Traditional Semi Truck Makers Face Extinction If They Don’t Go Electric

Toyota Project Portal Hydrogen Fuel Cell Semi Truck

SEP 1 2017 BY MARK KANE 24

As the plug-in light passenger vehicle market expands, electrification is now creeping into the trucking segment … and established commercial truck manufacturers are already feeling the pressure of upcoming disruption to their business..


Circle the date: Tesla Semi debuts September 28th, 2017

Popular industry website notes that Navistar, Paccar, and other traditional companies risk obsolescence if they don’t begin developments of electrified power-trains.

“That’s the assessment of analyst Alexander Potter from Piper Jaffray in a report released Tuesday for industry investors.

“Many stocks in our truck coverage are exposed to disruption. Other than Wabco and Tesla we don’t recommend buying any of them,” Potter said.

Venerable industry suppliers such as Navistar International Corp., Paccar Inc., Cummins Inc. and Allison Transmission Holdings are among the most “susceptible,” Potter wrote.”

Range is still a major issue for trucks, so the electrification has begin with smaller trucks with regional depots (equipped with charging stations), but there are new players on the horizon:

Daimler Fuso eCanter

Daimler Fuso eCanter

As we see it, electric trucks will probably follow in the foot steps of electric buses, which are already taking sales from traditional business manufacturers in California and other states.

EVs are still of course more expensive to initially buy, and have some range and charging issues, but the regular maintenance costs, and energy costs to operate are much, much lower. Also the driving experience is unparalleled.

As fleet managers and operators more and more see the operational benefits, the change (as with e-buses) will likely be swift when it arrives.

““Naturally the economics are different in other vocations, but as volume rises and prices fall toward parity, other segments should steadily embrace EV drivetrains, including school buses, refuse trucks, and urban delivery fleets, more-or-less in that order,” he said.”


Categories: Trucks


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24 Comments on "Traditional Semi Truck Makers Face Extinction If They Don’t Go Electric"

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There’s less of the FoxNews passion about gas cars when it comes to fleet management. If they see an electric truck is going to save their fleet money, gas powered trucks are toast. If they stick to gas then shareholders can demand to know why they wouldn’t switch to increase profits. It’s not going to be long before we see entire fleets of cars and trucks switching over, en masse.

Wow, is this just a wee bit premature?

The only market where medium or heavy BEV trucks are being sold successfully is in the “terminal truck” aka “yard mule” market, where they are used only for hauling semi trailers from one spot to another inside a freight terminal (or port).

If medium or heavy BEV trucks were economically competitive with diesel trucks for over-the-road freight hauling, then Smith Electric Vehicles wouldn’t have had to cease production. Unfortunately, they have had to due to low sales. 🙁

Tesla and Cummins showing prototypes which almost certainly are nothing but technology demonstrators don’t show that medium or heavy BEV freight trucks are economically competitive. And if I’m right in my prediction that neither of them is a production-intent prototype, then they are further evidence of exactly the opposite; evidence that it’s too soon for battery-electric vehicles to compete on cost with diesel trucks.

That said, I’m still eager to see what Tesla will show as its concept vehicle BEV semi truck this month!

“Wow, is this just a wee bit premature?”

In the words a a well known analyst:

“That’s the assessment of analyst Alexander Potter from Piper Jaffray in a report released Tuesday for industry investors.”

I guess if you are an analyst you can declare just about anything and ears pop up. LOL

A scientist doing the math on electric trucks. Worth a read.

great find!

It will come down to money, if they have lower costs then they will consider it.

It has some good points (how can IEA omit BEV trucks in a forecast that has year 2025 or even 2050 in it?), but once again (as is quite normal in those “we will be on the moon in 5 yrs” articles), it skips/ignores over quite a few things. Yes, there will be EV trucks, but even in 2025, they will probably be just starting, not a mainstream. It will take more time. Let’s take the very first picture “Diesel vs electric: cost/km”: Energy tax for looks to be ~$.26/km for ICE diesel in 2025, but for BEV, it is assumed to be ~$0.09/km? This assumption that the government will just allow tax revenue to disappear is just laughable. It will be replaced with GPS systems and per mile counting (e.g. look at Slovakia MYTO system ~€0.14/km and that is excluding fuel tax). I don’t know how exactly it works in Netherlands, but in my EU country, fuel tax+tolls collect ~9% of all tax revenues. The assumption that state will just allow it to disappear goes against the reason and recent development of EV fees in some states (e.g. HongKong Tesla surcharge, EV registration fees in various US states). Inertia… Read more »

“Tesla and Cummins showing prototypes which almost certainly are nothing but technology demonstrators”

That is not at all Tesla’s track record. They are not like the incumbent manufacturers that show off fancy ‘concept vehicles’. If they show a prototype the goal is to mass produce asap.

And that same track record has shown they can do that if they put their minds to it. And avoid ‘hubris’ ;).

I realize I’m sticking my neck out a bit by making that assertion. However, I don’t think I’m sticking it out very far. Carl Sagan famously said “Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.” In the strict scientific sense, that’s correct. But in the practical real-world sense of how a sizable business operates, it’s not. There were plenty of reports about how Tesla was developing the Model 3, and contracting with suppliers, and building out a gigantic Gigafactory to supply batteries for it. There were plenty of reports about Tesla hiring new employees to work on the Model 3 production line(s). There is absolutely nothing equivalent for any hypothetical production EV semi tractor from Tesla. Elon claiming that it would be mostly made out of Model 3 parts… how does that even make any sense? Tesla isn’t going to assemble a semi tractor body out of body parts for the Model 3! And where would Tesla get the batteries from? Gigafactory 1 is fully committed to supplying the Model 3, and eventually for the Models S and X. But where would the additional battery supply come from for the very large BEV semi battery packs? Reports are that Musk has… Read more »

Couldn’t Class 8 trucks go to scaled up Volt type drive trains and at least halve their fuel costs until batteries/charging stations could allow the generator to be removed entirely?


