Closer look: An electric-power truck from a global diesel leader

Aug. 30, 2017
Though a sudden downpour tangled its "sneak peek" unveiling a bit, it couldn't dampen onlookers' enthusiasm for the AEOS all-electric Class 7 truck Cummins, Inc. showed off Tuesday at its Technical Center in Columbus, IN. Here's a look around the tractor, inside the cab and beneath that aero-looking hood and more detail on the AEOS's advanced technologies.

Though a sudden downpour tangled its "sneak peek" unveiling a bit, it couldn't dampen onlookers' enthusiasm for the AEOS all-electric Class 7 truck Cummins, Inc. showed off Tuesday at its Technical Center in Columbus, IN.

When Cummins — a company that has built its global core business and reputation on diesel power — sets its sights on electric powertrains, people sit up and take notice. But with the growing momentum around the potential for electric commercial vehicles, what's the likelihood that this alternative power could make real inroads in North American trucking, where diesel is the undisputed king of over-the-road?

Julie Furber, executive director of Cummins' Electrification Business Development Initiative, noted the company has been testing out prototype electric and range-extended electric vehicles over the last decade. She conceded that electric power is likely to appear in other commercial vehicles before long-haul trucks.

Even so, the company believes there are applications for commercial electric powertrains that make sense today. "We see transit bus, we see underground mining, we see material handling and some other markets, and then it'll move into perhaps some municipal vehicles and school buses and things like that," she told Fleet Owner.  

"I think trucking will be a bit later. There are some things that have to advance for electric power in trucking to make sense," she added. Those include cost-effectiveness, where the cost of electric powertrain components needs to continue to drop, "which it is," Furber noted. And power density also needs to improve so that battery size and weight necessary to power something like a heavy duty truck is more compatible with trucking needs.

Still, "I think what you'll see is that fleets will have a mixed bag of powertrains in the end, where some of their missions which are more sensitive in terms of things like emissions [restricted] zones will be fully electric," Furber said. For other duty cycles or where range needs are greater, Cummins anticipates that electric powertrains will be range-extended — perhaps with downsized diesel engines to generate power when batteries are depleted — or will incorporate hybridized configurations.

The reality for North American trucking, though, is that "you'll still have long-haul trucks for many years to come that will be diesel-powered," Furber said.

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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