Daimler fights Tesla, VW with new electric big rig truck

OREGON: Daimler AG unveiled on Wednesday an all-electric big rig truck it promises to have in production in 2021, as the German automaker mounts a major challenge to European and American rivals, including new entrants like Tesla Inc.
Truck buyers anticipate global regulation to curb pollution from trucks and see advantages from lower fuel and maintenance costs of electric vehicles, but a fleet technology switch is far from certain given challenges of cost, charging infrastructure, range, and the potential for heavy batteries to constrict payloads.
Daimler’s Freightliner eCascadia is an 18-wheeler with a 250-mile range, aimed for regional distribution and port services, while Tesla has said that its Semi — which it expects to build by 2020 – will be suited to longer-distance runs with a 500-mile range.
Daimler on Wednesday also unveiled a medium-duty Freightliner eM2 106, with a range of up to 230 miles, designed for local distribution, such as beverage delivery, which some analysts see as the “sweet spot” of the emerging electric truck market.
Daimler said it will deliver a total of 30 prototypes on the two models to customers later this year for field-testing and expects to have the trucks in production in 2021.
Daimler, as the world’s largest truck maker, has much to lose as competition for electrified trucks intensifies.
The company’s Illinois-based rival, Navistar International Corp, and its partner Volkswagen AG, which is spending $1.7 billion on electric drives, autonomous vehicles and cloud-based systems by 2022, aim to launch their own medium-duty truck in North America by late 2019.
Daimler, with a $66.4 billion market capitalisation and best-known for its luxury Mercedes-Benz brand, has a 40 per cent share of the roughly $39 billion North American heavy-duty truck market.
Local delivery “makes an enormous amount of sense because it doesn’t have the long-range requirements, yet puts on enough miles on a daily basis where you can get fuel savings,” said Tim Denoyer, a senior analyst at consultancy ACT Research.
Success for the larger class 8 trucks would hinge on lowering battery costs: “While electric truck sales will be fairly significant in coming years, I don’t think it will displace diesel anytime soon especially in highway, long-haul trucking where obviously battery capacity and range anxiety present itself,” Denoyer said. — Reuters