Electric trucks the star of the show at ACT Expo 2019

Electric trucks took up a lot of space in the exhibit hall at this year’s ACT Expo — and that meant medium and heavy trucks along with commercial applications such as electric delivery and refuse trucks. This time major truckmakers took center stage, and specialized makers had announcements to share as well. With about 4,000 attendees, it was the largest ACT Expo yet.

During his keynote speech, Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in North America, said his company will be putting about 50 battery electric test vehicles on roads by the end of this year through its Freightliner division, built at a renovated plant in Oregon. 20 of them will be medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks for Penske Corp. and NFI Inc., a major third-party logistics company, under a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Near-zero-emissions natural gas medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are currently available and will continue from Freightliner as an interim solution until full commercialization of the battery-electric Freightliner eM2 and eCascadia, he said. Its Thomas Built unit will be rolling out Proterra-powered electric school buses.

Peterbilt Motors Co. showed off new electric trucks, including the Model 220EV, Model 520EV, and Model 579EV. The 220EV is spec’d with the Meritor Blue Horizon eAxle and the 520EV will feature the Transpower mid-ship powertrain configuration, while the 579EV will feature the new Allison AXE Series e-Axle. Six of the 579EVs were demonstrated at the exhibit that have been finished for customers. “Today, we have 14 electric vehicles built, on our way to more than 30 by the end of the year, for real customer routes and to analyze performance so that our production options meet the standards customers expect when buying a Peterbilt,” said Peterbilt’s Chief Engineer Scott Newhouse.

While it was outside ACT Expo, Ford on Wednesday announced it’s putting $500 million into electric truck startup Rivian Automotive. Both companies have agreed to work together to develop a battery electric vehicle for Ford’s growing EV portfolio using Rivian’s skateboard platform.

Volvo Trucks North America Wednesday hosted the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they presented a $44.8 million check to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) for the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project. The Volvo LIGHTS project is a partnership among the Volvo Group, South Coast AQMD and industry leaders in transportation and electrical charging infrastructure. The project was created ti demonstrate the ability of battery electric vehicles to improve freight and warehouse efficiencies, reduce emissions, and improve air quality. As part of the project, Volvo Trucks will introduce all-electric Volvo VNR regional-haul demonstrators in California later this year, with vehicle sales planned to begin in 2020.

Other introductions at ACT Expo 2019 included:

  • BYD Motors will deliver 14 yard tractors to two BNSF Railway intermodal facilities in Southern California, adding to an ongoing demonstration project.
  • Chanje has partnered with refrigeration unit supplier Thermo King on a prototype zero-emissions refrigerated van.
  • Xos, the new name for electric truck startup Thor Trucks, will retrofit two Loomis Armored US cash-hauling trucks. An order for 100 more trucks awaits if the test models show the trucks’ value.
  • EV Connect is launching a program aimed at standardizing EV charger management and use for both transportation fleets and charging-equipment developers. The EV Charge Station Certification program already has been completed by seven of the industry’s largest charger makers.
  • Ryder’s booth featured a comprehensive charging infrastructure solution, provided by In-Charge Energy. In-Charge provides nationwide turnkey energy and commercial electric vehicle infrastructure solutions to ensure customers maximize the full economic benefits of adopting electric vehicles into their fleet. Its end-to-end model focusing on behind the meter solutions is an industry first.
  • An Amply Power Inc. white paper showed fleets saved an average 37 percent compared with traditional fuels by electrifying their buses and light-duty vehicles. Fleets that charged during off-peak hours could save as much as 60 percent, according to the white paper.
  • Tritium created the “world’s most powerful charger,” the Veefil-PK 175-475kW DC High Power Charger which can add nearly 300 miles range to an EV in just 10 minutes.
  • The first production fuel cell-powered heavy-duty truck jointly developed by Toyota and Kenworth Truck Co. is going forward. The new truck is the first of 10 planned under a $41 million California Air Resources Board grant matched by Toyota, Kenworth, and Royal Dutch Shell.
  • Penske Truck Leasing announced it will open commercial heavy-duty electric vehicle charging stations with 14 high-speed chargers at four of its existing facilities in Southern California. These will be among the first DC fast charging stations in the U.S. designed specifically for heavy-duty commercial electric vehicles.
  • The North American Council for Freight Efficiency recently released a report, Regional Haul: An Opportunity for Trucking, that looks at this growing market segment and was shared during a seminar at ACT Expo. Long-haul trucking isn’t what it used to be, according to the report. Forty five percent of the Class 8 tractors produced today are day cabs and a high percentage of those trucks are involved in regional haul operations.
  • Gladstein, Neandross and Associates (GNA) and the University of California at Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering – Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) announced the launch of the Low and Zero Emission Readiness (LAZER) Initiative. This new collaboration will support organizations —including transit agencies, refuse operations, trucking carriers, delivery fleets, school districts, municipalities, and more — in evaluating the real-world economic and environmental benefits of advanced transportation technologies.

