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Plugging in: EVs and the Commercial Vehicle Industry

A look at the reality of the electrification of the CV industry.

By: Dave Giroux, President & COO, HDMA
Date: April 30, 2021

Battery-powered commercial vehicles.

A simple search reveals how this buzz in our industry is dominating the headlines — and provides an example of where commercial vehicle R&D and marketing dollars are trending for future product and componentry. In this HDMA Dispatch, let’s step away from the spin to look at the reality of where we are and where we are going.

An Intersection of Society, Technology, and Cost

Today, an intersection of societal pressure stemming from mounting environmental concerns, rapid technological advancements, and favorable real cost of ownership calculations trend towards enabling the vision of electric vehicles to become not only a reachable progression, but an appropriate and brave step forward.     

But before we all plug in, there is still much work to do on scale, price, and battery technology to bring the vision of a world filled with battery-powered commercial vehicles to reality. The challenge of building a proper infrastructure to meet the future e-reality requires a confluence of investment, regulatory support, and market acceptance — and they are all trending in the right direction.  

However, while more EVs are expected to hit the road over the next 15 years, keep in mind that presently over 99 percent of vehicles on the road rely on the internal combustion engine. Yes, despite the massive amount of EV promotion, internal combustion engines are here for the remainder of this decade and arguably much longer. 

The OEM Promotional Blitz

If you are reading this Dispatch, you are an integral part of the industry and therefore are undoubtedly aware of all the e-advances from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). To toss out a couple of examples, Freightliner Trucks has received their rightful share of press with the launch of their new Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia and medium duty and vocational Freightliner eM2. 

Freightliner embarked upon a large effort to place these e-trucks in customers’ hands, and undeniably it was a savvy move to 1) prove the concept and 2) allow the real world to validate the ease of use by running real freight and putting the charging and range attributes of these vehicles to the test. To date, nearly 750,000 collective miles have been accumulated on the early Freightliner electric fleet, providing valuable data and customer and driver perspective to Freightliner, while allowing a myriad of well-known fleets to apply electrification integration into their own fleet operations.

Likewise, Volvo Trucks North America has deployed the new Volvo VNR Electric models into service to accelerate battery-electric truck adoption. They recently touted that over the next two years, Quality Custom Distribution (QCD), a national foodservice logistics supplier, will deploy Volvo VNR Electric models in its Southern California last-mile delivery routes. Bolstered by QCD’s eight high-power charging stations at their distribution centers, this test is bound to be a success.  

Finally, PACCAR is committed to not only providing e-vehicles but also directly educating the market with available cost of ownership analytic tools that easily and quickly provide an assessment of economic viability for specific applications. Take for example Peterbilt Motors Company’s Model 220EV, 520EV or 579EV — all can be quickly assessed with their EV Operating Cost Calculator for a side-by-side comparison, illustrating power consumption and fuel costs between electric and diesel vehicles for multiple configurations.

Of course, this assessment could go on as Navistar and other new entrants are upping the game with not only EV developments, but with fuel cell technological advances that will continue to push, test, and prime the market for an electrified world. In a future Dispatch, we’ll dive into hydrogen developments, which are integrally connected into the zero-emission holy grail.

HDMA Members are Integral — Behind the Scenes

Perhaps the OEs have gained the press podium to the largest degree, however, rest assured HDMA member companies are playing a huge critical role in this new e-game. Take for instance Meritor’s Blue Horizon portfolio of electrification solutions that already includes global customers such as PACCAR, Autocar, Lion Electric, and Volta Trucks. 
Their first offering, the 14Xe electric powertrain — which will be produced at Meritor’s facilities in Asheville and Forest City, N.C. — is designed to provide efficiency, performance, weight savings, and space utilization.

Even further upping their game, Meritor acquired Transportation Power Inc. (TransPower) to position the company as the premier supplier of electrification technologies for commercial vehicles. TransPower, which now operates under Meritor’s Global Electrification unit, supplies integrated drive systems, full electric truck solutions, and energy-storage subsystems to major manufacturers of trucks, school buses, refuse vehicles, and terminal tractors.

Similarly, Allison Transmission Inc., renowned for its advanced medium- and heavy-duty fully automatic transmissions, launched their eGen Power, its series of zero-emission electric axles with their customer Hino Trucks as their integration partner. Utilizing the Allison XL7 eGen Power 100D axle, Hino has stated that Allison will be a critical partner in its zero-emission vehicle development program. The eGen Power 100D features two electric motors capable of generating 200 kW of continuous power each, or 400 kW in total, with a peak combined power of 550 kW.  

Finally, let us not forget that electrification is not new to either Meritor of Allison — both companies have invested heavily and are prepared to meet and exceed the capabilities of the majority of commercial vehicle OEs. As we move into the future, messages that tout the capabilities of HDMA member companies and commercial vehicle suppliers will be integral in the HDMA Dispatch, as it is my belief that OEs are rightfully for show, but without HDMA members, the show is simply a slower go.