Electric Semis Will Soon Power America's Restaurants

Electric Vehicles / 6 Comments

Freightliner just struck a deal with Sysco Foods for 800 electric trucks.

Commercial vehicles like fire engines and semi trucks are ripe for electrification. Though we've been hearing about the Tesla Semi for a while, several other companies have been hard at work. Freightliner, a division of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), plans for its first electric semi to hits the roads later this year, and it has a significant customer backing it with an order. Sysco Foods, a juggernaut in food distribution, just ordered 800 units from the company. Big orders like this make a big splash, so we'll have to wait and see if Freightliner can pull it off.

The trucks get two drive axle choices, each with two output options, including a single drive axle system with 320 horsepower or 395 horsepower and a tandem drive axle with either 425 horsepower or 470 horsepower. The tandem system carries an 82,000-pound gross combined weight rating, and the single drive offers up to 65,000 pounds. Gross combined weight rating, or GCWR, is a measure of the combined weight of the tractor and loaded trailer.

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Three battery sizes are available that reach 438 kWh. With the largest battery and single drive system equipped, the eCascadia promises up to 230 miles. It's capable of DC fast charging at up to 180 kW using a single port or 270 kW using the dual-port system, which can replenish the battery up to 80 percent in around 90 minutes. Tesla's Semi claims to offer longer range and neat tricks, but it's clear Freightliner's got the trucking industry pegged. Beyond charging tech, the company equips the eCascadia with a bucketload of useful fleet management and large-truck-related safety equipment.

Sysco is just one company, so this might not seem like a huge deal, but consider that the impact here could be significant. Sysco is the world's largest broadline food distributor, operating around 14,000 trucks. Electrifying 800, or almost 6 percent, would be a major step forward for the company's sustainability efforts. Sysco wants to cut its carbon emissions by 27.5 percent this decade and says that the Freightliners will help it achieve its goal of electrifying 35 percent of its fleet.

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The move to electric also makes sense from a functional point of view. The eCascadia offers up to 230 miles of range, which is short compared to consumer EVs like the Lucid Air, but perfect for the types of geo-fenced driving Sysco's delivery drivers do. That said, the vehicles will be pulling refrigerated trailers ("reefers") that typically use diesel generators to power the refrigeration systems. It's unclear if the Freightliner trucks will power the trailers using fuel or their electric drive systems.

The Daimler Truck North America Freightliner eCascadia hasn't garnered the attention that Tesla's Semi has, but to be fair, nothing else has. That said, we're talking about seeing Freightliners on the roads by the end of this year, while Tesla has pushed production of its truck several times. Even disgraced EV company Nikola managed to reveal a production-bound electric semi for delivery this year.

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