Kenworth rolls out battery-electric, fuel-cell-electric trucks for demonstrations

A Paccar technical center in the heart of Silicon Valley is proving valuable, as Kenworth continues development of battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric commercial trucks.

“It allows us to bring our products in and engage and show these tech start-up companies what it is we make,” said Stephan Olsen, general manager of the Paccar Innovation Center. He noted there are more than 100 automotive labs in the immediate vicinity. “We get out face to face, meet with these people in person and discover the technologies that bring value to our products,” he said of the facility.

The 26,000 sq.-ft. facility features a five-truck bay lab and employs 14 people. It’s where Kenworth brought customers this week to drive its line of battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric trucks. Currently, Kenworth offers the Classes 6/7 K-270 and K-370 medium-duty trucks in an electric configuration, as well as its Class 8 T-680.

Kenworth T680E
Kenworth’s battery-electric vehicle lineup includes the T680E. (Illustration: Kenworth)

It is also operating 10 fuel cell trucks developed with Toyota in California port operations. California is where the biggest push to electrify is coming from. By 2024, it will require OEMS to ensure 9% of truck and 5% of tractor sales are of the zero-emission variety, with that jumping to 20% of trucks and 15% of tractors by 2027.

Kenworth is seeing other regions follow suit. But Joe Adams, Kenworth’s chief engineer, said it’s not just government pushing the move to electrify. Corporations are also seeing it as an opportunity to promote their environmental achievements.

“So many companies have come to us and said they’re interested in knowing what we do to reduce emissions and how we can help them with zero-emissions technology,” Adams told a group of trucking editors.

With electric trucks gaining real world mileage, Adams said total cost of ownership benefits are becoming clearer. Fuel cost savings amount to about 50% versus diesel, with maintenance costs decreasing by about 30%.

“There’s just fewer moving parts,” Adams said of the maintenance savings. “It’s simplified over an internal combustion engine.”

But financial incentives are still required for fleets to justify the higher up-front acquisition costs. Adams said Kenworth has hired grant writers who work with customers – including in Canada – to learn what incentives are available, and how to access them.

“We have someone who can help get that ball rolling,” Adams said.

The T-680E, with an e-axle design, has a 150-mile (240 km) range and can produce about 536 hp/1,623 lb.-ft. torque. The motors are mounted on the drive axles and the batteries along the frame rails. The engine compartment is now occupied by electric accessories, pumps for the various coolants and lubricants required, and software.

Kenworth zero-emission vehicle
(Illustration: Kenworth)

The batteries add about 7,000 lb. of weight to the truck, so Adams acknowledged it’s a not a great fit for weight-sensitive truckers.

The K-270 E and K-370 E provide a range of 100 to 200 miles (160-320 km), depending on configuration, making them ideal for urban P&D-type applications, the company says. They can be had with a 141 kWh or 282 kWh battery pack, which would dictate the range. These trucks put out 469 hp/2,540 lb.-ft. of torque and are available in three wheelbase configurations.

Kenworth also has become a full-service provider for fleets looking to electrify. It has a group that works directly with fleets to assess their site and determine the appropriate charging infrastructure requirements.

The fuel-cell-electric T-680 is expected to get 300 to 500 miles (498-800 km) of range and can fuel in 15 minutes, similar to diesel. Electric trucks, by contrast, will take one to 16 hours to charge, depending on the capability of the charger.

Adams said a hydrogen fueling network will need to be established, but he believes private corporations will be eager to develop one, due to the fast fueling times associated with hydrogen and increased opportunity to profit based on greater throughput than electric charging.

Kenworth’s current hydrogen trucks produce 560 hp, house a 12-kW battery pack to aid in propulsion and take pressure off the fuel cells, and hold up to 60 kg of hydrogen. Trucknews.com will have a first-hand report on the driving experiences of both battery-electric and hydrogen-fuel-cell-electric trucks in the days ahead.

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Glad to see you mentioned 7000 lbs added to tare weight of the units. I think you are the first. Do you see a problem with that? Another thing,the one you mentioned has 150 mile range. Do yo see problem with range? That’s not going to get through most local city driver’s day. What about the weights of the tractors with more range? What is the extra weight,there? Care to comment on repercussions of backing down payload to the bottom line,how this will effect cost trickle down to consumer? Keep payloads same and increase GVW restrictions and potential costs of that to the public,ruined infrastructure,for instance? What’s it going to be? Steer clear of this or hit hard with some real journalism?