Published on June 12th, 2017 | by Steve Hanley
Mercedes Electric Truck Initiative Is Picking Up Speed
Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, decided to invest in the global truck business at the beginning of the 21st century. Today, it has 5 brands in its portfolio — Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Freightliner Trucks, Mitsubishi FUSO, Western Star, and BharatBenz. Freightliner has a 40% share of the heavy truck market in the US. But Tesla is planning to disrupt that market with the Tesla Semi electric truck due to be unveiled in September.
Marc Llistosella, Head of Daimler Trucks Asia, isn’t worried. He told the press this week, “In trucks, of course [Elon Musk’s] stepping into it, but we don’t see him as someone who is threatening us because you need a whole infrastructure. You need dealerships, you need infrastructure, you need maintenance.
“It’s not so easy, like a consumer good. It’s an industrial good, so it will be very difficult for him. In class 8, with Freightliner, we are the #1 in America, so we have something to defend,” Llistosella said. “In the smaller ones, the game is just starting.”
Freightliner concentrates on the big rigs that haul cargo from ports to urban distribution centers. Mitsubishi Fuso focuses on the smaller light- to medium-duty delivery trucks that bring consumer goods from warehouses to local stores. It sells its products in 172 countries around the world.
Daimler showed off its eCanter, a light duty electric truck, at an industry trade show last September. Since then, it has accumulated 37,000 miles of testing on public roads in Germany and in Portugal. The company says it will be a limited-production run for customers in Tokyo, Lisbon, and New York later this year. Full production is targeted for 2019, the same year the Tesla Semi is due to arrive on the market.
The eCanter has a range of about 60 miles — more than adequate for urban deliveries. It can be recharged in about an hour using fast-charging equipment. Daimler is also testing its medium duty Urban eTruck in Germany, a vehicle it plans to bring to market in 2020.
Freight companies don’t care a pfennig about saving the world. They care about delivering cargo at the lowest possible cost. With the price of battery packs still hovering around $400 per kWh for most companies, that presents a significant challenge. Tesla’s batteries are reportedly far below that price.
Unlike private car owners, however, commercial operators expect their vehicles to last at least a decade, if not two. The total cost of owning an electric truck can be significantly lower than a diesel-powered truck once lower costs of maintenance and fuel are factored in. Charging equipment is usually installed at the terminal, where the trucks can recharge after they are done with their normal route, rather than out in the community.
“We said, ‘just do a truck.’ Other companies are doing the same, let’s do it right. Let’s be a frontrunner in something,” Llistosella, who is also CEO of Mitsubishi FUSO, said. He may not be worried about Elon Musk, but that’s what a lot of car company CEOs have said in the past few years. In the meantime, Tesla’s market capitalization has zoomed past Ford, General Motors, and BMW. Best not to be too smug, Mr. Llistosella.
Source: Business Insider