Adoption of autonomous vehicles may take longer than hoped for, Tesla trying to clean up SEC fight and poor quarterly report

Buying into self-driving vehicles:  What’s it going to take for autonomous vehicles to become typical on city streets? Perhaps longer than advocates of the advanced technology had hoped for. In a new study by Reuters/Ipsos, half the respondents believe that autonomous vehicles won’t be as safe as vehicles currently on roads. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. adults participating in the survey said they would not buy a fully autonomous vehicle, and the same amount balked at the prospect of paying significantly more for the added features. AVs will be staying in the test phase for a few more years. Companies such as General Motors, Tesla, Waymo, Alphabet, Uber, and Lyft, will continue testing the technology and trying out convenient mobility and shared ride experiences for users. Fleets will continue playing an important role in advancement of the technology through projects such as truck platooning, electric automated shuttle vans, and urban delivery showing positive signs of potential for adoption. Safe travel is a key issue, as Tesla and Uber have discovered in fatal incidents involving AV technology in recent years. But as marketers of electric vehicles know, building up mass adoption of a radical new technology takes millions of miles and a few years of positive driver experiences.

Electric automated trucks:  Speaking of adoption of the new technology, a new report by Wards Intelligence says it will take until the early 2020s for new electric and automated trucks to take root. Medium-duty truck fleets will lead the way in electrification, but “long haul will probably be the last to see electrification because they’ll probably need fuel cells to get the range they need, and those are still in development,” said Megatrends 2019 Trucking author, Jim Mele. Trucking fleets want to see longer range and faster fueling, so fuel cell trucks may have an edge here — with Nikola Motor and Toyota poised to take the lead.

Tesla and SEC dispute settlement and quarterly report:  Tesla is still trying to clean up problems that have been building in the past year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was “very happy” about a federal district court judge telling the company and the Securities Exchange Commission to settle the SEC’s complaint out of court. The SEC asked the court to hold Musk in contempt for violating their previous settlement over a tweet they thought violated rules over what the publicly traded company can divulge or express opinions over. This time around, the SEC filed a complaint in court over a photo musk had posted on Twitter of the electric automaker’s manufacturing plant — that Musk said would be able to produce 500,000 vehicles in 2019; he recanted that tweet, going back to the original forecast of 400,000 units being what the company expects to deliver. Another tough one has been reporting to investors that sales saw a big drop in the first quarter of this year. About 63,000 Tesla vehicles were delivered in the first quarter — a 31% drop compared to the prior quarter and the the largest drop ever for the company. Some commentators have wondered if an April 19th event for Tesla investors on new autonomous vehicle improvements will be an attempt to deflection attention on the poor performance.

