WSJ Talks To Cummins About Tesla, Electric Semis, And Emissions Policy

DEC 11 2018 BY EVANNEX 32

CUMMINS TALKS TESLA, ELECTRIC TRUCKS, AND THE NEED FOR A CARBON TAX

The Tesla Semi has captivated scores of corporate customers. Pre-orders for Elon Musk’s electric trucks are growing. Competitors, however, aren’t so impressed. The Wall Street Journal spoke with a potential adversary in the trucking space, Cummins, for their take on Tesla, electric trucks, and their thoughts on how governments around the world should deal with carbon emissions.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: A look at the Tesla Semi (Image: Teslarati via @Rec1pr0city)

Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip writes, “What will make a bigger difference to global warming: sleek electric sedans like those made by Tesla Inc., or heavy duty trucks, powered by the sort of [combustion] engines that Cummins Inc. is testing at its research center here just south of Indianapolis?”

Ip argues it’s the latter. “Most of the world thinks like a Cummins customer, not a Tesla customer. A Tesla buyer isn’t trying to save money: It is ‘an emotional buy,’ says Wayne Eckerle, Cummins’s head of research. Cummins customers are commercial truck operators: ‘They don’t buy on emotion. At all.'”

Unlike Tesla’s commitment to an all-electric approach, “Cummins is spreading its bets, developing a mix of electric, hybrid and natural-gas powered motors for small and medium-size trucks. But long-haul heavy trucks will, for the foreseeable future, run on diesel.” According to Ip, Cummins is concerned about electric trucks “costing a fortune” with batteries that “reduce payloads” while the act of recharging them would invariably “lengthen trips.”

Above: Trucks play a significant (and growing) role in transport-related carbon emissions (Chart: Wall Street Journal)

Regardless, the stakes are high for the trucking industry as a whole. “Though less numerous than passenger vehicles, trucks collectively emit almost as much carbon dioxide because they travel further and weigh more. According to the International Energy Agency, road freight accounts for 35% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions and 7% of total emissions,” notes Ip.

Cummins, however, is perplexed over policies surrounding the uptake of electric vehicles. Eckerle says talk in Europe of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions would mean “legislating the internal combustion engine out [of existence] as we know it today. The U.S. is doing nothing like that.”

Instead of encouraging incentives for electric vehicles, Ip reports that “Cummins would prefer a carbon tax: By forcing customers to internalize the cost of climate change, it would naturally incentivize them to pay up for lower-emission technology, no matter the fuel type.”

Above: Cummins’ Julie Furber discusses the company’s outlook for electrification and diesel moving forward (Youtube: Diesel Progress)

“If we want rules that are more effective, decide the end result we want and let technology compete for the best solution,” says Cummins’ Chief Executive Tom Linebarger. “Carbon taxes are much better than all the other choices.”

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Source: Wall Street JournalDiesel Progress

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers, free of charge. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX. Check out the site here.

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32 Comments on "WSJ Talks To Cummins About Tesla, Electric Semis, And Emissions Policy"

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I’d like to see both EV Semis and tax neutral carbon taxes

Well, France is proving that taxing carbon is difficult. France has learned that you have to simultaneously offer other incentives.

Ironically, fossil fuel has been subsidized for so long by not paying for the health and environmental damages and yet they still want to whine as other technologies get incentives.

Sorry, if I don’t listen to Cummins as a voice of reason. I find their “picking winners and losers” argument appalling when that is exactly what they want to do.

No. France is not proving that. France has some of the highest taxes going, which is why they object to taxes on nothing.

Mostly bs from Cummins. But the one thing I agree with is a carbon tax would be preferable to ev subsidies. But that is just such a difficult sell.

A carbon tax as sold by far left will never fly in America. One where we increase gas/diesel tax and use it to pay for infrastructure has been begged for by various trucking groups.

Is this an actual quote from the wsj journalist?

““What will make a bigger difference to global warming: sleek electric sedans like those made by Tesla Inc., or heavy duty trucks, powered by the sort of [combustion] engines that Cummins Inc. is testing at its research center here just south of Indianapolis?”

What a softball question. Just teeing it up for Cummins.

