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Werner joins California electric truck testing parade

State incentives reduce financial burden of trying out battery-powered propulsion.

Werner Enterprises is testing one of Peterbilt Motors' 579EV Class 8 electric trucks. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN) is joining the parade of zero-emission battery-powered electric truck testing underway in California.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based Top 5 U.S. truckload company will use a Peterbilt 579EV model capable of hauling 80,000 pounds for a year of testing in the Los Angeles area.

Peterbilt, a Paccar Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR) brand, has several trials of heavy- and medium-duty electric trucks underway, including with Camden, New Jersey-based NFI Industries.

The truck manufacturer showed a lineup of its heavy-duty models equipped with TransPower Inc. power electronics and electronic axle from Meritor Inc. (NYSE: MTOR) in April 2019 at the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, California.

“Peterbilt continues to lead the charge by providing the industry’s largest lineup of electric vehicles,” Jason Skoog, Paccar vice president and Peterbilt general manager, said in a statement. “We will be ready to meet the growing demand of our customers who want to incorporate zero-emissions vehicles into this application.”  

California makes tryouts of zero-emission electric trucks a relatively low financial risk by using money raised from excessive carbon fines as incentives to reduce the cost of electric trucks, which can cost twice as much as their diesel counterparts. The state’s Hybrid and Zero Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program provides $80,000 per vehicle.

“We think even beyond the incentives that governments may offer in certain states, this makes a lot of sense,” said Steve Slesinski, product planning director for Dana Inc. (NYSE: DAN), which will make an electric propulsion system for Peterbilt’s medium-duty 220EV truck and K270E from sibling Kenworth Truck Co.

California wants to rid its highways of diesel-powered trucks by 2035.

The state is helping pay for larger test fleets, including 30 Freightliner eCascadia Class 8 and eM2 Class 6 trucks from Daimler Trucks being tested by Penske Truck Leasing and NFI. 

Volvo Trucks is leading a 16-partner effort called Volvo LIGHTS that kicks off this year with 23 converted Volvo VNR Class 8 trucks. NFI and logistics supplier Dependable Supply Chain Services will test those trucks. 

Separately, Anheuser-Busch will test 21 Class 8 electric tractors from Chinese manufacturer BYD for beverage distribution in Southern California beginning this year.

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.