YOUNTVILLE, CA. It was only two trucks, but for those involved in reaching this moment, they represent the start of a technological revolution for the trucking industry.
During a small ceremony at Cliff Lede Vineyards on Aug. 20, Daimler Trucks North America officially delivered a battery-electric Freightliner eCascadia both to Penske Truck Leasing and NFI.
Richard Howard, DTNA’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, called the event “a historic moment," which Andreas Juretzka, head of Daimler's e-mobility group, pointed out was about 18 months in the making.
An emotional Sid Brown, CEO of NFI, called his first ride in the truck a “mind-blowing” moment. His brother and co-owner, Ike Brown, were among the other NFI executives at the event.
The battery-electric Class 8 truck, equipped with numerous advanced safety technologies, marks “the beginning of a sea change” in how companies look at running their businesses, Sid Brown said.
With 95% of NFI drivers returning home every night, Brown said the company's electric trucks make particular sense for his company. He also said electric trucks will need less total maintenance, which should help the industry overcome a shortage of technicians.
Earlier in August, DTNA announced production of these two trucks had been completed. They are part of Freightliner’s Electric Innovation Fleet and both companies plan to use the vehicles to test the integration of battery electric trucks into large-scale fleet operations.
NFI and Penske will take delivery of 30 battery electric trucks. Penske ranks No. 4 and NFI is No. 38 on the 2019 Fleet Owner 500 rankings of the largest for-hire carriers.
Penske will run eCascadias in daily delivery operations within California’s Inland Empire. President and CEO Brian Hard said the first one will be used by Penske Logistics to make multiple, daily store deliveries on a dedicated route.
“Our in-house maintenance technicians are trained and well prepared, and our recent investments in charging infrastructure in the South Coast Air Basin will play an important role as we operate these cutting edge vehicles on their delivery routes,” said Hard.
NFI plans to use the eCascadias in drayage operations at both the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA.
“We are excited to be one of first to deploy the eCascadia into our operations ... [and] look forward to continuing to invest in new technology and equipment to operate more efficiently, and to do our part in creating cleaner communities,” said Brown.
The Freightliner Innovation Fleet is supported by a partnership between DTNA and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which provided a grant of nearly $16 million.
“We are excited to be a part of this ground-breaking project that will directly impact local Southern California communities, especially those disproportionately impacted by air pollution,” said Wayne Nastri, South Coast AQMD’s executive officer. “We hope to see larger scale deployments of similar zero emission trucks that will have significant environmental and health benefits across the entire state.”
The Freightliner eCascadia is built on the foundation of the diesel-powered Cascadia. DTNA is planning to begin series production of the eCascadia and medium-duty eM2 in 2021.