Traton Group, which now includes Navistar International, is upsizing its planned spending on battery-electric trucks to nearly $3 billion between now and 2026 and says some applications of hydrogen-powered fuel cells might make sense, a softening of its batteries-only stance.
Traton, the truck holding company of German automaker Volkswagen AG, said this week it was increasing by 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) its planned spending on electrification from a previously announced 1.6 billion euros ($1.77 billion). In 2021, Traton raised its electrification investment from 1 billion euros from 2020 to 2025 to 1.6 billion.
The additional money will come from winding down some conventional driveline programs with diesel engines, the company said.
Much of the trucking industry sees hydrogen fuel cells as a long-term solution for over-the-road freight hauling where battery charging would require long stops. Traton thinks more energy-dense batteries will be developed to increase the range between charges. VW is an investor in QuantumScape, which is working on solid state batteries that could accomplish this.
“Since trucks are charged primarily during peaks in supply and troughs in demand, even the power load on the grid is moderate,” Christian Levin, Traton Group CEO, said in a press release.
Traton: Maybe hydrogen works
But in a grudging admission that suggests fuel cell projects at Navistar, for which it paid $3.7 billion last year, would continue, Lewin said hydrogen fuel cells “may prove to be a useful addition in certain niches.”
Navistar is working with Cummins Inc. on a fuel cell for testing by Werner Enterprises, and a project with General Motors to use its fuel cell system in a test fleet for J.B. Hunt Transport.
But Lewin said pure battery electric trucks have a “clear advantage” because three-quarters of their energy output is used to propel the vehicle compared to just one quarter of the energy from a hydrogen fuel cell.
“This is why our priority is investing in fully battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Our aim is for 50% of our long-haul trucks to be zero-emission by 2030 — provided the corresponding regulatory mechanisms and infrastructure are in place.”
Traton reported 2021 fiscal year sales of 1,076 electric trucks and buses across its brands — Sweden’s Scania, Germany’s Man, its Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus in Brazil and Navistar. It has orders for 1,717 electric units in its backlog, including 22 Navistar MV medium-duty electric trucks and 122 IC buses.
Traton is working with German rivals Daimler Truck and Volvo Group to build out an electric charging network across Europe at a shared cost of $598 million.
Separately, Traton said its sales revenue grew by more than a third to 30.6 billion euros ($33.8 billion) from 22.6 billion euros ($25 billion) in 2021, including Navistar sales. Total unit sales were 271,608, up 43% from 190,180 in 2020 before the Navistar acquisition. The Lisle, Illinois, truck and bus maker accounted for about 40 percentage points of the increase.