Freightliner, one of the largest truck manufacturers in the United States, is testing an electric model called eCascadia. The company has meticulously put prototypes through their paces around the world for years, and it even let Digital Trends behind the wheel of one during CES 2019. Now, it’s finally ready to begin customer deliveries.
Parent company Daimler Trucks built the first two customer-bound examples of the eCascadia in its research and development center in Portland, Oregon. This represents a major milestone, but it comes with an asterisk. The company noted the trucks are part of its Electric Innovation fleet, and they’ll be used to test the integration of a battery-powered truck into large-scale fleet operations. They’re not regular-production models; those aren’t expected until 2021.
The first two trucks off the production line will go to Penske Truck Leasing and NFI, respectively. They’ll be based in southern California, where they might share the road with the Semi that Tesla continues to test. The companies integrating the eCascadia into their fleet will need to provide regular feedback on several points, including what the charging infrastructure is like, and whether it’s practical to stop and charge when you’ve got a delivery to make. Freightliner also wants to learn about how the truck is used, and how it performs. Finally, it’s interested in finding out whether the companies using it form partnerships with other parties in the electric mobility world.
The eCascadia needs to perform at least as well as a conventional, turbodiesel-powered truck. On paper, it looks promising. It’s powered by four electric motors (two per axle) that draw electricity from a massive, 550-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. To add context, the biggest pack you can get in a Tesla Model X is 100 kilowatt-hours. It has 730 horsepower, its torque output hasn’t been released, and up to 250 miles of range. Zapping the battery pack with an 80 percent charge takes 90 minutes, according to Freightliner.
Freightliner will use the feedback it gets from Penske and NFI to improve the model as mass production nears. It also plans to bring more companies into its pilot program by delivering additional examples of the eCascadia over the coming months.