OEMs step up e-truck game

More details on two BEV freight contenders as OEMs vie for position in the battery electric long-haul market

OEMs step up e-truck game
The Mercedes-Benz eActros 600

Europe's biggest trucking firms have been showing off future products that aim to capture growing demand for all-electric solutions in the heavy-duty vehicle (HDV) segment. All of the continent's biggest players are intensifying their efforts, even if they continue to keep FCEV and e-fuel options open.

Mercedes-Benz Trucks, a subsidiary of Germany's Daimler Truck, premiered the eActros 600 at an event in Hamburg, Germany. The truck is designed to have a battery capacity of more than 600kWh and a range of 500km without intermediate charging.

Around 60pc of the long-distance journeys of Mercedes-Benz Trucks customers in Europe are shorter than 500 kilometers, the firm says. 

The eActros 600 can also be retrofitted with megawatt charging capability when the technology becomes widely available on charging networks. The batteries can be charged from 20pc to 80pc in c.30 minutes at a charging station with an output of 1MW.

Sales of the electric truck start this year, but mass production is slated only to begin at the end of 2024. 

“The eActros 600…is characterised by highly innovative drive technology that can offer our customers particularly high energy efficiency and thus profitability. This makes entry into e-mobility even more attractive for fleet operators,” says Karin Radstrom, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Trucks.

The firm predicts the truck will already be at cost parity with diesel trucks over a five year period in countries like France and Germany that have low electricity prices and well-funded incentive programmes. 

With the current European energy mix, the eActros 600 achieves CO2 savings of c.40pc over the entire product life cycle compared to a diesel Actros of similar size. With fully renewable energies, this figure would rise to more than 80 pc, according to the firm.


Meanwhile in the US, the North America arm of Sweden's Volvo Trucks has unveiled its Super Truck 2. The truck is a concept design and will not be commercially available — although it will be used to inform the construction of Volvo’s other products, including the VNL line.

“The Super Truck programme…provides an exciting opportunity to push the technology envelope to see what is technically possible for heavy-duty transportation and which solutions can be scaled into production, but equally important, which solutions do not work for scaled production,” says Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America. “Some of the technologies on Super Truck 2 will most certainly shape the future of trucking and change everything we once thought possible.”

The truck was a response to a Department of Energy (DOE) public private partnership challenge for class 8 heavy-duty long-haul vehicle manufacturers to improve their freight efficiency by 100 per cent over a 2009 baseline, and demonstrate a minimum 55pc engine brake thermal efficiency (BTE).

Volvo set its own internal target of a 120pc improvement in freight efficiency and eventually achieved a 132pc improvement, with testing carried out in a real world environment. 

Improving aerodynamics was the key to optimising fuel efficiency. There were three main improvements that contributed to the aerodynamics of the truck: the design of the raked and curved windshield, the design of the hood with a downsized cooling system and the design of the trailer with gap fairings, skirts and boat tail.

The entire tractor trailer combination has 50pc lower drag than Volvo Trucks’ 2009 baseline, the firm says.

The DOE Super Truck 2 scheme kicked off in 2016 with Volvo and three other participants — Daimler, a collaboration between Us engine firm Cummins and e-truck pure play Peterbilt, and Navistar, a subsidiary of Germany's Volkswagen Group — each tasked with producing new technology. 

Daimler released its version of the truck in February. It did not provide a precise figure but said it had doubled the freight efficiency of the base vehicle from the start of the Super Truck programme, adding that the truck "surpassed expectations" in aerodynamics, tyres, powertrain and energy management.

Cummins achieved a 55 per cent engine brake thermal efficiency with a version of the truck in 2021, although the release did not mention a freight efficiency figure. Navistar released its version earlier this year claiming a 170pc improvement in freight efficiency.

The DOE has now launched its Super Truck 3 scheme, which will provide $100 million in funding over four years for firms pioneering electrified medium- and heavy-duty trucks and freight system concepts that achieve even higher efficiency and lower emissions.

Making progress

All of Europe's truck OEMs are pushing forward with BEV plans. Just last month, Volvo began mass production of e-trucks in Ghent, Belgium, marking its third European facility as well as one in the US.

Daimler began mass production of the original eActros in its Stuttgart plant as far back as February last year. The Mercedes-Benz eEconic followed at the same location in July 2022.

And in April this year, it launched a new US subsdiary under the Rizon brand. It is a BEV pure play, initially targeting the Group 4 and 5 medium-duty segment.

German peer VW Group has also not been left behind. In March 2022, its Traton truck arm pledged to invest €2.6bn ($2.76bn) in e-mobility research and development by 2026, up from a previous target of €1.5bn by 2025.

This commitment has been manifest in progress at both its Man and Scania brands. The former trumpeted customer wins for its new e-truck arriving in 2024 from logistics firms DB Schenker in January and Duvenbeck in May.

By July, it was celebrating more than 500 order enquiries received. It has also been boosted by almost €25mn in Bavarian state government funding for battery pack production at its Nuremburg site.

Its sister firm Scania began battery assembly at its Swedish headquarters in Sodertalje last month. It has also been enjoying e-truck customer wins this year, including in Mexico in April and in the UK in July.

Also in July, Italy's Iveco unwound a partnership agreement with US start-up Nikola so that it can sell BEV and FCEV HDVs under its own brand. Earlier in the same month, it announced that its all-electric light commercial vehicle Iveco eDaily had claimed a world record for "heaviest weight towed by an electric van".

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