Daimler AG’s truck unit unveiled two battery-powered models for the US market, bolstering its bid to fend off Tesla Inc., Volvo AB and Volkswagen AG in the race to electrify big rigs.
The German manufacturer’s Freightliner brand revealed the eCascadia, a highway hauler that can go as far as 400 kilometres between charges.
The smaller eM2, with a range of about 230 miles and marketed for local delivery uses, also debuted at Daimler Trucks’s North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
“We are the undisputed global leader of the trucking industry and we intend to remain in that position with electric trucks and buses,” Daimler Trucks chief Martin Daum said in a statement.
The truck unit also is establishing an E-Mobility Group to “pursue the best solutions in batteries, charging solutions and energy management.”
The German manufacturer best known for its top-selling Mercedes-Benz luxury cars is also the world’s biggest truck maker, giving it the most to lose should Tesla CEO Elon Musk succeed in producing a semi with a 500-mile range by 2020. Daum has questioned how realistic Musk’s plans are, but he also has to contend with established rivals including Volkswagen, which is spending $1.7 billion to develop electric drivetrains and autonomous tech for trucks and buses. Volvo also plans to display electric and autonomous prototypes for Japan this year.
And those are just the incumbent players. BYD Co., the Chinese electric-vehicle maker backed by Warren Buffett, is opening an assembly plant in Canada to make short-range electric vehicles like garbage and delivery trucks. California startup Thor Trucks has an electric semi truck with a $150,000 price tag and 300-mile range that’s set to start shipping in 2019.
Daimler will test a fleet of 30 eCascadia and eM2 trucks with customers this year, and plans to begin production in 2021. It’s also setting up a research and development centre for autonomous trucks in Portland, which will work with existing facilities in Stuttgart, Germany, and Bangalore, India.
The truck unit is investing more than 2.5 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in research and development in 2018 and 2019, with about 20 percent of that going toward electrification, connected vehicles, and autonomous driving technology.
The E-Mobility Group will standardise components and platforms for electrification across the company’s many truck brands.
In addition to the two new e-trucks from Freightliner, Daimler also is testing a Mercedes-Benz electric truck called the eActros on city roads this year, with mass production planned for 2021. Its Fuso eCanter urban delivery truck is doing trials in Manhattan.