Freightliner’s 30 battery-electric trucks get around — like a dozen times around the globe.
That is one way of explaining the 300,000 miles of accumulated driving on drayage runs and a variety of Southern California deliveries.
Or, more practically, it totals 5,660 one-way trips between the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to warehousing centers of California’s Inland Empire.
Or 2,500 average local distribution runs, including local and regional haul, and grocery and parcel delivery.
Clearing the Air
“The knowledge and expertise our logistics customers have in fleet operations with their thousands of trucks is invaluable as we design and engineer the zero-emissions future of the commercial vehicle,” said Richard Howard, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) senior vice president, on-highway sales and marketing.
The trucks’ presence is due partly to a $16 million grant from m the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The district focuses on improving air quality in the South Coast Basin of Southern California.
DTNA wants to total more than 1 million miles on the 20 Class 8 eCascadias and 10 Class 6 eM2s integrated into fleets with Penske Truck Leasing and NFI Industries. Real-world driving is important to ensure performance and reliability before starting sales, Howard said.
DTNA first showed the battery-electric trucks in June 2018. It delivered the first eM2 to Penske in December 2018. In April 2019, DTNA said electric trucks would be assembled at the Portland [Oregon] Truck Manufacturing Plant.
Penske and NFI received the first eCascadias in August 2019. In March this year, DTNA expanded the test fleet by six eCascadias and two eM2s. It plans to rotate them among 14 customers.
The NFI Experience
“Things are going really well, as good as we had expected,” Bill Bliem, NFI senior vice president of fleet services, told FreightWaves on Friday. “We’ve got a lot of miles under our belt and the trucks are performing. We’re only getting the hiccups that we expected to get with new technology. And Daimler is right there to take care of what comes up.”
NFI’s goal is to replace up half of its 4,000 trucks to battery-electric operation by 2025.
“We’ve started to have our doubts,” Bliem said. “We figured they would be in production earlier than what everybody is anticipating now.”
DTNA’s plans production for the Freightliner eCascadia in mid-2022 followed by eM2 production is late 2022. Plant shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic partially impacted timing.
NFI has about 20 drivers of eCascadias traveling between its Chino, California, distribution center and the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports. A round trip of about 200 miles drains the batteries. Drivers plug in their trucks and get into another one to start the route again.
“We’re looking for better range [in newer electric trucks], and we hope that’s still the case.” Bliem said.
Competing electric trucks from Volvo Trucks North America, Tesla, Nikola and BYD are expected in late 2021.
NFI is passing on Hyliion’s coming natural gas-electric hybrid.
“If I had a hybrid, then I’ve got to worry about filling two different [fueling] sources,” Bliem said.
Penske, by contrast, is purchasing three Hyliion diesel-electric hybrids earlier this year.
NFI is warming to hydrogen-powered fuel cell electrics because of the promised driving range. Bliem said NFI has a nondisclosure agreement with Toyota, which recently completed manufacturing a test fleet of 10 Class 8 fuel cell trucks with Kenworth. Nikola also plans production of Class 8 fuel cell trucks at a new plant in Coolidge, Arizona, in late 2023.