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Freightliner eCascadia electric truck

Clean Transport

Heavy Duty Electric Trucks Aren’t Coming, They’re Already Here

Daimler and Volvo Trucks are on the verge of bringing electric trucks to market. BYD has electric trucks already on sale. The decarbonization of the transportation sector is about to take a big step forward.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in news about Tesla we forget there are other companies out there making electric vehicles. Take Proterra, for instance, which is making electric short, medium, and long range buses. It announced recently it will become a supplier of electric powertrains to other companies.

Tesla may rule the Twittersphere with its all electric Semi, but BYD, Volvo, and Freightliner are not standing on the sidelines. They all have electric heavy duty trucks either in production or nearing production that are ready to replace the diesel and gasoline powered models of today.


Freightliner eCascadia electric truck

Credit: Freightliner

The first two battery electric eCascadia tractors from Freightliner, which is owned by Daimler, are about to enter service with Penske and NMI this month. They are part of what the company calls its Innovation Fleet, trucks that are out there on the road doing what trucks do so the manufacturer can obtain important real world feedback before series production begins.

These pre-production models look very much like the standard items available from Freightliner, not the flashy, Space Age design that makes the Tesla Semi so distinctive. They have a range of 250 miles, which is adequate for many local and intercity trips. “Daimler is gauging whether or not these trucks can thrive in realistic scenarios, and lessons learned from these early models should inform the eventual finished designs,” says Engadget.


BYD electric truck lineup

Credit: BYD

BYD offers a complete lineup of heavy duty trucks, from tractors to trash trucks. On its US website, the company lays out the case for electric trucks.

“Our trucks save you tons from lower costs in fuel and maintenance. Fewer moving parts, more reliability, and environmentally friendly with a payback in only a few years. Unlike Lead-Acid and most Lithium-ion batteries, BYD’s chemistry features environmentally friendly and non-toxic ingredients. This means no ventilation needed, no water needed and no worry needed.”

BYD Class 5 electric truck

BYD Class 5 electric truck. Credit: BYD

“Our trucks are not only good for the air but also good for the ears. They reduce your fleet’s noise pollution and is half the noise of Diesel, Hybrid or CNG engines. BYD is the only manufacturer that can stand by the industry’s best warranty on the batteries. This means our trucks save you hundreds of thousands by not needing a mid-life battery replacement.”

BYD electric refuse truck. Credit: BYD

The lineup includes a day cab tractor with a 435 kWh battery and up to 167 miles of range, Class 5 and Class 6 trucks, and two versions of fully configured refuse trucks.

Volvo Trucks

The people at Volvo  Trucks are not sitting on their hands when it comes to electric trucks.

“Volvo Trucks wants a better everyday life for all people living, working and visiting our towns and cities. The cities are growing and with them the challenges. Thankfully there are changes on the horizon and they are getting closer every day. Electromobility is playing a key role in our move towards sustainable transportation. Electric trucks are now becoming a reality and a viable commercial solution for cities and businesses.”

The company touts the advantages of electric trucks, including a quieter environment, less carbon and particulate pollution, and less stress for drivers. And there’s one more thing. Many cities have noise restrictions during evening hours. Because electric trucks are so much quieter, they can perform tasks overnight that diesel powered trucks are barred from doing. More trucks on the road at night means less congestion on the roads during the day.

Volvo is also developing autonomous electric tractors for the future. Code named Vera, the project envisions an electric skateboard capable of moving cargo without assistance from a human driver. The prototype systems are undergoing testing today to meet the needs of tomorrow. Unlike the futuristic cab of the Tesla Semi, Vera has no cab at all.

Decarbonizing Transportation

Electric cars are necessary to decarbonizing the transportation sector but not sufficient to get the job done alone. Electric trucks, electric construction equipment, electric airplanes, and electric ships all need to do their share. BYD, Daimler, and Volvo are playing an important part in cleaning up emissions from diesel trucks. That’s good news for all of us.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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