LAS VEGAS — Daimler Truck North America created capacity to build 2,000 Class 8 battery-electric trucks last year. But sales fell far short because of a lack of charging infrastructure.
“We had in our mind the market demand was going to be X based on discussions with customers,” CEO John O’Leary told reporters in a roundtable Tuesday before the opening of the Manifest supply chain conference.
“We installed the capacity and then, all of a sudden, [it was] ‘Whoa, wait a minute. I know I told you I wanted 200 in 2023. How about if I take 25 and push the rest out?’”
So, even early adopters like Schneider, UPS and Sysco Inc. — which in May placed an order for up to 800 eCascadias through 2026 — ended up with just a handful of second-generation trucks capable of a typical single-charge range of 230 miles.
Delays and difficulties of charging infrastructure
On-site charging infrastructure is a long and complicated process that can take up to a year to install at a fleet’s depot. Several startups plan public charging networks and truck-as-a-service operations that include a truck, maintenance and charging. But current availability is scarce.
Federal money to help build a charging network focuses mostly on passenger cars, which approached a record 10% of new car sales in 2022. Two major truck stop groups — Pilot Co. with General Motors and TravelCenters of America with Electrify America — plan large installations of charging at their locations. But most aim at light vehicles.
Daimler’s $650 million public truck charging partnership with BlackRock Renewable Power and NextEra Energy Resources is seeking a separate leadership team, which is delaying most details of the so-called Project Juno. The effort focuses on charging in California, Texas and Florida.
Acceptance by early customers for the eCascadia is strong. Production of the Class 6 eM2 box truck begins later this year. Both were tested for more than two years in California by Penske Truck Leasing and NFI Industries.
“People that have them love them,” O’Leary said. “They just have to figure out how to charge them.” Part of that is familiarity.
“The powertrain is different, but the rest of the truck is tried and true,” he said. “Everyone knows what they’re looking at. It’s not something that’s just been invented by some startup company. It’s in service today.”
Chip shortages easing
On other matters, the Daimler Truck executive said:
- Industry sales of new trucks should remain on par with 2022, boosted by pent-up demand for new vehicles that manufacturers were unable to produce in recent years because of supply chain disruptions and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Supplies of microprocessing chips, the leading cause of slowed production, have improved to the point where Daimler is able to secure through normal channels about 95% of the chips it needs.
- Daimler’s new service partnership with Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores will make it easier for owners to get warranty work and light maintenance done on Freightliner products. It is Love’s second such arrangement with an OEM following a 2019 partnership with Navistar International.
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Daimler’s electric trucks cross 1 million real-world driving miles
Million-mile tested Freightliner eCascadia goes into production
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