Meritor Inc. and TransPower are partnering to provide electrical vehicle technologies for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, which are expected to hit the market as soon as spring 2018.
The deal with TransPower, an Escondido, Calif., company that makes electric drivetrains for commercial vehicles, has been in the works for about nine months, said Chris Villavarayan, president of the Americas at Meritor. Meritor, headquartered in Troy, Mich., makes drivetrain and brake components for commercial vehicles.
The details of the agreement have not been released.
“This positions us to be a leader in electrification,” Villavarayan told Trucks.com. “As the model goes toward electrification, no matter what the equipment manufacturer, we have that service network available to respond.”
Besides the medium- and heavy-duty markets, the company will also work on electrifying buses and off-highway construction vehicles, he said.
Meritor is working with six truck manufacturers, including large and new players in the market, to develop electric commercial vehicles. The list includes Kalmar USA, a heavy-duty equipment manufacturer.
Meritor will continue to partner with Nikola Motor Co., Villavarayan said. Nikola plans to begin field tests of its hydrogen-electric truck, the Nikola One, in late 2018. Meritor developed the suspension system for the truck.
In September, Meritor released its new platform of drivetrains for electric and hybrid vehicles.
“We went out and talked to some of the original equipment manufacturers and realized this was a value proposition that they were incredibly interested in, so we jumped on it,” Villavarayan said.
Analysts called Meritor’s partnership with TransPower a smart move.
“Investments like this are critical to the viability of truck companies and their suppliers,” Michael Ramsey, an automotive analyst at Gartner Inc., told Trucks.com. “The road to electrification may be slow and marked by ups and downs, but it is inexorable.”
Meritor is looking to the future, Ramsey said, “even if the revenue opportunity in the short term isn’t large.”
Antti Lindström, trucking industry analyst at IHS Markit, agreed.
“Electric power seems to be the best long-term solution, especially in shorter-term applications like buses and port operations that return to base overnight for charging,” Lindström told Trucks.com.
The call to replace diesel trucks with cleaner technologies that have near-zero or zero emissions at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by 2035 is driving the long-term demand for electric trucks, Lindstrom said.
However, diesel and natural gas will “still be significant players in the future no matter what happens with electric power,” he said.
Meritor will face stiff competition in the electric truck space as Tesla Inc. announced its Semi Class 8 electric truck in November. Cummins Inc. and Daimler Trucks have both introduced all-electric truck prototypes. Electric bus maker Proterra said it intends to branch into electric trucks, while Volkswagen said it plans to roll out electric trucks and buses. Toyota is currently testing a Class 8 fuel-cell electric drayage truck.