Leaving nothing behind

COLUMBUS, Ind. – Cummins pulled the curtains back on its first fully electric Class 7 demonstration urban hauler tractor Aug. 29, taking a leap forward in the race to offer a zero-emissions electrified powertrain.

The concept truck design, called AEOS, is a 4×2 day cab tractor that features full high energy Li-ion battery electric power with zero emissions, and boasts a range of 100 miles on a single charge, extendable to 300 miles with an optional engine generator.

Current charge time is one hour plugging into a 140 kWh charging station, which Cummins hopes to shorten to 20 minutes by 2020.

Intended for vocational applications such as urban delivery, port drayage and terminal container handling, AEOS comes with a Cummins-integrated electrified powertrain and is built by Roush with a design inspired by Cummins.

Julie Furber, executive director of electrification business development for Cummins, said transit buses have been the first to move on the electric powertrain offering, but several other applications are following, such as marine, underground mining, mobile cranes, and material handling.

Furber believes there are four market drivers that will dictate how quickly electric powered vehicles penetrate the industry – the total cost of ownership (TCO) calculation, charging infrastructure being in place, how quickly the technology itself advances, and regulations.

“Ideally, you want them all to converge,” said Furber. “So the technology works, the charging infrastructure is in place, the TCO is great, and the regulations are there. That’s the ideal scenario, but we’ll see them moving at different paces and for different markets.”

Furber said charging infrastructure is critical, and that the markets most interested in electrified power today fall under the “return to base” umbrella, where vehicles operate within a smaller area, such as the downtown core of a city, and return to their home base at end of day to charge overnight.

With the current infrastructure that is in place, Furber said the “return to base” example is what is best suited for today, but she is hopeful it will expand in the near future.

“I think companies will start to invest and put money in, whether it’s municipalities or government, or even utility companies will start moving toward putting charging infrastructure in,” she said. “But I think that will take a little time.”

Cummins has not yet made a decision on whether it will get involved in the development of charging infrastructure, but Furber added that it was not their intention to supply charging stations for customers, as there are several companies already addressing the need.

As for over-the-road trucks, Furber said several steps need to be taken before that idea comes to fruition, such as increased energy density in batteries, cost of batteries coming down, and added charging infrastructure.

The cost of batteries has reduced over the past five years, but Furber said prices need to come down even further for battery electric vehicles to be a viable option for long-haul carriers.

In the near future, Cummins will launch a pair of electric vehicles in Montreal, where electricity costs are low.

“This is not wholesale,” Furber said of Cummins’ electric-powered product. “You’re going to get spots of the country where electricity – because it’s hydroelectricity – is really cheap, so for them the economic payback is already there for some of their applications.”

Montreal will see a Class 4 electric pick-up and delivery van soon hit the streets, as well as a range-extended transit bus.

“There is a lot of interest in Canada,” Furber said, adding that she is presently trying to drum up more awareness in Western Canada, having met with Cummins’ regional sales team in the west.

Other features of the newly-released AEOS tractor include 25%-35% faster acceleration than an 11 to 12-liter powered equivalent vehicle, a 44,000lbs maximum payload, direct drive/drive by wire with continuous acceleration, low rolling resistant tires, and aerodynamic design.

Srikanth Padmanabhan, president of engine business for Cummins, said the company’s electric vehicles will come in three forms – purely electric, range extended, and a hybrid option.

Range extended electric vehicles are powered by a battery, which is recharged by a combustion engine. Hybrid vehicles, on the other hand, use a battery and a combustion engine to move the vehicle.

Julie Furber, executive director of electrification business development for Cummins, unveils AEOS, an electric Class 7 demonstration urban hauler tractor, Aug. 29 in Columbus, Ind.

Despite the hoopla around its fully-electric truck, electrified power was not the only topic of discussion during Cummins’ media event at its technical center in Columbus.

Touting itself as a technology company, Cummins executives provided insight into the company’s direction into the future and how they were best position for that growth.

“At this point in time, there is a place for a wide range of technologies, from diesel, to natural gas and electric,” said Jennifer Rumsey, vice-president and chief technical officer for Cummins. “And expect that these technologies will evolve in the coming years.

“These new technological innovations build on our 100-year legacy of bringing the best solutions to our customers, driving their success and meeting the evolving demands of their industries and markets. We will harness our global technical footprint to continue to develop a wide variety of power technologies to bring our customers the choice and solutions that enable their success and contribute to a sustainable future.”

Brett Merritt, executive director of EBU on-highway business, said Cummins has the largest on-highway products to offer the marketplace, from a 2.8-liter to 15-liter engine, as well as natural gas, diesel, and electric powertrains, and have proven this success with an 80% market share in medium-duty vehicles in North America and over 37% share in Class 8 heavy-duty.

“Whether it be diesel combustion, emission catalysis, or controls integration, world-renowned technical leaders sit within these two buildings,” Merritt said of those working at the Cummins Technical Center. “We’ll continue to build on this technical expertise, as we’ll invest over $700 million a year into research and development.”

With no intention of putting the brakes on its popular X12 and X15 diesel powered engines, Cummins plans to unveil its new lightweight X12 in March next year, which, in addition to being plugged as 600lbs lighter than any other engine in the 10- to 13-liter class, will target regional haul and vocational markets where weight is an important factor.

Cummins will also release a new heavy-duty engine in 2022 for Class 8 linehaul trucks.

Rob Neitzke, president of Cummins Westport, was on hand to shed some light on the company’s endeavor into natural gas.

Starting in 2001 as a joint venture, Cummins Westport has developed approximately 70,000 natural gas engines since its inception.

Neitzke said the transition from diesel to natural gas, including investing in a fuel station, is an all-in effort for fleets, but one that could pay off in long run.

“You can have electric-like emissions today (with natural gas),” Neitzke said, adding transit bus and mail carrier applications were a good fit for the alternative fuel. “Bottom line for me is that you get electric-like emissions with diesel-like performance.”

Padmanabhan underscored that Cummins has been there many times before when it comes to offering new solutions to its customers, and he has seen many of them first hand.

“We introduced diesel engines to the U.S. marketplace when the whole world was with V10 gasoline engines,” he said. “More recently, we have been talking about the emissions solutions business in terms of what we did with growing technology that mattered and we were able to take a leadership position in North American heavy-duty market as well as medium-duty market.”

Padmanabhan said there are three key factors that have been contributing to the company’s success – being a technology-driven company, the powertrain leader for its customers, and the intention to capitalize on the emergence of electrified power and vehicle connectivity.

“We will do the right thing in terms of making sure the right technology for our customers matter,” he said, “not just technology for the sake of technology.”

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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