Via Motors forges alliance with Geely for electric trucks, NYC may enact congestion fees

Via and Geely forge agreement:  Via Motors and Zhejiang Geely will be launching plug-in hybrids and all-electric commercial vehicles, starting with a medium-duty extended range electric truck. Via Motors now has an agreement with China-based Zhejiang Geely New Energy Vehicle Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Zhejiang Geely Commercial Vehicle Group. Geely is one of the largest automakers in China. The joint venture will tap into Via’s proprietary vehicle software and systems control technology “to meet the demanding duty cycle and performance requirements of commercial vehicles,” said Nathan Yu Ning of Zhejiang Geely Holding.

Cutting down cost of hydrogen:  Southern California Gas Co. is part of a partnership development team converting natural gas to hydrogen, carbon fiber, and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to reduce the cost of hydrogen production. The partnership, which is being led by C4-MCP, LLC, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based technology business, will analyze offsetting hydrogen’s net costs with the sales of carbon fiber and CNTs. The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and West Virginia University will be part of the federally funded project. It will create hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles, along with carbon fiber applications such as what’s being used in medical devices and building products. The technology is also credited with nearly eliminating carbon emissions from the methane-to-hydrogen process.

Waymo going to Atlanta:  Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving unit is adding another city to its testing roster, Atlanta. The company will run its Chrysler Pacifica minivans, but didn’t offer more details. The company began mapping downtown Atlanta last week for its test runs. Waymo has already tested ints autonomous minivans in 24 cities across the U.S. Most of its testing is taking place in Phoenix, Mountain View, Calif., Austin, Detroit, and Kirkland, Wash.

NYC may enact congestion fees:  New York City is preparing to become the first U.S. city to adopt charges for traffic congestion and air pollution from its crowded streets. The state’s “Fix NYC” task force could create an $11.52 charge for passenger vehicles, $25.34 for commercial vehicles, and between $2 and $4 per trip for taxis and ride-hailing companies. The price zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th street, and free entrance into Manhattan for drivers crossing all but two of the city-owned East River bridges. New York City would be joining other metros like London, Milan, Stockholm, and Singapore that have enacted similar charges. China is taking similar actions to address thick traffic congestion and severe air pollution. Manhattan is known for some of the worst traffic in the nation, with average speed in the Midtown area estimated to be at 4.7 miles per hour.

 

UPS orders 125 Tesla Semi electric trucks, Virgin Hyperloop One raises $50 million

UPS places largest Semi order:  The largest operator of commercial trucking fleets in the world has taken the largest order so far of the Tesla Semi electric trucks. UPS has played an order for 125 of Tesla’s new all-electric Semi tractors. It falls into the company’s extensive clean transportation fleet that includes vehicles powered by electricity, natural gas, and propane. Tesla Semis are poised to usher in a new era in improved safety, reduced environmental impact, and reduced cost of ownership, UPS said in a statement. Last week, PepsiCo Inc. had placed the largest Semi order with Tesla at 100 units in its efforts to reduce fuel costs and fleet emissions.

Cap-and-trade auction strong:  The California Air Resources Board reported strong transfer activity in its most recent cap-and-trade auction results for November. Since the program’s inception, the total amount of auction proceeds that have been placed into the California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund comes out to about $6.4 billion. California’s cap-and-trade program began auction sales in late 2012 as an offshoot of the state’s AB 32 global warming act. Under the state’s regulatory structure, large polluters buy carbon credits that come from businesses generating surplus allowances. Collected funds from the auctions fund emission-reducing endeavors, including sustainable energy projects and rebates for electric vehicles and solar panels.

Branson becomes chairman:  Virgin Hyperloop One has raised an additional $50 million ahead of its Series C round of funding. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, will become chairman of the high-speed transportation company. Branson joined the board of directors in October after Virgin Group invested in the company. The company has also completed its third phase of testing achieving historic test speeds of 387 kilometers per hour (240.4 miles per hour). Branson is internationally known for achievements in air, rail, and space transportation, and his commitment to sustainability.

