ANAHEIM, Calif. — A year after starting regular production of its Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia battery-electric truck, Daimler Truck North America will build the eM2 medium-duty model this fall. It plans for utility bucket trucks and other vocational applications after starting with straight trucks.
The launch of the Class 6 eM2 was delayed by supply chain disruptions. But DTNA applied much of what it learned from the second-generation eCascadia daycab. That sometimes meant operating from 5 feet away because of social distancing during the COVID pandemic.
Penske Truck Leasing operated 10 first-generation Freightliner eM2s for pickup and delivery in Southern California from 2020 through 2022. They contributed to more than 1.5 million miles accumulated by eCascadias used in drayage operations by NFI Industries. DTNA based the second-generation eM2 on the redesigned diesel-powered M2 Plus now in production.
Driving in near silence
Behind the wheel in the parking lot of Angels Stadium on Sunday, the eM2 straight truck quietly navigated a course intended to show its two-speed acceleration, maneuverability and graduated slowing through three increasingly aggressive regenerative braking settings. Regenerative braking captures heat generated in braking and returns it to the battery.
An electro-hydraulic system allowed effortless steering on the course. Only the occasional hiss of air brakes releasing betrayed a common trucking sound.
Choice of 1 motor or 2 in Freightliner eM2
For pickup and delivery applications, the eM2 has a typical range of 180 miles for the Class 6 version. It will reach 250 miles for Class 7. The range difference is simple math. Class 6 have six packs; Class 7 has nine. The Class 6 truck has a single motor with a 194-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery. Class 7 has two motors with up to 255 continuous horsepower enabled by a 291-kWh battery.
The eM2 powertrain comes from DTNA’s Detroit technology unit. It features a proprietary fully integrated ePowertrain including eAxles and batteries. The lack of a drivetrain and other mechanical components allows the electric motors and transmission to be directly added to the drive axles.
An electric power takeoff option allows the eM2 to operate as a refrigerated truck, running on energy from the high-voltage battery.
Safety features carry over from other Freightliner models
DTNA applied the Detroit Assurance safety suite to the eM2. It includes features more often associated with passenger cars like adaptive cruise control to 0 mph; lane departure warning; and intelligent high-beams that sense oncoming traffic and reset automatically. Wipers and headlamps also adjust automatically.
More truck-specific safety features include active brake assist, tailgate warning and side guard assist that audibly alerts the driver when a pedestrian or other vehicle is alongside the truck but uncaptured by side mirrors.
DTNA’s Detroit Connect offers real-time charging and battery-health data. It also helps fleet managers plan new routes with real-time range prediction, automatic traffic, weather and topography. The system collects data for post-trip analysis reports. Fleets can coach drivers to maximize energy efficiency and battery life.
Freightliner has vocational ambitions for eM2
DTNA wants the eM2 to seamlessly work for vocational customers. Because there is no 80 years of experience with electric vocational trucks that DTNA has with traditionally powered models, the company is co-creating with companies like Altec Industries, which upfits utility bucket trucks.
“We think about the eCascadia. In that case, that driver is a driver for a living,” said Brian Daniels, DTNA vice president of vocational national accounts. “That is not the case with this truck. That person driving this truck is a lineman for a living. They know that bucket very well. They know what they’re repairing very well. Their key focus isn’t the operation of the vehicle.”
A pre-production eM2 bucket truck features an external display that shows how much battery power remains to operate the bucket and get the truck to its home base.
“The more range anxiety and bucket anxiety we can reduce, the more we can allow the operator to focus on the job that they are there to do,” Daniels said.
Little things matter
Little things are huge in making an electric truck platform work, said Frank Dean, business development manager for Altec’s Green Fleet.
“The prepunch frame holes are big for us because we’re trying to implement manufacturing efficiencies. And they worked with us on that,” he said. “If their hardware and batteries were obstructing where we put our batteries, that would limit what Altec aerial models we could select.”
Working on the electric power takeoff for operating the hydraulic bucket was “one of the core tenets for the creation of this model,” Dean said.
Completing an electric portfolio
The unveiling of the production-intent eM2 completed Daimler’s lineup of commercial trucks converting the Class 4-8 segments. At the lower classes, Daimler Asia will import a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi eCanter. It will be sold under the new Rizon brand beginning in the fourth quarter.
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