It may not be as sexy, but it got there first.
Tesla has had its hands full, and then some, keeping up with demand for its electric passenger cars. But its biggest test, in one sense or another, will be the launch of the Semi, its forthcoming electric big-rig truck. Before it can bring that to the commercial market, though, one of the biggest truck manufacturers has beaten it to the punch, even if its product isn't quite as sexy.
Daimler has announced the delivery of its first Freightliner eCascadia all-electric trucks in the United States, going to Penske Truck Leasing and NFI Industries for real-world field tests.
Both will be deployed in Southern California – Penske's out in local traffic, and NFI to ferry cargo in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Based on the conventionally powered class-8 heavy-duty Cascadia, the Freightliner eCascadia boasts 250 miles of electric range in a tractor-trailer as big and capable as anything else on the road. Tesla, for its part, is shooting for 300 to 500 miles of range, but first it actually has to bring it to market. And Daimler Trucks – the world's largest truck manufacturer – is apparently getting there first, with its rivals in hot pursuit.
The Freightliner eCascadia is the latest product to come from the Daimler group's far-reaching electric-vehicle initiative that has also given us such models as the Mercedes-Benz EQC crossover, the Smart EQ Fortwo, and battery-powered commercial/industrial vehicles like the Fuso eCanter, Mercedes-Benz eActros, and the Thomas Built C2 Jouley school bus. Freightliner is also field-testing the smaller, medium-duty eM2, the first example of which it also delivered to Penske for field tests late last year.
Freightliner aims to put 30 electric trucks on the road in the near future before bringing the eCascadia and eM2 to the broader market by 2021.