 

Tesla Semi brings in two new corporate customers, Propel Fuels study analyzes California’s LCFS

New customers for Tesla Semi:  Anheuser-Busch and and Sysco Corp. have been impressed enough with the Tesla’s upcoming Semi trucks to order 40 and 50 of them, respectively. The Budweiser beer maker and global foodservice distribution company will see production start of the all-electric heavy-duty semi-trucks in 2019. For Anheuser-Busch, the Semi ties into the company’s objective of making its supply chain more sustainable, efficient, and innovative; while also improving road safety and lowering the company’s environmental impact. Sysco sees the electric truck tying into its commitment to corporate social responsibility for positive environmental impacts along with reduced fuel and maintenance costs.

Ford building EV in Mexico:  Ford Motor Co. will be moving production of an electric crossover to its plant in Cautitlan, Mexico instead of Flat Rock, Mich., by the summer of 2020. While that won’t go over well with the Trump administration, Ford said it will make way for additional investment of autonomous vehicles in its home state. The electric crossover will be going at least 300 miles per charge, the automaker said. It ties into the automaker’s corporate strategy of takings it vehicle global markets and improving production efficiency. “This allows us to bring this exciting new vehicle to global customers in a more effective way to support our overreaching business goals,” Ford said in an internal memo obtained by Automotive News.

Low carbon fuels in California:  Propel Fuels issued a report yesterday analyzing the impact of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard on alternative fuel consumption and the effect on emissions in the state. While targets are being met for 2020 goals, the study indicates that the current policy model will need to change to hit 2030 targets that will more than double the volume of expected low carbon fuels to five billion gallons. Propel Fuels and study partner ICF see that possible through flex fuel, high-efficiency diesel vehicles, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Through its network of fueling statins, Propel Fuels offers E85 made from corn and next generation sources such as switchgrass and agricultural waste material. Its stations also offer high-performance renewable diesel.

For Today: Tesla semi-tractor is being delayed yet again, Waymo promoting the safety of self-driving cars

Another delay on Tesla truck:  The Tesla semi-tractor heavy-duty truck is being delayed yet again, this time until mid-November. Resources will go instead to fix production bottlenecks for the Model 3. Another priority, in which Musk tweeted about, is diverting resources to help bring Puerto Rico back through battery production to help the island recover from hurricane devastation. Residents have been going without electricity. Tesla was below its production target to build more than 1,500 Model 3 units in the third quarter. The company had just delivered around 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 during the quarter. Earlier this week Tesla reported that “production bottlenecks” had left it behind the planned ramp-up for the Model 3.

Charging study:  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published a study on the state of charging stations in the U.S. The study looked into best practices for avoiding wasting funds on charging equipment that could be the wrong type or located in the wrong places. There are quite a few variables to consider including the ratio of plug-in hybrid to battery electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids have smaller battery packs than all-electrics; they charge faster and become depleted more quickly. Drivers do have the advantage of running out of battery power and getting there powered by a gasoline engine.

Waymo public education drive:  Waymo is teaming up with non-profit groups to talk Americans into believing in the safety of self-driving cars. Google’s self-driving car company is teaming up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, and the Federation for Blind Children in a campaign called “Let’s Talk Self-Driving.” Waymo also emphasizes that autonomous vehicles can eliminate most alcohol-related fatal crashes, and would offer the blind a transportation option. The company said the public awareness ad campaign will begin in Arizona on Monday. That’s where Waymo has been doing a lot of its self-driving car testing. The ad campaign will be delivered through digital ads, outdoor billboards, fuel pump advertising, and radio spots.

