Tesla Semi rival Daimler on electric trucks: ‘The best battery solution is going to win’

[Credit: mirks_idk/Instagram]

Amidst the emergence of all-electric long-haulers like the Tesla Semi, an established brand is adopting an optimistic stance about the trucking industry’s upcoming electrification. During a recent media roundtable at the American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exhibition, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America Roger Nielsen stated that the industry’s transition towards electrification is happening at a “greater speed than expected.”

Daimler is no stranger to the idea of using electric trucks as a viable alternative to diesel-powered vehicles. Last June, Daimler took the wraps off the all-electric Freightliner eCascadia heavy-duty, which has a range of 250 miles per charge and the capability to be charged to 80% in 90 minutes. The company also unveiled the mid-duty Freightliner eM2, which offers a 230-mile range and the ability to recharge 80% of its battery in 60 minutes.

Daimler Trucks’ line-up of commercial electric vehicles (from left to right): Freightliner eM2, Freightliner eCascadia, Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley, FUSO eCanter [Credit: Daimler North America]

Tesla has not released the actual specs of its battery for the Semi, though Elon Musk noted that the company would be launching two versions of the vehicle — a 500-mile long range variant and a 300-mile short range version. Musk’s later statements teased improvements to the Semi’s range as well, with the CEO stating that the vehicle would likely have closer to 600 miles of range per charge. When asked by reporters about his stance on the Tesla Semi, Nielsen noted that battery quality and energy consumption would be the determining factor in the emerging electric truck market.

“The best battery solution is going to win. It’s all about energy consumption,” he said, according to Fleet Owner.

That said, the Daimler executive remains optimistic about the German legacy carmaker’s chances in the electric truck industry. Nielsen, for one, noted that he believes Daimler would have the highest number of electric trucks in the commercial trucking segment by 2020. Apart from this, Nielsen also stated that Daimler’s offerings could have an edge against the Tesla Semi, since customers would likely opt for electric vehicles that are similar to trucks they are already familiar with. With this in mind, Nielsen believes that the Freightliner eCascadia and the eM2 would probably perform very well.

“That helps create a smooth transition from a diesel-powered truck to an electric-powered truck,” Nielsen said.

While the Tesla Semi is yet to enter production, the all-electric long-hauler has the potential to be a serious disruptor in the trucking industry. The vehicle’s range and performance, coupled with the support of the upcoming Megacharger Network, would allow the vehicle to be competitive even against diesel-powered semi-trailers. Tesla is also in the process of improving the Semi, as noted by the company’s President of Automotive Jerome Guillen during the second quarter earnings call.

“Obviously, it’s going to be better than what we showed last year. There is a lot of improvements,” he said.

Tesla has so far been tight-lipped about the Semi’s improvements since its launch last year, though recently published patents have teased a number of compelling features that might make it to the vehicle. Last month, for example, a patent for an automatic tire inflation system for the Semi was published. While the ATIS would likely be used initially for the Semi, the feature could pave the way for the off-road capabilities of Tesla’s other vehicles, such as the Tesla pickup truck, the Model Y, and the Model X.

Tesla Semi rival Daimler on electric trucks: ‘The best battery solution is going to win’
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