Electric trucks have been in the news a lot lately, especially as Tesla has made multiple announcements regarding the highly anticipated release of its Class 8 semi-truck. However, the state of Tesla’s supply chain, along with the skepticism regarding the design of the truck, had the public wondering if it would actually come to fruition. But Tesla is clearly not the only company working to get an electric truck to the market. There are also a variety of electric trucks already on the road, most notably Class 6 trucks for parcel deliveries. With more interest in zero-emission trucks, the market is poised for growth.
Class 8 Electric Trucks
Tesla’s announcement of a planned electric semi-truck raised a lot of eyebrows, especially given the brash predictions from Elon Musk. Specifically, Musk has indicated that the trucks will be able to carry a full payload 600 miles on a single charge. While we will have to wait until the trucks are in full service to see if this rings true, Tesla has already received more than 2,000 pre-orders for the trucks, which range in price from $150,000 for the 300 mile range model to $180,000 for the 600 range model. Tesla did make a bit of splash last week however, as it rolled out video of a prototype undergoing testing. Over the last few months, the trucks have been spotted in California, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas. Combine this with a recent California Highway Patrol post about an inspection of a Tesla semi (which went well), and maybe the company is getting closer to making its electric truck a reality on the road.
Daimler has unveiled two new all-electric Freightliner trucks. The unveiling of the Freightliner eCascadia heavy-duty truck and Freightliner eM2 medium-duty model took place on the same day the company announced the creation of the Automated Truck Research and Development Center in Portland. President and CEO Roger Nielsen introduced the eCascadia, which he said can offer a range of 250 miles, and can be recharged up to 80% of capacity in 90 minutes, offering an additional 200 miles of driving. He also debuted the eM2, which offers a 230-mile range and ability to recharge to 80% in 60 minutes, providing drivers another 180 miles. Nielsen stated the vehicles will be in “serious production in the next two-to-three years.”
Thor is another company looking to jump into the class 8 electric truck market. The company intends to bring multiple trucks to market in 2019, including the ET-1. This truck will have a 100-mile range and cost $150,000. The company has said that through savings, the truck will pay for itself in three to four years. Thor is also bringing another class 8 truck to the market, this one will have a 300-mile range and will cost $250,000. Thor is placing the majority of its focus on drayage, food and beverage delivery, and less-than-truckload fleets. The company is actively exploring opportunities in China and Europe.
Toyota has unveiled a new zero-emissions electric truck that builds on its first venture into the market. The new truck, known as Beta, will have an increased range of more than 300 miles per fill, which is at least 100 miles more than Toyota’s current all-electric test vehicle. Toyota has been actively testing the initial version of the truck, known as Alpha, at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, logging over 10,000 miles of real world driving. Toyota said Beta’s two electric motors produce 675 horsepower and 1,327 pound-feet of torque. The truck is more versatile and will have greater maneuverability with the addition of a sleeper cab and a redesigned hydrogen-fuel cabinet combination that increases cab space without increasing the truck’s wheelbase.
Class 6 Parcel Trucks
The other side of the electric truck is in parcel, where there are already multiple companies focusing efforts on electric vehicles. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, UPS is partnering with the aforementioned Thor on to build a new electric truck. Thor is targeting a relatively short driving range of approximately 100 miles, but they are also planning for an even shorter range of 50 miles – though that version will be less expensive with a targeted production price “as low as $68,000.” The testing will “include off-road evaluation to address durability, battery capacity, technical integration, engineering and any items found during on-road testing.” UPS has already rolled out a number of electric vehicles in the past and looks to be taking an aggressive stand on the electric vehicle front for the future.
Not to be outdone, FedEx has also been exploring electric vehicles. The company announced that it has placed a reserve on 20 Tesla semi-trucks, which are scheduled to begin production in 2019. These trucks will be operated by FedEx Freight, its less-than-truckload unit. FedEx has also used smaller class 6 trucks for parcel deliveries. In fact, over the last ten years, FedEx has saved more than 158 million gallons of vehicle fuel by replacing vehicles with more efficient models and making greater use of electric vehicles, fuel cells, natural gas, hybrids and clean truck technologies. It only makes sense at this point for all parcel companies to explore these options.
In Europe, the electric truck battle also rages. Daimler has started delivering its small electric truck, which has a range of 62 miles and can transport 4.5 tons. And while UPS and DHL are using a small number of these trucks, DHL has decided to build it owns electric fleet. In 2014, the company bought a small startup called StreetScooter. Within 18 months, it had developed its own electric postal vans to navigate crowded cities, delivering post, parcels, and handling last mile deliveries.
StreetScooter now makes fully electric pickups, vans, bikes, and trikes, which it also sells to third parties. It says that its 5,000 vehicles have driven more than 8 million miles so far and saved more than 16,000 tons of CO2 annually.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to electric vehicles. As more and more attention is brought to emissions standards, electric vehicles seemed poised to take off. Companies have already shown success in building out both class 8 and class 6 electric vehicles for the trucking and last mile delivery industries. It will be interesting to see just how far these companies can go, and how effective the trucks can be.