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Electric trucks: Sysco signs for record 800 Freightliner eCascadias

Letter of intent covers battery-powered tractor deliveries through 2026

Food distributor Sysco Corp. intends to order up to 800 Freightliner eCascadias. (Photo: Daimler Truck North America)

Food distribution giant Sysco Corp.intends to purchase up to 800 Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia electric trucks from Daimler Truck North America, by far the largest order of battery-powered tractors in North America to date.

The booking is equal to roughly 80% of the 987 electric trucks ordered across all of Daimler Truck globally in 2021. And it suggests the nascent adoption of zero-tailpipe-emission commercial vehicles is moving into a higher gear.

“It seems like one of the bigger real orders we’ve seen for electric semis,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Guidehouse Insights. “There were some pretty outrageous claims back when the Tesla Semi was first announced. But that has yet to materialize as a real product whereas the eCascadia actually exists.”

eCascadia’s typical driving range: 230 miles

DTNA revealed the second-generation eCascadia last week at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California. The truck maker said the typical single-charge driving range is 230 miles. That is suitable for the local and regional deliveries that Sysco makes to restaurants, hospitals, schools and hotels.

The Houston-based company declined to reveal the value of the order.

Sysco (NYSE: SYY) is the nation’s second-largest private fleet with more than 8,000 Class tractors. It tested a first-generation Freightliner eCascadia in San Francisco from October 2020 to January 2021 as part of DTNA’s Customer Experience Fleet.

Sysco’s initial eCascadia delivery is expected at its Riverside, California, site later this year. Early deliveries will focus on California. Other locations will get the trucks in future years.

“Sysco is committed to making meaningful investments to support achievement of our climate goals, including those that encourage the development of electric tractors and trailers,” Marie Robinson, Sysco executive vice president and chief supply chain officer, said in a press release Thursday. Sysco’s goal is to reduce direct CO2 emissions 27% by 2030.

Service economy recovering

The order comes as the service economy recovers from a pandemic slump. During the past two years, surging freight demand focused on consumer goods. Now, because of inflation and few remaining COVID restrictions, orders are falling for products needed for living and working at home.

Unlike rival Volvo Trucks North America, Daimler does not announce individual orders unless the customer does. 

Volvo last week at the ACT Expo, announced an order of 60 VNR Electrics by NFI Industries. And in March, it booked a 110-unit order from Maersk. The international shipping giant earlier ordered 300 electric trucks from Swedish startup Einride.

Grants and infrastructure

Sysco will start using the trucks in California, where significant incentives can offset the upfront cost by $120,000 or more depending on how the truck is used. A Sysco spokesperson did not know how many trucks would qualify for the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP).

And Sysco declined to discuss financial terms of the DTNA letter.

DTNA is also selling a Detroit-branded eFill charger and consulting services to help customers navigate the lengthy process of getting power to a customer depot. Neither DTNA nor Sysco would disclose whether Sysco would take the add-ons.

Sysco Riverside is building a charging infrastructure, including solar capacity, to support additional battery electric truck deployments.

In a bigger undertaking to address public charging for commercial vehicles, DTNA, BlackRock Renewable Power and NextEra Energy Resources are collaborating on a $650 million joint venture for electric and hydrogen fuel cell medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Million-mile tested Freightliner eCascadia goes into production

Daimler Truck, BlackRock and NextEra Energy’s $650M bet on electric infrastructure

Electric truck charging: Can infrastructure keep pace with demand?

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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.