The U.S. Dept. of Transportation defines the “mass-production” of vehicles as a production run of over 15,000 vehicles.
In 2018, German automaker Daimler, the largest truck maker in the world, announced its all-electric 18-wheeler: the Freightliner eCascadia.
The big rig has a 250-mile range and was designed for regional transportation and port service. Daimler’s other all-electric model, the Freightliner eM2 106, has a 230-mile range and is intended for more local distribution and deliveries. The company also has an all-electric box truck (for urban deliveries) and a school bus in the pipeline.
Daimler said it’s expecting to have the eCascadia and eM2 106 in production in its Portland, Oregon factory in late 2021.
Given that the company, best known for its Mercedes-Benz brand, has a 40 percent share in North America’s approximately $39 billion heavy-duty truck market, it’ll be interesting to watch whether Daimler will be a leader or a laggard in the race to all-electric delivery vehicles.
Whereas many know that Tesla Inc. was named after Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor who created electric motors, few are likely to be familiar with the Phoenix-based startup that got the naming rights to Tesla’s first name. However, over the past five years, Nikola Motor Co. has slowly but surely emerged as a pioneer in this space.
The company has created the Nikola One and Nikola Two for North American roadways, and the Nikola Tre for Asia, Australia and Europe. Each semi-truck will be available with either fully electric or hydrogen fuel cell electric capabilities, and their anticipated ranges are between 500 and 700 miles. The company has yet to publicly release exact pricing for each of its three semi-truck models.
To refuel the tens of thousands of hydrogen-powered big rigs it plans to put on America’s roads, the company plans to build a coast-to-coast network of 700 hydrogen stations across the United States by 2028. (To put that into perspective, according to the International Energy Agency, there are currently about 400 hydrogen fueling stations worldwide.) The company says each refueling station will use electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to extract hydrogen fuel from water. It will take between 10 and 15 minutes to refill one of its semi-trucks. More so, the company wants carmakers including Daimler, General Motors and Toyota to use its fueling stations to expand their own hydrogen fuel cell vehicle sales outside of California.
According to Nikola, it plans to begin full production of its semis in 2021, and it already has orders to lease 14,000 of its big rigs. It’s aiming to have all of those pre-ordered vehicles on the road by 2028. The company likely will roll out the battery-electric versions of its three truck models before its fuel cell vehicles.
A final comparison between Tesla and Nikola: Anheuser-Busch Co. placed orders with both companies: 40 trucks from Tesla and 800 trucks from Nikola. One reason? Nikola’s hydrogen fuel-cell trucks don’t require heavy lithium batteries, which makes them about 5,000 pounds lighter than a Tesla Semi.
8 electric truck and van companies to watch in 2020