All slow-pitch softballs, what a joke. Hard hitting investigative reporting it ain’t.

At today’s diesel prices a Class 8 truck consumes about $0.50 of fuel per mile. The Tesla semi would consume about $0.20 of electricity per mile. As batteries become slightly lighter and much cheaper they will replace diesel engines. This is inevitable.

I do agree with the gentlemen from Cummins when he says that no one buys a Class 8 truck with their heart. Trucking is run by spreadsheet, either the Tesla semi will have a greater ROI than a conventional diesel truck or it won’t. I suspect he is wrong and Tesla is right, but we will know for sure within five years.

Maybe. But it’s easy to say that truckers don’t buy with their hearts when they only have one option- ICE. Going Green is good press for companies, and the smart ones aren’t driven purely by the bottom line of today. Ask how GM and Ford are doing with that model.

No one is buying an electric semi because they want to save the planet and this won’t change in the future. They understand TCO and the electric truck beats existing fossil-fueled trucks, despite having a higher initial cost.

That higher initial cost is not that much.

Total Cost is what shipping companies will look at First, Second and Last.

Costs will drive truck sales. No doubt about it.

Yes, which is precisely why we need to eliminate all the market distorting government subsidies so markets can work their magic. If we did this, EVs would already be cheaper than ICE across the board.

Tesla is already cheaper than its competitors. The rest of the pack is too expensive, but as ICE disappear, subsidies will die out.

Note that the diesel includes road taxes (~.05/mile), while the electricity includes non-road tax. But, it is still about 1/2.

There is little doubt that the EV drivetrain already weigh less than diesel drivetrain including fuel. As such, Tesla is likely to destroy Cummins.

If the exec’s comments reflect the company’s belief in the viability of electric trucks, Cummins long-term plan must include going out of business.

The foreseeable future. Well, I suppose some can see farther than others. Already we have number of examples of electric trucks from Mercedes, Volvo, etc…
Sure not long haul yet, but those are coming. Besides why be working on a technology that is not going to be used for the foreseeable future. Also it’s no an emotional decision when you can save 2/3 of the running costs, reduce accidents, and improve the environment all in one fell swoop. Looking at all the downsides of e trucks with none of the upsides, such as better acceleration, grade climbing, or coming down a steep grade in control, less brake wear, less maintenance and longer economic life.
A carbon tax is good, but will not happen in the U.S. as too much political power is held by big oil. It may be the best solution, but a solution that will happen is no solution.

Cummins are developing an electric drivetrain, so they are seeing that same future.

What they appear to be saying though is that BEV’s won’t be the only transportation type. Seems fair enough. Just look at transportation today, there are at least half a dozen different fuel/energy types being used depending on market and requirements. BEV technology isn’t going to just wipe that variability out overnight, it’s good, but will never be better than everything at everything, just as diesel isn’t now.

Just 5 years ago, How many semi trucks were not diesel?

Carbon taxes are stupid and will do nothing but give more money to the government to piss away on parasites and pet projects. Simply stop subsidizing oil and respect private property so people can sue over pollution. Problem solved.

Most proposed carbon taxes are revenue neutral; i.e. all tax collected is equally redistributed at the end of the year as a refundable credit on your 1040. I’m a libertarian type and I think government is the right tool to levy a tax to account for an externalized cost such as carbon emissions. Government fails when they try to specify both the goal (reduce carbon emissions) and the solution (EV tax credits). By specifying the solution to carbon reduction (EVs) the government has dis-incentivized all other solutions to decrease carbon emissions (e.g. car pooling, insulating your house, replacing your old gas furnace, buying a more efficient AC unit, etc…).

In Ontario, many of your examples WERE INCENTIVISED, as well as EV’s, but it still didn’t stop the new Premier Ford from killing it all!

Carbon taxes are useless as designed and will accomplish little. More importantly, few nations will put real taxes on.