 

For Today: More electric commercial trucks coming to market, Consumer Reports wants to see mpg window stickers on heavy-duty pickups

Commercial Vehicle Show includes electric options:  Volkswagen has added another electric vehicle to its product lineup through its truck division and jointly with Navistar International Corp. During the launch of the first-ever North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta on Monday, the two companies announced they’ll be jointly developing an electric medium-duty truck for the North American market. It will roll out as soon as 2019. These two companies forged an alliance earlier this year with VW investing $256 million for a 17% stake in Navistar. During a separate presentation, Daimler Trucks North America discussed its platooning efforts in North America; and how subsidiary Mitsubishi Fuso recently launched the all-electric eCanter Class 4 cabover, which the company will deliver to its first customers, including UPS, by the end of this year. The company also hinted that its Freightliner Cascadia and Western Star trucks will have electric versions in the future. Buyers of commercial vehicles are looking more seriously at electric trucks as federal fuel economy rules enter their next phase, and Tesla, Nikola, and Daimler make moves in this market.

Growth in electrified buses:  Buses powered by natural gas and propane autogas have opened doors globally for deployment of medium and heavy-duty electric drive buses of all types – including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all-electric, and hydrogen fuel cells. Hybrid buses are expected to do better for now than plug-in buses, except for China, due to lower price premiums and lack of charging infrastructure. A new Navigant Research report analyzes the trends, including how fuel cell buses are expected to see further deployments as technology costs come down. Costs are also coming down in batteries, motors, and power electronics as volume increases for sales of plug-in hybrid and battery electric buses to fleets. Transit agencies have led the way, motivated to do so by new rules on emissions and reducing noise levels. Reducing operating costs is also helping sales increase with transit agencies.

Tracking mileage on heavy-duty pickups:  Consumer Reports is calling on the federal government to add heavy-duty pickups to its fuel economy ratings list. Its research team tested out three heavy-duty diesel trucks: Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, Ford F-250, and Ram 2500. All three pickups were equipped with four-door crew-cab bodies, turbodiesel engines, and four-wheel drive. While being more efficient than they were years ago, they only achieved 14-15 mpg, which was 1-2 mpg less than their gasoline-powered light-duty counterparts. Contractors and other truck buyers rely on these heavy pickups to buy hundreds of thousands of them per year. The consumer publication wants buyers to be adequately informed.

For Today: Cummins building electric drive trains, Smart offering electric autonomous cars

Cummins electric heavy-duty truck:  Cummins Inc. is adding electric drive trains to its power options, the company announced yesterday at its Columbus tech center. The 18,000-pound truck will have a 44,000-lb. maximum payload and about 100 miles of range. That beats Tesla’s announcement, which takes place next month and is expected to focus on a 200-300 mile range electric semi truck. Named AEOS after a four-winged horse-driven chariot from Greek mythology, the Cummins electric truck (built by Roush) follows an announcement in June that the company will bring out an electric bus by 2019. Cummins is looking for vehicle manufacturers to work with and large fleets interested in buying them. For now, the electric heavy-duty truck is in the concept phase. The company is well known by fleets for its natural gas truck engines.

Solar-powered dealerships:  SunPower solar dealers are working with auto dealerships across the country to put solar panels on empty rooftops and over parking lots to cut energy costs and to meet sustainability targets. Construction of the solar installations has also helped protect roofs and a fleet of new cars underneath the stations. Minnesota-based Luther Auto Group, the largest privately held auto group in the Midwest, has placed 454 kilowatts of solar at 10 of its dealer locations. They’re projected to save the company more than $2.1 million in electricity costs over 25 years.

Smart Vision EQ ForTwo:  Daimler’s Smart division will be showcasing the Vision EQ ForTwo, tapping into the company’s CASE philosophy – Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric. When it does come out years from now, customers will be able to hail a ride in the tiny electric car from their smartphone. Vision EQ vehicles will be able to flow through traffic more smoothing by “talking” to other autonomous vehicles out on the roads. It will be used for carsharing rides, and could be ideal for Daimler’s Car2Go subsidiary.

