LONG BEACH, Calif. – The future of commercial vehicles is battery-electric, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) leader Roger Nielsen said during a keynote speech at ACT Expo.
The company is committed to putting nearly 50 battery-electric test vehicles on U.S. roads by the end of this year, and will have nearly 200 in testing worldwide.
“The road to emissions-free transportation is going to be driven with battery-electric vehicles. I believe the future is electric,” Nielsen said. And he’s not talking plug-in hybrids, which he said will not be produced by DTNA. He did, however, say it will continue offering natural gas trucks as an interim solution until full commercialization of the battery-electric Freightliner eM2 and eCascadia.
He also said the company sees potential for hydrogen fuel cells to extend range, but doesn’t see it as viable in the short-term.
“I can see a glimpse of it over the horizon, but it will not be this generation of engineers who will be delivering it,” Nielsen said.
To hasten the arrival of zero-emission commercial transport, Nielsen said three things must happen: the industry must develop a common charging infrastructure; batteries must become cheaper, lighter and more powerful; and incentives must be available to help customers achieve lower cost of ownership.
To be ready, Nielsen said DTNA will ramp up testing initiatives with customers.
“For our engineers, these early customer partners are our test drivers. We want them to test these vehicles to their extremes. We want to see the failures so we can engineer solutions,” he said.
Also, the company will be converting its Portland, Ore., manufacturing plant to produce electric Freightliners. The plant will house a battery storage facility and an electric vehicle co-creation center, where the e-consulting team will work with customers. It was also chosen because of its proximity to the markets where electric vehicles are in highest demand.