a tandem-axle 14Xe for its Class 8 tractor that goes into production later this year.
  • A three-year agreement with London-based startup Volta Trucks to supply a single-axle 14Xe for the Volta Zero, a 16-tonne electric commercial vehicle, designed for inner-city parcel and freight distribution.

“We’re taking the architecture of the highest-selling axle on the market today and integrating a power-dense motor, a multispeed transmission and nesting it into the carrier,” said T.J. Reed, Meritor vice president of Global Electrification. “We can offer the industry a proven electric powertrain technology.”

Meritor sees drayage, refuse hauling and terminal tractors as the most likely early uses for the 14Xe, which incorporates electrification efforts from TransPower Inc. Meritor purchased TransPower in January 2020 after four rounds of investing.

The 14Xe can cover 60-70% of the market, Reid said. A larger 17Xe with 430 kilowatts of power is planned for 2025. A smaller 200 kW 12Xe is planned for 2023. 

The new powertrain goes into production in late summer at Meritor plants in Asheville and Forest City, North Carolina.

Meritor reports Q1 fiscal earnings

The Troy, Michigan-based Meritor reported first-quarter fiscal earnings on Wednesday. Sales of $889 million were down $12 million, or 1%, from the same period a year ago. The main impact came from the termination of a distribution arrangement with Wabco Holdings Inc. offset by higher truck production.

Wabco was acquired by ZF Friedrichshafen AG in a $7 billion deal in May 2020.

Operating profits of $32 million, or 44 cents per diluted share, compared to $39 million, or 48 cents. Lower net income year over year was due to higher interest expense and $8 million to retire company debt. Cost reductions, including job eliminations, partially offset the hit. 

“The rebound in Class 8 truck markets, combined with our growing electrification business and new awards in Meritor’s Truck and Industrial businesses, gives us a clear path to successfully completing [the] M2022” strategic plan, Jay Craig, president and CEO of Meritor, said in a statement.

Meritor completes acquisition of electrification partner TransPower

Meritor wins heavy-duty truck electrification business from PACCAR

Electrifying the bull: Meritor plots its future in electrification

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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.