INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Cummins is pledging to launch a fully electrified powertrain in 2019, and a range-extended electric powertrain in 2020. But senior executives stress that these rollouts will be for urban transit vehicles, and that electrified long-haul trucks are still years from reality.
“We are not just a diesel engine company,” proclaimed Chief Executive Officer Tom Linebarger, during a Wednesday conference call. “Technology is what we do. Innovation is what we do.”
An internal electrification business group is combining Cummins expertise with selected partners, as they collectively develop power storage, related electronics, and traction motors.
With the falling cost of batteries and electronics, vehicle electrification is already economically viable when combined with the right duty cycles and operational characteristics, said Julie Furber, electrification business development executive director. Examples of those applications are found in urban, material handling, and underground environments, according to Cummins.
While the current U.S. administration recently pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, and proposed funding cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Linebarger stresses that cities have been the primary drivers behind electrification. That’s where lawmakers are looking to control emissions, reduce noise, and relocate traditional fueling stations, he said, responding to a question from Today’s Trucking. “All those get better with electrification.”
Cummins executives, meanwhile, say they are well positioned to bring such technologies to market – thanks to existing relationships with Original Equipment Manufacturers and an established global service network.
“Our competitors will not be able to scale up from the passenger car,” Furber said, in an apparent nod to Tesla’s plans to introduce a Class 8 electric vehicle by September.
“For a long-haul vehicle, we think that’s out quite way into the future,” says Chief Technical Officer Jennifer Rumsey, referring to the challenges of battery size and weight. “We are looking at mild hybridization.”
Cummins engineers are looking well beyond electrification, too.
“We see a trend away from diesel and we will continue to evolve,” said Rumsey. Identified long-term options range from biofuels to synthetic fuels and hydrogen. “Natural gas has big potential,” she added.
Don’t expect diesel to be abandoned anytime soon, however. Cummins officials say they are working on an engine that is smaller and lighter than the X15, which will target aerodynamic conventional and cabover trucks used in markets such as China, Mexico and Brazil, all of which are preparing to adopt tighter emission standards in the next two years.
Linebarger stressed that Cummins is also approaching business in a different way.
“We will actively look for ways to disrupt ourselves,” he added.
A new Growth Office has been established to evaluate hundreds of ideas and see how they can be integrated. That recently led to the creation of the Eaton Cummins Automated Transmission Technologies joint venture. Cummins is also working with Microsoft on a new natural gas fuel cell, currently being tested in Seattle.
It’s looking at more than hardware, too. Cummins will be involved in launching a smartphone-based Electronic Logging Device in the next week or so. That’s one of the projects under a new digital accelerator that will guide projects from concept stages to commercialization, Linebarger said.
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