Big Rigs are the next frontier for all electric vehicles. The commercial use of all electric semi-trucks will ensure greater infrastructure build-out, more battery R&D, and even more opportunities for additional powers sources such as hydrogen fuel cells.
When the Nikola One was first revealed in December of 2016, many marveled at the technological feat achieved by designers for the next generation of the Big Rig.
My amazement continued as I dove deeper into the specs and comparisons for this vehicle compared to legacy trucks. The superior features should cause anyone in the trucking industry to take notice or risk being priced out of the market.
Just as a sample from their website: https://nikolamotor.com/one
The only limitations to mass replacement of diesel trucks is upfront costs, cost of replacement, and technological uncertainty. With such complex machines, surely the first generation of buyer are similar to beta testers of software. So, when it comes to the growing competition of electric semi-trucks, customer service, repair turn-arounds, and overall uptime may be the determining factors for who dominates the industry.
The “Electric” truck designation does not tell the entire story. Electric only is not currently possible for big rigs. A supplement of fuel power is needed to accomplish the heavy haul requirements. Nikola has decided to supplement with Hydrogen power. Hydrogen is the cleanest liquid fuel possible while maintaining zero emissions.
From their site,
“Nikola trucks can refuel with hydrogen at any station within our planned fueling network. Nikola will provide free* hydrogen fuel for up to 1,000,000 miles. Nikola will also allow any non-Nikola hydrogen vehicle to fuel at their stations. Nikola believes in zero emission hydrogen and hopes to move America towards a clean fuel future.
Nikola will produce its own hydrogen on site via electrolysis. Vertical integration reduces market uncertainties, allowing Nikola to control fuel prices and keep them low for Nikola customers.
By 2028, Nikola is planning on having more than 700 hydrogen stations across the USA and Canada. Each station is capable of 2,000 to 8,000 kgs of daily hydrogen production. Nikola’s European stations are planned to come online around 2022 and are projected to cover most of the European market by 2030.”
Tesla revealed its two fully all electric semi-truck options along with the new Roadster in December 2017.
However, the competitor to Tesla that few are talking about is legacy truck manufacturer, Cummins.
The Aeos in-city Semi Truck is all electric and was debuted in August 2017.
Since then, Cummins also added PowerDrive, a plug-in hybrid electric for it’s emergency service vehicles.
Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) unveiled the PowerDrive, an advanced suite of plug-in hybrid electric powertrain solutions spanning light, medium and heavy-duty applications, at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicle Show. This further expands Cummins’ broad portfolio of low emissions and fuel-efficient power solutions that includes clean diesel, near-zero natural gas, and fully electric to help each customer’s distinct needs.
Other companies are retrofitting legacy vehicles from garbage trucks to city buses with electrical charge capabilities.
EDI, based in Silicon Valley, is a retrofitting company. Customers from all over the world use their services to retrofit vehicles.
To date, their biggest accomplishment is creating a plug-in hybrid our of a Class 8, 32-ton cement mixer truck. This was accomplished in partnership with Shaanxi Automotive in China. EDI was recently acquired by Cummins in July, 2018.
Other manufacturers include:
A manufacturer out of Los Angeles, CA. Not only focuses on large commercial vehicles that include buses, forklifts, and skyrails, but also energy storage solutions. Recently, BYD announced the completion of its latest U.S. investment, a new $5 million 100,000-square-foot warehouse for its Lancaster manufacturing plant.
E-Force One is based out of Switzerland and their primary product the the 18-ton truck called E-Force. The company’s website states (when put through an online translation program):
“The E-FORCE is equipped with advanced technology that makes it practical for everyday use. It uses innovative design and intelligent control systems. In addition to having zero emissions, the E-Force is quiet in operation, making it ideal for use in residential neighborhoods.”
For light cargo trucking, this team delivers with mostly refrigerated box trucks. Their all-electric equipment is primarily used to deliver fresh produce to Les Halles De Lyon Paul Bocuse in Lyon, one of the largest covered food markets in France.
Yard trucks are also adapting EV technology. This company is building trucks specifically designed for shipyard terminals. Many municipalities and rail yard operators use Orange EV T-Series yard truck.
This company was founded by a Tesla cofounder, Ian Wright. He offers a number of plug-in hybrids. They other side of the hybrid can run on a variety of fuel options, natural gas, diesel, liquid propane, and sour gas.
According to Wright, the company’s solutions provide: up to a 67% reduction in fuel consumption; up to a 63% cut in emissions; and up to $25,000 in reduced annual maintenance costs. Wrightspeed is currently focused on the North American market.
Daimler subsidiary, Mitsubishi, produced the urban focused all electric heavy duty E-Fuso Vision One truck in October 2017. One of their first customers was United Parcel Services in New York.
From E-Fuso’s vision, which may be true for all electric commercial vehicle markets,
Given the fact that growing customer interest, infrastructure development and regulatory efforts are likely to spur the electrification of road transport, a possible market entry for the series version of the E-FUSO Vision One could be feasible within four years in mature markets like Japan, Europe or the U.S.
Another urban friendly all electric vehicle is capable of delivering trucks from 3—26 tons. They also recently debuted an electric bus.
The ET-One is another fully sized semi-truck that also California based. It’s an all electric class 8 tractor with an 80,000 pound carrying capacity.
Finally, Walmart has plans of its own. In 2014, Walmart revealed the prototype profiled below.
A sleek, aerodynamic rig with man advanced features for the time. Including from their website,
“Range extending hybrids are a synergy between electric trucks and series hybrids, and their design reduces the energy storage size required for trucks to run on batteries alone…. The truck features a microturbine Range Extender generator developed by Capstone Turbine Corporation. The company also engineered the truck’s integrated hybrid drivetrain solution. The use of a hybrid powertrain allows the turbine to remain at optimum operating revolutions per minute (RPM), while the electric motor/energy storage handles acceleration and deceleration”.
The prototype was the result of collaboration between Walmart and many vendors, including Peterbilt, Roush Engineering, Great Dane Trailers and Capstone Turbine. However, all these efforts may have been for naught.
It seems the only thing Walmart should have done is wait for Tesla to build their trucks. Looks as if Walmart likes Tesla’s design much more since it ordered 15 new trucks in November 2017, and ordered 30 more units in September 2018. These trucks will operate in the U.S. and Canada.
Overall, the future of trucking looks electrified. With quieter streets and many additional safety features being incorporated into the next generation of electric trucks, the adoption may explode exponentially.