The 2023 Advanced Clean Transportation Expo took place in Santa Monica last week. The annual ACT event is an opportunity for manufacturers from all around the world to showcase new products and vehicles designed to reduce or eliminate pollution from the conventional diesel-powered trucks that are the lifeblood of the cargo, construction, warehousing, and refuse industries.
The list of attendees as this year’s ACT Expo reads like a who’s who of every major manufacturer, including representatives from Cummins, Daimler Trucks, Brightdrop, PACCAR, Volvo Trucks, Amazon, Ford Pro, Nikola, Hyzon, and dozens of others. Here’s a look at some of the new products featured at this year’s exhibition.
My colleague Jo Borrás highlighted the news from Volvo Trucks a few days ago, and while battery-electric tractors for hauling freight over the road are a vital part of decarbonizing truck transportation, there are other less romantic trucks involved in the cargo game that get little recognition. They are so-called “yard trucks,” the small workhorses that shuffle cargo containers around inside freight terminals.
Often called a donkey, they are akin to the switch engines used by railroads to organize rail cars into long freight trains. They may only move containers a few feet, but they are in use all day every day, which means they are adding pollution to the atmosphere for up to 12 hours a day.
One such battery-powered yard truck was unveiled at ACT 2023 by Texas based Capacity Trucks, which said its new electric terminal truck is the latest in its zero emissions lineup of products designed for port, intermodal, and distribution/warehouse applications. “This new EV terminal truck…..provides an efficient alternative for moving the world’s cargo,” the company said in a press release.
“Our focus over the last 10 years has been on developing advanced zero emissions products that answer the evolving needs of the industry,” said Wes Downing, general manager of Capacity Trucks. “This new EV terminal truck is a continuation of that journey and provides an efficient alternative for moving the world’s cargo.”
The Capacity EV terminal truck is powered by a Hyster-Yale electric powertrain and available with an option of 130 kWh or 260 kWh lithium-ion battery. The truck is expected to operate for the length of a normal shift before recharging is needed, delivering consistent power and maximizing uptime. The battery can be recharged in as short as one hour.
Capacity Trucks are in use in the world’s busiest ports, rail terminals, and warehouse/distribution centers. They are known for superb design, innovative engineering, and durability. In 2020, Capacity Trucks partnered with Hyster-Yale Group, Inc. to jointly develop electric, hydrogen, and automation-ready terminal tractors.
Freightliner, a division of Daimler Trucks, announced it has begun series production of its eM2 battery-electric medium duty delivery truck. The first trucks will reach customers this fall. “Expanding our electric product portfolio with the eM2 marks another historic moment for our customers and the industry on our joint journey to zero emissions,” said David Carson, senior vice president at Daimler Truck of North America. “With its versatility, the eM2 will be the perfect fit for pick-up and delivery customers who require an adaptable electric solution. Our vocational innovation vehicles are designed to set the stage to expand eM2 coverage into additional customer applications in the future.”
Built on the best-selling M2 106 Plus platform and introduced on the heels of the series production Freightliner eCascadia Class 8 tractor, the Class 6/7 eM2 expands CO2-neutral transportation to the medium duty segment, the company says. With decades of proven manufacturing know-how and innovation integrated into its electric vehicle program, DTNA is beginning full production of the Detroit-powered eM2 for pickup and delivery applications in fall of 2023 at its Portland truck manufacturing plant.
“Utilizing the production experience from the eCascadia, the eM2 is the result of extensive co-creation with our customers and years of real-world testing,” said Rakesh Aneja, vice president and chief of eMobility, DTNA. “For pick-up and delivery applications, the eM2 has a typical range of 180 miles for the Class 6 version and 250 miles for Class 7, and represents a reliable, efficient and sustainable solution.” For customers who require refrigeration configurations, an electric power takeoff (ePTO) option is available, enabling a choice of refrigeration units that can run on energy from the vehicle’s high voltage battery.
Range is new to the semi-trailer market, having been founded in 2021. At ACT 2023, it introduced its RA-01, a cargo trailer that has its own e-axle and battery pack. In addition to helping power the trailer while en route, it also can keep refrigeration units operating while sitting stationary waiting to be loaded or unloaded.
The company says the RA-01 can reduce the amount of diesel needed to complete a journey by 41% over the useful life of the trailer. With diesel selling for more then $5.00 a gallon in many parts of the country, that can add up to significant savings for fleet operators. And because many refrigeration units are diesel-powered, it can reduce harmful emissions from those devices as well.
“We have reached a turning point in freight transportation. Fleets are looking at ways to reduce emissions without negatively impacting operations. At Range, it is our goal to help our commercial partners – and all freight carriers – during this critical transition, and to do so expediently,” said Ali Javidan, CEO of Range Energy. “The RA Series is our answer. With a unique, practical solution that can quickly be deployed at scale, Range is providing commercial fleets the ability to immediately reduce emissions and costs, while avoiding any disruption to their operations.”
The RA-01 can easily hook up to any tow vehicle, which Range says can ease the transition to electrification and meet its commercial partners’ immediate needs and long term ambitions. Range is led by a team with deep EV industry expertise from Tesla, Zoox, Honda, and more.
Electric drivetrains get the headlines, but batteries are heavy, which means there are opportunities for the companies which manufacture those truck bodies to up their game in response. Morgan Truck Body is the largest manufacturer of light- and medium-duty freight and refrigerated van and truck bodies in North America. It brought its NEO next generation truck body to ACT 2023. NEO represents the next step of Morgan’s product evolution to achieve extended range, improved aerodynamics, and a lighter weight dry freight body.
NEO features an aluminum subframe that is nearly 40% lighter than standard sheet and post or FRP body. Lighter weight means greater payloads, and improved aerodynamics help extend effective range. NEO also features enhanced safety with improved visibility, better pedestrian protection, and distracted driver awareness
The company also showcased its Project Polar Steed, a fully electric, zero emission refrigerated body that makes use of insulated foam core wall panels. Using composite materials and aluminum instead of wood and steel provide improved durability, longevity, and corrosion resistance.
Morgan Olson, North America’s leading producer of walk-in step vans, featured the Proxima Class 2B, a fully electric last mile delivery vehicle at ACT 2023. With a GVWR of under 10,000 pounds, its smaller format is more maneuverable and designed for frequent stops. It features improved aerodynamics that lower drag by 40% for longer range.
The ACT 2023 Takeaway
Emissions from delivery vehicles, medium duty, and heavy duty trucks account for a disproportionate share of emissions from the transportation sector. ACT 2023 signals that the industry is aware of the need to dramatically reduce those emissions and is taking steps to make that happen.
Lighter weight, improved aerodynamics, and better maneuverability are not sexy, but they are essential to the EV revolution. Seeing all these new vehicles on display sends a hopeful message that, despite the political crosscurrents designed to hold back the transition to electric vehicles, major and minor manufacturers are taking the challenge seriously. Acceptance in the commercial vehicle market will drive acceptance in the private vehicle market. ACT 2023 is a reason to be hopeful about the changeover to electric vehicles.
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