Truck Technology: Newer Version

The Advanced Clean Transportation show nearly doubled attendance just eight months ago, and converting new and old diesel trucks into batteries and fuel cells has emerged as an unspoken topic. Also, there is some evidence that in the early days of Series 8 electric trucks, driving range was more important than battery weight.

Electric truck explodes in Long Beach

Last August, the ACT Expo was the first in-person, albeit deeply compelling, conference to see a huge turnout. In the lull of a pandemic, 5,000 people fists and smiled behind face coverings. Many people seemed practically excited about seeing 3D objects that have mostly migrated to Zoom and Microsoft Teams chats for over a year and a half.

When the show returned to its regular schedule this week, organizers expected an increase in registrations. The planned relocation to larger venues in Anaheim, California, was already validated in May 2023 when more than 8,500 people crowded into the Long Beach Convention Center.

The rise is likely due to the relaxed COVID restrictions and increased interest in the transition to electric trucks. Although some attendees still wore masks, the event felt pre-pandemic as normal. The on-site COVID test truck from last summer was nowhere to be found.


ACT from “Power Back” for electric trucks

Diesel truck conversion – some call it re-energy – dominated performances in the exhibition hall. The two words are synonymous – stripping engines and transmissions and replacing them with electric axles, actuators, and power electronics that eliminate exhaust pipe emissions. And the exhaust pipes themselves.

In California, where diesel is an example of pollution, start-ups and legacy companies alike have offered electrified structures. Even Bluebird, a longtime school bus maker, got into the business. It has teamed up with startup Lightning eMotors to unveil a Class 6 chassis for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of up to 26,000 pounds.

This move effectively doubles the potential market for Bluebird. Think staircases, RVs, and even food trucks.

Competition floods the space. Old tire makers such as Freightliner Custom Cha chassis Corp. And Ford split the market just a few years ago. Growth is credited with meet-and-greet and last-mile delivery – and the desire to do so with zero emissions and virtually silent operation.

“Over time the market will be so great that even with all the manufacturers running, I don’t think we’ll meet demand in five years,” said Dan Bennett, director of marketing for Lightning eMotors Systems. me. “Right now, there is plenty of room for all the players. After three or four years, we will see which players are still holding out.”

School bus manufacturer Bluebird has demonstrated an electrified Class 6 chassis by startup Lightning eMotors. (Photo: Alan Adler/Frite Waves)

Change partners?

Cummins Inc. has announced that it will build hydrogen fuel cells in Freightliner Cascadias with Daimler Truck North America. My company has put the familiar giants into a new business venture. Ironically, Cummins featured a Kenworth T680 fuel cell conversion in its display. CEO Tom Linebarger announced that the deal with Daimler is non-exclusive.

White and blue Kenworth T680 fuel cell truck is on display at Cummins Inc.  At the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo.
Cummins put a Kenworth T680 fuel cell truck on display even as it announced a deal to engineer hydrogen-powered fuel cells in Freightliner Cascadias. (Photo: Alan Adler/Frite Waves)

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Paccar Inc. It adopts Cummins fuel cells to satisfy early adopters eager to try hydrogen. Ten Kenworth trucks served as host bodies for Toyota Mirai fuel cell stacks as part of an emissions-free Port of Los Angeles demonstration program. Toyota plans to build fuel cell stacks for trucks next year in Kentucky. So we’ll see.

Linebarger: Partial solutions for electric trucks are the way to go

Cummins throws its heavy weight in more than fuel cells. It featured mockups of the ubiquitous X15 internal combustion engines – one painted natural gas black and the other a traditional red with white accents denoting the upcoming hydrogen-fueled X15H variant.

Linebarger said in a keynote speech on Wednesday that the challenge of decarbonizing transportation is too great for a single solution.

“Putting up partial solutions today is not politically popular and not as exciting as the electric battery solution,” Linebarger said. “But I can’t give you a battery-electric solution for a heavy-duty truck that you want at the price you want. What I can give you is a natural gas engine, a renewable natural gas engine if you get enough renewable fuel.”

Black and silver display for the Cummins 15L Natural Gas Engine.
Cummins X15N natural gas internal combustion engine. (Photo: Alan Adler/Frite Waves)

The Cummins X15N coming in 2024 is already threatening the start-up Hyliion’s original hybrid electric utility. The light-green, graffiti-adorned Peterbilt 579 hybrid is back at the show where it debuted last summer.

In another step to bring back power, Hyzon Motors will work with Fontaine modifications to replace diesel engines in trucks with enough remaining life to run on hydrogen fuel cells. Coincidentally, Hyzon has modified a few Cascadias, including one tested by Total Transportation Services Inc.

Will it bypass TTSI Hyzon and order Cummins fuel cells from Daimler? We’ll see that too.


important order

Volvo Truck North America has shared a report card on its progress in assembling orders for the VNR electric tractor. Non-Food Industries (60) and Quality Control Distribution (30) are the most recent.

“This evolution to zero emissions is ongoing, and it’s moving fast,” Peter Voorhoff, president of VTNA, said Monday. “Every time we try to predict what’s going on we are wrong because it happens faster than we think.”


Take it to the extreme

NFI expects the arrival of second-generation Freightliner eCadias in September versus one of 10 first-generation eCadias that have been running port draining since early 2020.

The NFI ordered 30 eCascadias, which Daimler Truck North America described as having a typical single cargo range of 230 miles.

This range ‘won’t give us what we need in this [drayage] Fleet,” Bill Plame, NFI’s Vice President of Fleet Services tells me. NFI wants two round trips of 130 to 150 miles per shipment.

The second generation of Volvo’s VNR Electric added battery weight to extend the range of a single charge to 270 miles. Plame said the extra mass is okay.

“The nice thing about him [the Volvo trucks] Is if we run a little bit, we can charge at a faster rate,” he said. “We can put a 20-minute charge on the AD and put them back in the port.”

The third original manufacturer of the non-food mix is ​​Nikola. NFI will begin a 90-day demo with battery-powered Tre next week. With nine battery packs, the Tre cabover claims up to 350 miles on a charge.

“As long as this offer is doing well, we will have 10 of them by the end of the year,” Bliem said. “All three [battery-electric trucks] They have their own nuances. The Nikola has a range of 300 and 350 miles but weighs 29,000 pounds. We’ll have to be careful about our loads with Nicholas.”

Bliem continues to believe that fuel cells are the answer for over 300 miles.


Hiding on her finger

Sitting inside Navistar’s NEXT trailer outside the convention center, I asked CEO Mattias Carlbaum when the Traton Group subsidiary would bring a full-size electric truck to market. Passed about in a keynote earlier on Tuesday.

“We didn’t announce it, but we put it in it [the pipeline]Karlbaum said. “I wasn’t allowed to say it today. That’s a secret.”

Not as much as it turns out.

Outside the trailer, a prototype RH International battery-powered tractor-trailer, painted dark blue and adorned with space-age graphics, has attracted less interest than a nearby marketing giveaway. I walked past the right side, oblivious to the battery packs on the sides.

When Mike Roth, executive director of the North American Council on Efficient Shipping, posted a photo on LinkedIn, I saw what I had missed.

That was the goal, Jason Jess, Vice President of Navistar at eMobility, told me later Wednesday during a chance encounter. Look for the real deal early next year.

Navistar RH electric prototype dark blue with space graphics,
The Navistar battery-powered regional towing tractor is coming. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves) (Hat tip: Mike Roth)

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Click here to get Truck Tech by email on Friday.

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The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carrier list includes transportation services (No.) and Non-Food Items (No. 33).

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