Volvo showcases an electric future

GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Volvo Trucks has revealed a vision of the future, and it involves plugging into the power of electricity – especially when it comes to electric trucks. This spring the global manufacturer announced that it will produce electric versions of European FL and FE models beginning in 2019, initially focusing on refuse and urban distribution applications. These are hardly Volvo’s first foray into electric vehicles, though. The company has already produced about 4,000 electric-hybrid and battery-electric buses, and the trucks and buses will share many underlying technologies such as electric motors and charging systems.

Daimler rolls out electric trucks for North America

PORTLAND, Ore. – Daimler Trucks North America has unveiled electric Class 8 and medium-duty trucks today, with plans to have a 30-truck “innovation fleet” working in selected applications before the end of the year. “It is our target at Daimler to have the broadest – the absolute broadest – e-truck fleet in North America by 2021,” said president and CEO Roger Nielsen, as an electrified version of the Class 8 Cascadia rolled by.

DAF adds to Europe’s electric trucks

EINDHOVEN, the Netherlands -- DAF Trucks, Paccar’s European counterpart to Peterbilt and Kenworth, has unveiled its first series of CF Electric trucks – adding to the battery-powered nameplates on the other side of the Atlantic. The 4x2 tractor is developed for urban distribution applications. It’s based on the company’s DAF model, with a 210-kW electric motor at the heart of the powertrain. Power is stored in a 170 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, offering a range of about 100 km, which the company says is appropriate for high-volume distribution applications. Torque reaches up to 1,475 lb-ft. Quick charges can be completed in 30 minutes, while full charges are possible in 1.5 hours. The trucks for field tests will be manufactured by DAF, and the full electric installation will be completed by VDL Groep.

Final mile introducing new maintenance demands

ATLANTA, Ga. – Evolving delivery models are leading to a new generation of vehicles as fleets look for new ways to serve the all-important final mile of e-commerce orders. Against the backdrop of dense urban centers that are demanding an end to emissions, the trucks and vans are also more likely than ever to be electric. “The economics of those are starting to become positive in some applications,” said Thomas Dollmeyer, Cummins’ director of electrification technology, during a panel at the annual meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council. Electric urban buses are already economically viable, while the same could be said about electric Class 4-7 distribution vehicles as early as 2020, he said. But changes like that will lead to new challenges on the shop floor.

Eaton taps into electric, connected expertise

ATLANTA, Ga. – Eaton’s commercial vehicle group is leveraging broader automotive and electric expertise as it prepares for a future that is increasingly electrified and connected. A newly launched e-mobility business segment – combining elements of the company’s vehicle group and electrical business – is one of the latest signs of that. “There’s going to be a requirement for more power electronics on board,” observed Larry Bennett, director of vehicle technology and innovation, referring to the possibility of three-voltage systems on commercial vehicles. Eaton Electrical, currently responsible for 60% of company revenues, will help to apply lessons from buildings, leading to new smart power management tools and power distribution strategies, he said. There’s already been an increase in electric powertrains for buses and lighter vehicles, of course. And Eaton expects fully electric valvetrain actuation to be a reality within a decade. Hydraulic lash adjustments, now used in passenger cars, could soon manage intakes and exhaust in heavy vehicles as well.

Context: Understanding electric trucks

Electric trucks seem to be all the rage today, just as natural gas was to be the industry's salvation just a few years back. There's not much excitement in natural gas today, though it remains a viable alternative fuel. Electric trucks, on the other hand, are just beginning their climb to prominence. Interest in electric trucks peaked in November with the world's first look at Tesla's Electric Semi. Whether Tesla can carry the torch for battery-powered heavy trucks remains to be seen, but Elon Musk isn't only player in the market. Transpower's electric Class 8 tractor uses a conventional drivetrain, but with a 400-horsepower electric motor. It has a range of up to 160 kilometers at full load. I drove a fully electric plug-in Transpower USA Class 8 tractor back in 2015. That truck had been in field tests at the port of Long Beach, California, for two years prior to that. The company made headlines recently announcing a partnership with Meritor that will make its technology commercially available in the spring of this year.