LONG BEACH, California— Freightliner Trucks’ new battery-electric eCascadia represents a “significant milestone" in Daimler Truck North America's transformation journey, Rakesh Aneja, VP and chief of eMobility at DTNA, explained during the 2022 Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo here. That transformation also involves helping solve the single largest hurdle of widespread commercial vehicle electrification—charging infrastructure.
Freightliner, a division of DTNA, will begin series production of the eCascadia this year. With a typical range of up to 230 miles depending on vehicle configurations and other conditions, the eCascadia is suited for short-haul routes that allow for depot-based charging, including last-mile logistics, local and regional distribution, drayage, and warehouse-to-warehouse applications.
During a May 9 press conference at ACT Expo, Andreas Juretzka, senior product development lead for DTNA, said the OEM collected learnings and customer feedback for more than 1 million miles since 2018 to ensure fleet needs are met before entering series production.
“I am extremely enthusiastic to electrify our portfolio,” said David Carson, SVP of Daimler Truck North America. “Our company is bullish on the opportunity, and our engineers are making it a reality for every segment we serve. But the truth is it will take some time for the technology to catch up to the demands of all those applications.”
“No larger roadblock exists than the lack of infrastructure and the inability of the grid in its current state to support the demand that will come with so many electric trucks on the road,” Carson added.
Designed for a full integration with the eCascadia, Detroit’s ePowertrain provides two e-axle designs, including a dual motor with max torque of 23,000 lb.-ft. and max power of 395 hp., and a single motor featuring a max torque of 11,500 lb.-ft. and max power of 195 hp.
The Detroit ePowertrain also offers three battery options for a range of sizes and average, zero-to-full charging times starting with 194 kWh (one and a half to three hours), 291 kWh (two to four hours), and 438 kWh (two to six hours).
The ePowertrain produces less heat than a traditional combustion engine, so temperature and packaging requirements for cooling are minimized, DTNA pointed out. The eCascadia comes with closed hood vents and a new grille, which reduces drag by forcing more air around the vehicle as opposed to pulling it through the radiator.
Additional aero improvements are available in the Aero-X package, standard on the 6x4 model, and include front wheel well closeouts, air skirts under the high voltage battery impact protection panels, quarter fenders with aero spoilers, and drive wheel fairings.
Detroit Connect eServices that have been developed for the eCascadia include an in-house Charger Management System (CMS) integrated into the Detroit Connect portal. CMS provides reports about depot utilization, data for grant compliance, and low carbon fuel standard credit reporting.
Additionally, CMS allows for staggered charging of multiple vehicles, charging during off-peak-demand hours, and partial charging.
An eRange prediction tool automatically calculates and displays range over the course of a proposed trip. The tool analyzes multiple data inputs, including vehicle parameters, load, weather, traffic, and road gradient. The prediction tool also allows for testing of “what-if” scenarios and performs analysis, DTNA noted.
Battery health monitoring tracks and gives visibility into the eCascadia battery’s state-of-health percentage, state-of-charge percentage, remaining range miles, and charging status. Post-trip analysis gives information to improve the eCascadia’s performance, utilization, and driver training.
Initial release of the CMS will occur in Q4 2022, with additional features introduced in 2023.
Detroit Connect’s traditional features, including remote updates to reduce the need to stop and physically connect the vehicle to initiate firmware updates, are also available on the new eCascadia. When an issue is identified, Detroit Connect Virtual Technician sends an alert via email or the Detroit Connect Portal about the severity of the fault and how to resolve it.
For a critical fault, Virtual Technician transmits data directly to the Detroit Customer Support Center for analysis and support. A follow-up notification will outline the cause of the critical fault, recommend parts to fix the problem, and provide the nearest service locations with the correct parts in stock.
Freightliner’s electric Class 8 also comes equipped with sensors throughout the vehicle to detect a collision and automatically open the electrical circuit for the high voltage system, shutting down the batteries and e-axle to avoid risk of electric shock or thermal event.
The eCascadia comes standard with Detroit Assurance’s Active Brake Assist 5.0 (ABA 5) to mitigate potential collisions by calculating the truck’s speed and distance to other vehicles to determine if a warning or braking action is needed.
The release of the series production eCascadia marks the debut of a new Detroit Assurance safety feature: active side guard assist (ASGA). This technology engages at urban speeds (12 mph or less) to mitigate the truck from making a right turn when a moving cyclist or pedestrian is detected on the passenger side of the truck. ASGA applies automatic braking along with visual and auditory warnings aimed to help protect pedestrians on the road.
Furthermore, the eCascadia will be the first version of Freightliner's Cascadia to come standard with active lane assist (ALA), which combines Level 2 automated driving with a suite of driver comfort features.
Additional standard features include brake hold mode, adaptive cruise control to 0 mph, intelligent high beams, automatic wipers/headlamps, tailgate warning, and lane departure warning. Optional features include forward-facing video capture, which utilizes a front-facing HD camera to record the truck’s activity on the road.
The eCascadia’s interior includes an ergonomic and modern wraparound dash, featuring a two-screen LCD digital display that provides the driver with customizable access to vehicle status information on the A-panel screen, and an infotainment B-panel screen featuring multimedia connections.
Transition to electric
Detroit eConsulting’s team, which has worked with nearly 40 Freightliner customers in the last several years, are informing fleets and dealers on right-sizing infrastructure, choosing ideal chargers, navigating rebates and incentives, site selection, connectivity insights, and photovoltaic and energy storage options.
Additionally, the Detroit eFill line of electric commercial vehicle chargers provide various commercial charger options for both customers and charging station operators. The first Detroit eFill chargers were deployed across California earlier this year by California Truck Centers.
The charger portfolio includes options for multiple needs, ranging from 60 to 240 kW all-in-one charging stations to scalable 360 kW power cabinets that break out to multiple dispensers. The eFill lineup will also soon include smaller, portable charging solutions for shop spaces and large-scale fleet-charging depots that can deliver up to 1.44 MW of charge power, the company stated.
Because lack of a publicly available, nationwide electric charging infrastructure for commercial vehicles remains a challenge, DTNA, with NextEra Energy Resources and BlackRock Renewable Power (BlackRock), laid the foundation at the beginning of the year for a future joint venture to design, develop, install, and operate a nationwide, high-performance charging network for medium- and heavy-duty battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the U.S. The sites will also be available for light-duty vehicles.
Start of operations for the future joint venture is planned for mid-2022. Initial funding is expected to make up about $650 million, divided equally among the three parties.
The parties plan to build a network of charging sites on critical freight routes along the East and West coasts and in Texas by 2026. The first phase of charging construction is set to begin in 2023.