Aug. 29, 2017 — Indiana based Cummins, Inc., a leading maker of engines and engine components has unveiled an all-electric, 18,000 lb, Class 7 semi truck called AEOS. AEOS with its 100-mile range and 20-ton payload capacity is designed for local hauling. It is equipped with a 140 kWh battery pack that — at present — takes an hour to charge. However, Cummins says that by 2020, improvements in battery technologies are expected to reduce that time to 20 minutes. Additionally, technologies such as regenerative braking and the potential for solar panels on the trailer roof can extend its range by sending energy to the battery pack. Along with the expertise of Roush Industries, AEOS is expected to be ready for market by 2019.
In August of 2016, electric car maker Tesla said it expected to unveil an electric semi-truck in the following six to nine months and then enter production in less than five years. Most recently, the company has set a November 16 date for the unveiling and test ride of that truck in Hawthorne, CA.
In his “Master Plan” released last year, CEO Elon Musk wrote, “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate”. Along with the tentative October date, Musk tweeted “Worth seeing this beast in person. It’s unreal.
Unreal is just what a pair of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University believe. In a paper they wrote, the two found that the heavy-duty truck that Musk is looking to produce would need a 14 ton battery for 600 miles of non-stop driving at a cost exceeding $250,000. Taking into account the limits on truck weights and the room needed for the battery, cargo capacity would be reduced by one third. Compounding the problem would be the lack of infrastructure and regeneration times. However, the researches did agree that a next generation “beyond lithium battery pack” could produce a 600-900 mile range and increased cargo capacity, but that 300 to 350 miles is probably the limit of what the vehicle could be designed for with current technology.
Climate change is a big driver of aggressive electrified technologies with China and California leading the way. If it were up to California Governor Jerry Brown, the success of these two companies couldn’t come sooner. According to Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, the Governor has expressed serious interest in barring the sale of vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines. A ban on sales would help both company’s interests and would assist the state in meeting its aggressive 2050 emissions target of an 80% reduction. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California,” Nichols stated.
It appears that electrification has some serious business allies in a very large market. Electric vehicles around the world are increasing rapidly and electric trucks… well they’re gaining momentum and are here for the short haul, but how long before engineers find a way to build a better battery for the long haul? Stay tuned!