A few days in Germany revealed an inconvenient truth about the real use of electric and hydrogen trucks. Inadequate infrastructure, driver shortages and road congestion will prevent significant expansion in the future.

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The push of reality electric truck

A visit to DB Schenker’s aging freight distribution center outside Frankfurt, Germany, brought electric trucks into reality. The near giddiness surrounding the demonstration of electric and hydrogen batteries this week at IAA Transportation 2022 is a far cry from the reality of their operation.

In several exhibition halls in Hanover, the world’s truck manufacturers showed electric models to the pulsating bass rhythms common to techno-pop dance clubs.

Long-haul and medium-duty trucks, fuel cells, advanced batteries, and even last-mile electric bikes all replaced each other on small stages as part of corporate displays. Debuts took place in the form of scripted 20-minute press conferences. Executives displayed varying levels of aplomb in reading from the teleprompter.

A clear theme emerged. The time of electric trucks has come. The environment cannot wait.

But, apparently, it will have to.

Lots of problems

Representatives of the Schenker plant explain the mystery of charging 172 electric cars located in 14 countries.

The second-generation eCanter from Daimler Truck-owned Mitsubishi Fuso will not enter the U.S. market after the 2020 release of the Fuso. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Installing DC fast chargers in places like Frankfurt will jeopardize the flow of electricity to homes and businesses. Schenker operates more Mitsubishi Fuso eCanter electric trucks than anyone else in the world. They are charged only at night, when the load on the network is minimal.

Drivers are asked to increase the range between charges. They feel anxious because of traffic jams, which are exacerbated by narrow streets. This requires careful choreography and planning to avoid getting stuck in traffic with a dead battery.

The second-generation eCanter, presented in Hannover, offers three sizes of batteries for multiple use. This will solve the range problems when the Daimler Truck subsidiary starts production in Japan next year. (The eCanter retired from the US market in 2020, and Daimler has no plans to import a new version anytime soon.)

None of this addresses the very real shortage of drivers — estimated at 100,000 across the continent — and exacerbated recently by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many Ukrainian men left their jobs as drivers to fight.

At the Schenker plant, the new eActros 300 from Mercedes-Benz Trucks poses among interchangeable bodies that look like intermodal freight containers. They transfer from truck to truck during the day. Almost all of these trucks run on diesel.

Trucks and swap bodies at the DB Schenker logistics center in Frankfurt, Germany.
eActros 300 from Mercedes-Benz Trucks at the DB Schenker logistics center in Frankfurt. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

What-if scenario

European Iveco and its joint venture partner Nikola Corp. requested back-to-back press conferences for their Monday revelations.

Iveco has introduced a hydrogen fuel cell version of its Daily van. This is the second fruit of the partnership with the Korean Hyundai Motor Corp. Earlier this year, Hyundai began supplying Iveco buses with a fuel cell system from its Xcient electric truck. (Thirty Xcients are arriving for U.S. testing next year at the Port of Oakland, with five more in Southern California.)

Iveco CEO Gareth Marks praised autonomous truck software developer Plus. Iveco and Plus are testing the Iveco Level 4 autonomous truck, which runs on natural gas, on European Level 2 motorways with a safe driver on board.

Given the alliance, it re-introduces the question: Could the Plus technology that was tested on the Iveco S-Way find its way into the S-Way-based Nikola Tre? The what-if scenario emerged when Iveco’s parent company, CNH Industrial, was shopping the Iveco to potential buyers, including the China First Automobile Factory (FAW). China’s largest truck manufacturer has a manufacturing joint venture with Plus.

“It’s a very interesting and important topic for us,” Nikola President and future CEO Michael Loescheler told FreightWaves after he revealed the hoodless Tre fuel cell version that will be produced in the U.S. in the second half of 2023. and then in Europe. later. “It is an advantage that Iveco has the partnership.”

Loescheler said Nikola is talking to several autonomous transportation companies about working together.

“More to come,” he said.

Michael Loescheler, president of Nikola Motors, on stage at IAA Transportation in Hanover, Germany.
Michael Loescheler, president and future CEO of Nikola, presented the production of the Tre fuel cell truck at the IAA Transportation 2022 event in Hannover, Germany. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

More from IAA Transportation 2022 …

Interesting lack of capitalization in cellcentric

Why is Daimler Truck Volvo Group’s joint venture on fuel cells spelled with a lowercase C? It has more to do with branding than trying to be cool. It turns out that CellCentric is the name of a British biotech company working on cancer cures.

The fuel cell version of the cellcentric was launched in 2021 when Volvo paid $600 million for 50% of the venture and Daimler’s decades of expertise it transferred from cars to trucks. Daimler CEO Martin Daum explained that fuel cell development is too expensive to do alone, and Volvo was looking for a partner to get in on the game.

Volvo said this week that it will begin testing battery fuel cells in 2025. Daimler plans to begin testing its GenH2 truck with customers next year. In Daimler’s case, its fuel cell is actually a parallel hybrid that switches between running on batteries and running on hydrogen depending on terrain and other usage factors.

Corporate relocation the blues

Nikola’s head of global manufacturing, Mark Duchesne, is going through one of those corporate moves that give relocations a bad name.

With the second phase of Nicola’s new plant in Coolidge, Arizona, underway, Duchesne felt it was time to put down roots and buy a house in the Phoenix area after a two-year lease.

Then Nikola bought battery supplier Romeo Power. Since Romeo is based in Cypress, California, Dachesne has been deployed to Orange County, where his expertise is needed to provide packaging supplies as Nicola looks to ramp up production of Tre’s battery-electric trucks, which are currently running three trucks a day.

The house that Duchesne and his wife bought in Arizona is now rented out.

Mark Duchesne, head of global production at Nikola Corp.
Mark Duchesne, head of global manufacturing at Nikola, spends much of his time shaping the company’s recent acquisition of battery pack maker Romeo Power. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Another zero-emission experiment comes to an end

California’s subsidized hydrogen fuel cell trucks between Toyota and Kenworth are ending after four years of testing.

If Kenworth continues to work on fuel cells, it could become a customer for Toyota, which plans to start manufacturing the stacks at its Kentucky plant next year. Kenworth, a Paccar Inc. company, touts fuel cells as a zero-emissions lever for long-haul trucking. It is not yet known what it will look like and when to expect it.

Two Kenworth T680s powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Kenworth T680 is equipped with fuel cells from Toyota Mirai passenger cars. (Photo: Toyota)

“The potential for this technology to replace higher-emission powertrains is real and supports both regulatory and public initiatives to combat climate change while helping us achieve our own carbon neutrality goals,” Andrew Lund, Chief Engineer, Toyota advanced technology with zero emissions. product planning, said in a news release.

The Shore to Store Zero and Near Zero Emission Freight Facilities (ZANZEFF) project has received a $41 million grant from the California Air Resources Board.

Using Shell’s hydrogen fuel cell-equipped T680 has traveled over 300 miles at a full load of up to 82,000 pounds with no downtime between shifts and 15 to 20 minutes of refueling.

Although the project was officially completed under the code name Ocean, several trucks will remain in use for demonstration or as work trucks, including one that will continue to support Toyota’s operations at the Port of Los Angeles.

Separately, Volvo Trucks in August wound down its multi-year Volvo LIGHTS electric truck demonstration program involving several partners.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Click here to receive Truck Tech by email on Fridays.



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