If it was me and someone said:

Design an EV truck that will be a good run against Tesla. I wouldn’t do a pure EV. I’d do a range extended EV Semi.

It would be quick and easy. A big battery with a 250 mile range and a diesel that runs on NG.

I’m not a Diesel fan unless we talk NG.

The CO2 foot print of such a semi would be good.

Plus you eliminate the need for a dedicated truck super charger network that need a 1 million $ power pack per station (napkin math PMPU).

At the risk of nitpicking, my Napkin Math 1.0 didn’t say anything about using a PowerPack for a charging station, nor claim a cost of $1 million per station. As a matter of fact, it didn’t even touch on the cost of installing a BEV semi charging station at all.

I could easily believe that a BEV truck stop might cost $1 million or more to construct; diesel truck stops can easily cost that much or more to build, and BEV truck stops may well be even more expensive. But that BEV truck stop would almost certainly be capable of charging more than 1 or 2 vehicles at once.

As much as I admire your posts in general, I believe you’re off base on this one. If I remember correctly, your back of the napkin math was based on reasoning by analogy.

You seemed to assume that the electric semi would operate very similarly to diesel semi’s. You can bet Tesla started over from first principles looking at anyway they could reduce cost per ton-mile.

In any event, we should know in four weeks time.

Well, I’ll re-post it here for your perusal. But in general, yes you’re correct that I based it on figures for diesel trucking, and then did some simple math to translate it over to a theoretical BEV truck. In fact, I labeled my analysis a “ballpark feasibility case”; I certainly wasn’t claiming my figures were that close to what an actual working BEV semi tractor would get. That said, I think it was quite useful; my analysis certainly has better data and more realistic/logical assumptions than many comparisons between diesel semi tractors and a hypothetical BEV semi tractor which I’ve seen posted with the past few months! Please also note that nowhere in my “Napkin Math 1.0” (not my label; someone else’s) do I claim this is what Tesla is going to do. I was trying for a general case analysis to see if it even made any sense for someone to try to make a commercial, long-range BEV semi tractor. This could fit a BEV tractor from Cummins as well as Tesla… or at least, it would if Cummins was going to show a Class 8 truck, and not the lighter Class 7 semi tractor which it is talking… Read more »

I think the applications named(school buses, trash trucks etc.) are actually overdue, any application where they stop and start often driving through neighborhoods. The shorter drives and regenerative braking advantages make it an ideal application. The post office tried it a while back but the tech wasn’t ready, it certainly is now!

Better late, than never.

Don’t forget postal delivery vehicles. I think they’re a prime candidate also.

There are already practical, working BEV trash trucks. I dunno how much of a market penetration they have made, but they do exist.

This one’s a PHEV with a gas turbine range extender:

Wow — “Heavy-duty rigs make up between 7 and 10 percent of vehicles on the road but consume more than *25* percent of the fuel”

Buh bye, diesel. I cant wait to watch the recalcitrant go bankrupt.

Going electric makes even more sense for trucks than cars. Energy is a much bigger part of total cost and it’s cut to a third or even a quarter by using electric propulsion. Maintenance also costs much more because trucks have much higher utilisation and there’s an income loss whenever it’s not in service. The impact on the environment is also greater, partly because trucks run in diesel rather than gasoline today.

Getting sufficient range requires big battery packs, very fast charging or battery swapping, or some combination of the above, or sacrificing utilisation and drive fewer hours and miles per day. It’s going to be exciting to see Tesla’s initial take at this!

Tesla might achieve 2.0 kWh/mile with super-streamlining. A similar diesel will get 8 mpg (Supertrucks do 10+, but some mods aren’t legal or practical).

2.0 kWh/mile is ~20 cents/mile electricity cost. Add 10 cents/mile battery degradation (3000 cycles is 1500 lifetime miles per $150 kWh) for 30 cents/mile total. Diesel is ~$2/gallon untaxed, so an 8 mpg super-streamlined semi is 25 cents/mile.

EV Semi should have lower maintenance and power train cost, but that’s offset by higher financing cost and lower payload.

Dynamic charging gives EV a small cost advantage because an ultra-life chemistry such as LTO reduces battery depreciation to 2 cents/mile. Financing and payload are better than diesel, instead of worse, so it ends up with a 5-10 cents/mile advantage. But only after we spend $20b on a national dynamic charging network. Don’t hold your breath.

The auto industry had their “Kodak Moment” in 2014 and most of them failed to act. Now the luxury car makers are losing share to Tesla, soon the mid-sized sedan market will feel the same. The trucking industry has had fair warning. They can respond or be a footnote in history:

Ok people.
Fact No.1 Tesla is a money machine NOT A CAR FACTORY, if they show a concept electric wife, stocks will touch sky Why? Because stock market is an actual economic bubble about to blow worst than north Korea, so is smart make money before the storm.
Fact No.2 Drones, this technology grows soooo but sooo fast that as a fact the fight we see from Amazon, vs other retailers will hurt, truck market before 2025.
Fact No.3 OK heavy transport yes is OK any factory can make prototype models, and there is a question gas fight Russia Vs USA will trigger use of it before electric models that require completely new infrastructure? Time to recharge? New production plants instead minimal modifications? And just load the thank and run again 24/7?