Daimler Trucks Delivers Its First Electric Freightliner to Penske

December 21, 2018 by Susan Carpenter, @CarpenterWheels

Daimler Trucks North America delivered  its first electric Freightliner to Penske Truck Leasing so that the heavy-duty truck can undergo testing in everyday commercial applications.

Daimler had promised to deliver its first battery-electric vehicle to a customer before the end of the year. And Thursday it made good on that promise, handing the keys to its new Freightliner eM2 to Penske Truck Leasing.

The eM2 delivered to Penske is the first commercially available medium-duty electric truck in the country and is the first of 10 such models the leasing company will test in partnership with its own fleet customers over the next two years.

“Electric vehicles present a real opportunity to reduce emissions while simultaneously helping our customers and their businesses,” Roger Nielsen, president of Daimler Trucks North America, said at the eM2 handoff event at a Penske Truck Leasing center in Carson, Calif.

Two e-vehicles

Penske will also add another Daimler Trucks heavy-duty battery electric, the eCascadia, to its fleet once it is available. Daimler will begin series production of its battery-electric trucks “soon and will bring them to market in huge volumes in 2021,” Nielsen said.

The eM2 can travel 200 miles per charge and recharge to 80 percent in an hour; the eCascadia will be able to travel 250 miles per charge.

The eM2s Penske is receiving are considered generation 1 vehicles. The models that will go into production in 2021 will be generation 2 or 3, developed using feedback provided by Penske.

“For us, the original purpose was to gain knowledge,” Brian Hard, CEO and president of Penske Truck Leasing, said of his company’s development partnership with Daimler. Based in Reading, Pa., Penske operates 300,000 trucks in North America, with 15,000 full-service lease customers, 750 service centers and 8,000 technicians.

“This gives us a front-row seat to get hands-on knowledge, and for Daimler, they get unfiltered feedback from us and from the customers who are operating these vehicles,” Hard said.

Penske customers are looking for recommendations on what type of green technology they should adopt for their fleets, he said.

Diverse participation

Penske will work with large fleet customers, asking them to keep the Daimler electrics for one to two years and run them as they would every other truck in their fleet, Hard said.

Penske hasn’t determined which of its customers will get the electric trucks, but Hard said they will be “across a broad spectrum of users, different industries, different products and operations, so we get the kind of feedback Daimler needs.”

Based in Portland, Ore., Daimler Trucks is the largest truck manufacturer in North America. Penske is the biggest customer for its conventional diesel Freightliner Class 8 truck.

Penske is one of 30 companies Daimler brought together as part of its Freightliner Electric Vehicle Council to understand use cases for battery-electric trucks. It’s also looking at the regulatory climate and “necessary charging infrastructure to be able to deploy these vehicles and put them to use productively,” Nielsen said.

The two Daimler electric truck models are part of the Freightliner Innovation Fleet, partially funded with money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The air district provided Daimler with a $16 million grant.

Clean-air needs

“Engaging vehicle manufacturers like Daimler to develop, demonstrate and commercialize zero-emissions vehicle technologies” is a key element in California’s clean air strategy, said Judy Mitchell, governing board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the air pollution control agency for much of Southern California.

Mobile sources of emissions, including cars, trucks, planes and trains, account for 80 percent of California’s harmful emissions, but heavy-duty diesel trucks, Mitchell said, “are our toughest challenge.”

At $400,000 per vehicle, the eM2 costs four times as much as the diesel-powered Daimler M2 it is based upon. The larger eCascadia is in the middle of development, so pricing information is not known.

The potential for heavy-duty electric trucks in particular “is going to be greater the better we can get the costs down, where it makes sense to own and operate these without regulatory pressure,” Nielsen said. “If it makes sense businesswise without pressure from regulatory, then we will have reached our goal.”

Nielsen said battery production capability will need to be improved, and battery costs will also have to be reduced, but he expects both to happen.

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