Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Trucks yesterday unveiled a prototype called the Urban eTruck, a heavy-duty all-electric truck meant to be used in and around big cities. The truck will have a weight capacity of 26 tonnes (or 29 US tons) and a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles). The two brands, which are both overseen by Daimler AG, hope to begin production in the early 2020s.
The eTruck is based off of an existing three-axle Mercedes-Benz truck that typically handles short-range deliveries. But the company replaced that truck’s drivetrain with an electrically-driven rear axle that is based on the one used by the Mercedes-Benz Citaro hybrid bus. There are three lithium-ion battery modules that make up the whole battery pack, and it’s located underneath where the cargo would go. The “enough for a typical daily delivery tour.”
Putting electric motors in trucks has, until now, been cost-prohibitive. And, much like with the rollout of electric cars, companies have been waiting for the battery technology to reach a certain level where range won’t be as much of a problem. But the tide has been turning and companies around the world are jumping on board. Daimler and Mercedes have spent the last year testing a small fleet of electric light-duty vehicles that are a lot like smaller versions of the new Urban eTruck. Elon Musk recently announced that Tesla will be branching into making electric tractor-trailers, and other, smaller companies like Charge or Nikola are trying to enter the fray, too.
The switch to electric is just one part of a larger revolution happening to the business of delivering goods with trucks. A handful of the industry’s biggest companies are also working to make heavy-duty trucks autonomous. Mercedes unveiled its “Future Truck” concept in 2014, and Daimler’s Freightliner brand gave us a ride in their self-driving big rig last summer. And in April, a small convoy completed a semi-autonomous journey across Europe.