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Electric truck development will be a blend of the old and the new

Oct. 31, 2018
The new market entrants will put pressure on the established truck makers to speed up development so they don't get left behind and the existing truck makers will put pressure on the newbies to spend some time learning about the ins and outs of the trucking industry.

One of the most interesting things about the development of battery electric vehicles for commercial applications is the number of companies that are now in the market.

Sure many of them are businesses we are familiar with such as Daimler, Volvo, FordNavistar and Isuzu, and component manufacturers such as DanaEaton and Meritor, to name a few. But there are hosts of companies that until now have not staked a claim in the trucking industry: Names like Chanje, BYD, Einride, Motiv, Tesla, Thor, etc.

Established companies understand the ins and outs of the trucking industry, but can be slower to respond and react when it comes to introducing new technology. New market entrants and start-ups are usually more agile, but they may not fully understand the nuances of an industry. In the case of trucking, it can be a problem especially if they view trucks simply as big cars.

I think the combination of the old and new will ultimately be a wonderful thing. The new market entrants will put pressure on the established truck makers to speed up development so they don't get left behind and the existing truck makers will put pressure on the newbies to spend some time learning about the ins and outs of the trucking industry to help ensure their products will be viable in the trucking environment.

It is too early to predict who will win the market. Will it be someone who takes an existing diesel powered vehicle and reconfigures it to operate on electric power? Or will it be someone that develops a purpose-built battery electric vehicle  — the clean sheet of paper approach?

This will not be viewed as a popular answer, but if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the winner being some combination between the historic knowledge of the old guard and the agility of the newbies to develop the right solution. Like lots of things in trucking, the success of battery electric vehicles will come about with all of us working together. NACFE is here to help. Contact us whichever camp you’re in!

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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