Daimler Trucks has created an electric vehicle council of 30 customers to help set its electric trucks program’s course.
The maker of the top-selling Freightliner brand delivered the first of 10 eM2 models to Penske Truck Leasing for testing last month. And, it is building 22 eCascadia heavy-duty trucks, some of which will go to third-party logistics provider NFI Industries.
But, “We want to get more feedback from other people beyond those two customers,” said Andreas Juretzka, director of Daimler Trucks’ Electric Mobility Group. He made the announcement at the start of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Opportunity to share
Daimler started the quarterly council meetings in 2018 to share what it had learned about making electric trucks. Discussion topics include customer expectations for distance between charges, maintenance and the cost of electric truck ownership.
“We got phone calls left and right that we want trucks, too,” Juretzka said. “We are not at the point where we can just give these trucks to customers and send them on their way.”
The German automaker unveiled an electric-powered versions of its Cascadia tractor cab and popular M2 medium-duty truck in June.
A month later, Daimler said it would provide 20 of the trucks for testing at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as part of a $31.3 million program addressing air pollution caused by short-haul drayage trucks running into and out of the ports.
The December handoff to Penske further positioned Daimler as an early mover of truck electrification. It plans to offer electric trucks commercially in 2021. Currently, Daimler’s Mitsubishi Fuso brand already has about 100 small eCanter cabover delivery trucks operating in the U.S.
The pace of electric trucks’ growth depends on how many state and federal incentives are available. Daimler is working with Southern California Edison, which has set aside $356 million to bring electricity to charging stations that Daimler or others would build.
“Co-creation is my main focus here,” Juretzka said. “When we started thinking about what does it take to get a truck to a customer, it is being close with the customer, but it is also the utilities and the infrastructure.”
Daimler is considering setting up an electric truck consulting service to address issues specific to electric trucks. These include economic feasibility, financial services and maintenance.
Daimler provided test drives Sunday of its electric trucks on a closed, 2-mile course at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“We’re doing 60 miles an hour and it is very acceptable in terms of cab comfort,” said Steve Sturgess, a truck driver and columnist for Diesel Progress magazine. “I think at the end of a working day, the driver is going to feel much less fatigued if he is in a truck like this.”
The eCascadia prototype was loaded with about 45,000 pounds of pressed cardboard in a 53-foot trailer. The truck packed 6,000 pounds of batteries to provide power.
The batteries and motors are integrated into an electric axle to replace the engine, the diesel after-treatment system and the fuel tanks of a conventional big rig.
“As we go into production, it’s going to get better,” said Andre Marchuk, engineering design lead in Daimler’s Electric Mobility Group. “The batteries are getting (more powerful), and you’re going to need less of them to be more efficient.”
With three modes of regenerative braking, the eCascadia can recapture up to 80 percent of the energy it expends.
“This is all torque all the time, so it is constant acceleration,” Sturgess said.