Electric & Fuel Cell Trucks Highlighted at Show
The 2017 ACT Expo, held earlier this month (May 1-4, 2017) in Long Beach, California, has always had the promotion of advanced clean transportation (hence it’s title) as its main focus. In the past, that focus has meant natural gas as the main alternative to diesel or gasoline in medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
This year’s show saw more buzz about electric and fuel cell trucks than in the past as some major companies are entering the market and several smaller ones have products in development.
BYD Electric Trucks
Top of the list is the Chinese automotive manufacturer BYD, best known in the U.S. for being 10 percent owned by Warren Buffet. The company, which started life as a battery company, has seen some success in China selling a variety of electric and non-electric cars. It is staking its future on electric power, showing a fully electric Class 8 refuse truck chassis at ACT Expo. The company also showcased a 60-foot articulated battery-powered transit bus (that model complements the company’s 30-, 35- and 40-foot buys currently available). Finally, BYD also showed a Class 8 battery electric terminal tractor.
BYD pitched its electric models as capable of functioning alongside diesel or CNG models while saving on operating costs.
Kenworth Tests Two
Another major U.S truck manufacturer, Kenworth, used ACT Expo to announce its plans to build and test two variations of zero or near-zero emission heavy-duty trucks for port use. One will feature a fuel cell power train from Ballard creating electricity for a fuel-rotor electric motor. The second prototype will use a Cummings Westport ISL G near-zero ISL G natural gas engine to generate electricity for an electric motor the powers the truck. Both of these trucks are expected to be in operation in the fourth quarter of 2017 in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
This comes on the heels of Toyota showing off a Class 8 truck powered by a scaled up version of the fuel cell pack from Toyota’s Mirai sedan. Another fuel cell big rig from US Hybrid was also showcased at the 2017 ACT Expo.
Workhorse Shows Two
A startup company, Workhorse, also grabbed some headlines at ACT Expo. The busy company introduced a prototype plug-in hybrid pickup, along with a partnership with Ryder System on that pickup and also announced orders for separate electric delivery vans for UPS that are designed to work with drones for the final step of package delivery. Workhorse introduced the W-15 plug-in hybrid half-ton pickup and said that it had received more than 2,150 letters of intent to buy the vehicle, which will feature an 80-mile all-electric range. The company also announced it has delivered a hydrogen fuel cell-powered chassis for a DOE (Department of Energy) project.
UPS also showed off its first hydrogen fuel cell-powered Class 6 delivery vehicle, which will be deployed in Sacramento, Calif., to validate its design and performance. If that initial deployment is successful, additional trucks will be built.
At Clean Fleet Report we don’t believe there is any point in going in depth on the details on these prototype and future potential vehicles. The path to this point is littered with companies with stories similar to those above, all of which never reached a point of becoming a successful vehicle or company. The point is not whether technologies like fuel cells or battery power or plug-in technology can be applied in the heavy-duty truck segment, but whether these advanced technologies can be commercially viable. We’re not saying we have yet reached a tipping point in a shift to heavy-duty electric vehicles, but the movement and advances in that area reached a high water mark at the 2017 ACT Expo.
That said, we’ll be following these developments closely and will report on those vehicles and companies which have news, keeping in mind the bigger picture of both the overall market and how these new technologies might find a home there.