I understand that diesel-electric train locomotives average fuel efficiency is on the order of 400 miles per ton-gallon, while 18 wheel trucks are closer to 100 miles per ton-gallon. If you apply the same metric to a hybrid car getting 50 mpg with a 200 pound payload (a person and a bag or two) then that calculates out to 5 miles per ton gallon. So by this metric, changing passenger cars to electric is about 20 times more important than diesel trucks, but let’s change them all, shall we? I am not sure that is the best metric anyway but it is interesting…

Nope.
Semi trucks are run 50-100K+ miles / yearly.
So, a semi pollutes more than 5-10 cars.

Carbon Taxes are proving to be a bit of a harder sell than backers thought they’d be – especially in Left-Leaning places like Washington State where the Nation’s first voter approved Carbon Tax was voted down – even with Billionaires in favor of it. That’s the point. People that seem to be in favor of Carbon Taxes seem to be greatly in favor of them until it dawns on them that the burden will be on their own backs. France, while the Fuel/Carbon Tax was just the last straw (Immigration seems to be a bigger issue), also – if you listen to the Media, seemed to be greatly in favor of it until reality settled in. But the big wigs here have almost no news regarding the current ‘difficult conditions’ in France, the Netherlands, or Germany. Interestingly, Coal usage for power plants (thermal Coal) is down to 22% in the USA, yet remains 37% world-wide. The USA has also therefore greatly reduced its “Carbon Footprint” more than any other industrialized country – admittedly due to Europe’s new found RESPECT for the dangers of Nuclear Power and therefore is burning more thermal coal – even if Trump rejected the ‘Paris Accord’.… Read more »

Globally the same class of people that feel the globe has cheated their economic opportunities make up the base of this disgruntled movement, and it is gonna get worse.
“Now, Is Trump for real, or just a Carnival Barker? ” Cmon Bill, what are you smocking? /s

smocking? It was a serious comment Mark. You didn’t vote for him, but if you have seen any of the rallies he has – he is undeniably a popular leader – especially since Hillary had to use photoshopped gymnasiums (the images on the cell phones didn’t match the room they were supposedly in). No offense, that is a simplistic comment. I can’t blame you for being misinformed as information is not being viewed in the US – of course the people in the US sorry to say are some of the most misinformed people on the planet – but the information is there for those willing to put forth the effort to look for it. It is not some “GLOBE” that is harassing the French. It is 50% taxation and $7/gallon fuel and forced immigration that they do not like, as well as heavy handed (89,000 police called out at last count, up from 10,000 – the army is next) treatment from the gov’t, meanwhile their president is in hiding.. I was just watching a several hour video of the Paris Riots, and all the water cannons reminded me of what they used to do to the black protesters down… Read more »
You didn’t vote for him, but if you have seen any of the rallies he has – he is undeniably a popular leader – especially since Hillary had to use photoshopped gymnasiums (the images on the cell phones didn’t match the room they were supposedly in) to get a few hundred more ‘people’ (special effects in this case) over the 50 or 60 people who actually showed up. Even her supporters didn’t want to listen to her – unless Elizabeth Warren (another great female roll model – turns out the AVG White American has more Native American Blood in them than her – but then that is one way to lie your way into University) showed up. No offense, that is a simplistic comment. I can’t blame you for being misinformed as information is not being viewed in the US – of course the people in the US sorry to say are some of the most misinformed people on the planet – but the information is there for those willing to put forth the effort to look for it. It is not some “GLOBE” that is harassing the French. It is 50% taxation and $7/gallon fuel and forced immigration that… Read more »

America is not at 22% coal. Yet. At end of 2018, I believe we are around 26-28%. Still, we are way down.

As to America Vs Europe, Europe used to emit more than america., But that was in 80s. Starting in the 90s, Europe dropped theirs and remain below America.

The one to be concerned about is china. They were going to go big in nuke, but found out that large realtors are not only expensive, but with their crappy quality, they are a REAL risk to them. So, china is going to build the 50GW planned and stopped. That is why they are ADDING ( not replacing ) 250GW of coal just in china by end of 2020.

As to trump, he will be in prison by July 4th.

For America, we do not need a carbon tax. We need to slowly increase federal gas/diesel tax. Ideally, it would increase .01/gal each month for 50-100 months, and gas portion would go to state where collected. Regardless, it should only be used for infrastructure.

It is long past time to maintain our roads, bridges, dams, etc.