With Tesla ready to roll out its Tesla Semi in September, Cummins stole a bit of the Silicon Valley company’s thunder by unveiling its own all electric Class 7 electric truck on August 29. Cummins does not make trucks, it makes the powertrains that make them go.
The trucking industry needs a large variety of trucks. Some are used in stop-and-go situations such as making deliveries or picking up trash. Some haul cargo trailers and containers over short distances, often from a port to a nearby distribution center. Some haul freight across the continent. Trucking companies are tightly focused on efficiency. Whichever truck can get the job done at the lowest cost is the one they buy.
The Cummins Class 7 electric truck prototype is dubbed AEOS — one of the horses that pulled the golden chariot of Helios across the heavens every day in Greek mythology. It has a 145 kWh battery and can haul a 22 ton trailer for up to 100 miles. Thanks to its advanced technology, recharging takes only an hour using a 140 kW charger. The Cummins power train won’t go into production until 2019 and the company expects charging times will have dropped to around 20 minutes by then.
The company is targeting truck and bus manufacturers that cater to customers who need short-range capability. Approximately one year after the all-electric powertrain enters production, the company will also offer a version with an on-board diesel range extender engine. Working together, both components will have a range of up to 300 miles and slash fuel consumption by 50% compared to trucks with conventional diesel hybrid power.
Cummins CEO Thomas Linebarger says the technology isn’t there yet for a Class 8 electric truck with long-range capability. But he feels his nearly 100 year old company is intimately familiar with the needs of its customers and will always offer class-leading options to its customers.
“There are more technologies coming into economic relevance than we’ve seen in my career, ever,” Linebarger tells Forbes. “This is what we do. We feel we do better when technologies are shifting.” He is well aware of the competition from companies like Tesla, Proterra, Nikola, and WrightSpeed. “All those competitors we take very seriously. They’re innovative, well-funded and have a technology mindset, much like Cummins.”
“We know that we cannot have one solution for everybody,” he says. That’s why Cummins will continue to develop more efficient diesel engines while exploring fuel cell technology and alternative fuels like LNG and LPG. “We need to make sure we have the right technology for the right application. Even if the electrified powertrain replaces the internal combustion engine completely, that’s still a 20 to 25 year transition period customers have to manage through. If we have good technology, they’ll want to buy it from us.”