Groendyke Transport leaders recently test drove Freightliner’s new battery-electric eCascadia daycab at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, and while they’re not sure electric trucks are ready to support their long-haul business, they came away highly impressed with the vehicle’s performance.
“It had outstanding acceleration and was so simple to drive it almost felt like a go cart,” said Greg Hodgen, president and CEO of Groendyke.
The trip was part of Groendyke’s mission to keep its fingers on the pulse of new tractor technology, including alternative power sources like electricity and hydrogen. The team reported several advantages of deploying battery-electric trucks over current diesel models, including the stable, low center of gravity due to the bank of batteries, impressive torque, and an “extremely quiet, smooth ride.” They also noted that, with the exception of the difference in engine, it was a standard, assembly-line tractor in most respects.
“You can feel the torque when accelerating,” said John James, director of equipment and procurement at Groendyke.
“It gave us a good look into the future of electric tractors.”
Class 8 eCascadias range in horsepower from 320 to 470 and have a range of 155 to 230 miles before needing a charge, depending on the model. Mickey Lattimer, vice president of fleet at Groendyke, said he was impressed that the eCascadia daycab demo unit they drove was a production model, and not a prototype.
“If an eCascadia is ordered today, it would be exactly like the model we test drove,” he said.
Groendyke’s leaders said adoption within the bulk hauler’s fleet still is “a ways off” for several reasons, citing payload and range as key concerns, but the biggest drawback for them was a lack of available charging infrastructure.
Daimler Truck North America (DTNA), the parent company for Freightliner, created the Detroit eConsulting team to tackle this issue. They help customers secure real estate, plan installations of charging stations and work with utility companies to ensure local grids can handle power needs. DTNA also partnered with Power Electronics for the manufacture of charging stations called Detroit eFill chargers.
“Our test drive was an exciting glimpse into the future of battery technology,” said Zane Hodgen, Groendyke’s legal intern. “We look forward to seeing Freightliner’s continued innovation into zero-emission trucks.”