For Today: Ford sustainability report details several gains made, Tesla getting ready to announce 200-300 mile range semi truck

Ford’s 18th annual sustainability report:  Ford Motor Co. announced a series of gains made in sustainability initiatives in its annual report. The automaker joined the Business Alliance for Water and Climate “Improve Water Security” initiative supporting its drive to someday have zero usage of drinkable water in manufacturing. Since 2000, Ford has cut water use by more than 61 percent. It’s partnership with Jose Cuervo continued using agave plants for sustainable bioplastics being placed in Ford vehicles. Now about 300 vehicle parts come from renewable sources such as soybeans, cotton, wood, flax, jute, and natural rubber. Its aluminum closed-loop recycling system recycles about 20 million pounds of military-grade aluminum alloy per month, enough to build more than 37,000 F-Series truck bodies a month. Ford continues to reduce the footprint of its supply chain with an enhanced Partnership for a Cleaner Environment program that has grown to more than 40 suppliers in 40 countries – up from 25 suppliers in 2015. The automakers zero-waste-to-landfill program has been expanded to a total of 82 Ford facilities around the world, where no waste is sent to landfills. You can read the company’s 18th annual sustainability report to learn more, plus read and watch a video on improving safety and fuel economy, reducing manufacturing carbon dioxide, the company global electrification strategy, and sustainable mobility services.

Webcast on PEV sales:  On Sept. 12, UCLA, J R DeShazo, director of UCLA’s Luskin Center, will lead a webcast from Sacramento on the future of the plug-in electric vehicle market. Details on a new study will focus on the early development of the market and the factors likely to shape future growth ties into California’s public policy goals for clean vehicle sales. The study examined consumer response to PEV market offerings and tested hypotheses about potential determinants of PEV sales over time and across locations in California.

Tesla Semi range:  Tesla will be launching a semi-truck next month capable of going 200 to 300 miles per charge, according to Scott Perry, a Ryder System executive interviewed by Reuters. Perry said he met with Tesla earlier this year to discuss what the Tesla Semi truck will be like that CEO Elon Musk announced last year and said would be revealed in September. It will be ideal for short-haul trucking and won’t have anything like the capacity of 1000-miles per fueling big rigs typically seen on U.S. highways. The Tesla Semi could work for companies needing freight hauling from ports to warehouses and other day trips. Tesla will face a series of challenges including ramping up later this year for the Tesla Model 3.

 

For Today: Volvo electrifying offerings, Trucks need to electrify to stay competitive

Volvo goes electric:  Volvo Cars will be electrifying all of its new vehicle offerings starting in 2019. Five all-electric models will come out between 2019 and 2021, three under the Volvo brand and two under Polestar. These five cars will also have other electrified options that may include gasoline and diesel plug-in hybrids and 48-volt options. The Polestar high-performance electric model was launched last month. The product changeover ties into the company’s commitment to minimizing its environmental impact and making the cities of the future cleaner.

PEV drivers on charging:  Having access to public charging is still the top concern for plug-in vehicle drivers. ON World, a business intelligence firm, conducted a survey of 2,000 U.S. PEV drivers and found that over half are concerned about finding enough of these chargers. Even through 80% of their charging is done at home, they do want to see more stations on the smart grid. Range matters as well; for those interested in PEVs, three quarters would prefer a vehicle that supports a minimum of 300 miles per charge. “The millions of PEVs in use over the next few years will require smart charging solutions that provide network management, dynamic billing, energy savings and vehicle-to-grid Integration,” said Mareca Hatler, ON World’s research director.

Commercial trucks electrifying:  Truck companies building engines and supplying components for commercial trucks that don’t offer electric options will fall behind their competitors, according to a recent report to investors from analyst Alexander Potter of Piper Jaffray. Potter gave Allison Transmission Holding an “underweight” investment rating, advising investors to reduce their holdings in the company. Potter said that several companies, including engine maker Cummins and truck manufacturers Paccar, Navistar, and Scania, are investing in electric vehicle research and projects, potentially leaving Allison behind. While they’re still prototypes and pilot projects for now, the financial outlook will be affected for companies providing components to the industry, he said. Electric buses will provide some of the powertrain technology needed in heavy-duty trucks.