Over its dozen years, the ACT Expo has defied the trajectory of many industry trade shows. A comfortable, easygoing affair in Southern California’s Long Beach Convention Center outgrew its venue in 2022, when 8,000 attendees packed the house. A lack of hotel space drove expo-goers to stay miles away.
Show organizer Gladstein, Neandross & Associates moved to Anaheim this year, soaking up rooms in hotels along Katella Avenue, where mouse ear-wearing Disneyland-bound guests push strollers toward the park.
As the attendance climbed above 12,000 on the third day, GNA CEO Erik Neandross explained that the expo is almost a side business for the 105-person consultancy that helps fleets manage compliance with California’s ever-toughening pollution regulations.
‘Let’s dial this up a little bit’
“Prior to ACT Expo, we had run a number of regional shows here in Southern California given the focus and activity around alternative fuels,” Neandross told me. “In 2011, we started to see more national activity. We said, ‘Hey, let’s dial this up a little bit,’ and we launched ACT Expo.”
From 2011 through 2018, the expo was “pretty heavy” on natural gas trucks. GNA snagged then Daimler Trucks North America CEO Martin Daum and since-retired Ryder System Inc. CEO Greg Swienton as first-year keynote speakers. GNA had written the grant for 260 natural gas trucks from DTNA to be sold to Ryder System Inc.
“It’s a little easier to get ’em when you sell 260 natural gas trucks. And off we went,” Neandross said. “The electric crowd back then was: ‘I’m not going to that show. It’s just a natural gas truck show.’ And now, of course, the natural gas guys are: ‘Nah, it’s just an electric truck show.’
“I just put the sign out on the front door. Who shows up? I don’t control that.”
Neandross described the move to Las Vegas in 2024 as “a baby toe in the water” before returning to Anaheim in 2025, when the expo won’t have to share the venue with a nursing convention like it did this year.
“We could have filled it this year, but we could only get half the halls,” Neandross said. “We had a wait list [for exhibitors].”
The Anaheim Convention Center in California is the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo’s new and future home after moving to Las Vegas next year. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)
Act Expo becomes the industry’s ‘big splash’
Current DTNA CEO John O’Leary delivered one of three keynotes in Anaheim after his top sales executive, David Carson, pinch hit for him at the last minute in 2022.
Daimler Truck North America CEO John O’Leary speaks at the ACT Expo in Anaheim, California. (Photo: Daimler Truck North America)
“I think this show has turned out to be The Show,” O’Leary told a media breakfast on Monday. “We’ve had a number of different ones over the years. But at this point in time, this is the one that makes the big splash.”
Neandross seemed a bit humbled by that assessment.
“There’s a little bit of [being in] the right place at the right time in what’s going on in the industry,” he said. “The investment these days by all the OEMs is happening in this electrification move to zero [emissions]. Hydrogen fuel cell. Battery-electric. Autonomy. Connected. That’s where the money is.”
Click here to watch the entire interview with Neandross and segments with three more industry leaders from Wednesday’s one-hour Live from Act Expo episode of Truck Tech. FreightWaves coverage from the expo is archived here.
Nikola’s big week
We can’t seem to get enough of Nikola because it’s a business on the bubble and so bloody interesting. The company was the subject of one of the expo’s bigger announcements, and its PR machine in Phoenix cranked out releases on two purchase orders — one for the coming Tre fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) and one for the Tre battery-electric vehicle (BEV).
AJR Trucking, a U.S. Postal Service and drayage carrier operating at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, executed a purchase order for 50 FCEVs from Nikola dealer Tom’s Truck Center. Deliveries are expected between Q4 this year and Q1 2024.
Truck-as-a-service startup WattEV is taking a long-term lease on 14 trucks in a deal financed by Mitsubishi HC Capital America. WattEV is developing public charging depots to serve fleets of commercial BEVs. The still-private startup proved a mastery in securing grant-based funding with its order a year ago for 50 Class 8 Volvo VNR Electric daycabs.
Cynics — or maybe short sellers — suggest that Nikola’s frequent announcements are intended to persuade investors to vote in favor of doubling of the company’s authorized shares to use as its cash runs low and interest payments loom on $200 million it borrowed from hedge fund Antara Capital last year.
Nikola Tre battery-electric vehicles are lined up at Tom’s Truck Center. (Photo: Nikola)
Briefly noted …
Here’s some, but not all, of the news coming out at the ACT Expo and elsewhere..
In just one year, Volvo Trucks North America has tripled its Certified Electric Vehicle Dealerships from 12 to 36 locations, with 56 more in process.
Fuel cells for heavy-duty electric trucks are more efficient as a single stack rather than lashing together two smaller units as most are doing. Hyzon Motors makes its case in a white paper exploring the differences. Of course, Hyzon has that big fuel cell, a 200-kilowatt stack on display at the expo.
One big fuel cell stack is more efficient for heavy-duty trucking than two smaller ones, according to Hyzon Motors. (Photo: Hyzon)
WattEV’s first Southern California charging depot opens May 15 at the Port of Long Beach with the capability of charging 26 trucks concurrently at up 360kW.
Toyota Motor Corp. subsidiary Hino Trucks is using Hexagon Purus’ battery systems, auxiliary modules, power modules and the vehicle-level software for its XL 4×2 tractor cab chassis.
The California Energy Commission has awarded Symbio North America a $9 million grant to help establish a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle power systems and vehicle assembly in Temecula, California.
Volta Trucks and J.B. Poindexter & Co. Inc.’s EAVX research and development unit are working on custom truck bodies for the Volta Zero EVs. Volta expects pilot fleet units on U.S. roads late this year.
Navistar’s International Class 6 eMV now has a factory-installed optional ePower and electric power take-off electrical system. A Class 8 BEV goes into production in 2024 with a few demo units expected on the road later this year.
ABB-owned fleet electrification services company InCharge Energy is launching three new bidirectional chargers as part of its vehicle-to-everything (V2X) DC fast charger portfolio. V2X charging lets users charge and discharge their vehicles’ batteries or to use them as a power source for buildings, other vehicles or to store battery energy to lessen the strain on the electric grid during peak times.
Three new bidirectional chargers are joining the InCharge Energy portfolio. (Photo: InCharge Energy)
Xos Inc. is showing its second-generation mobile charger for battery-electric trucks. Its integrated battery storage has an energy capacity of 390 kilowatt hours,. That increases charger output by 60%, from 25kW to 40kW. That results in faster EV charge times.
Xos reduces EV charging times with its second-generation mobile charger. (Photo: Xos Inc.)
Finally, A Tesla Semi will be Pepsico’s entry in the North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s Run on Less – Electric Depot. NACFE Executive Director Mike Roeth said data will be streamed on the Semi’s daily routes during September’s run. Tesla is one of four new OEMs this year. Nikola, Ford and Navistar International are the others.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Click here to get Truck Tech via email on Fridays. And tune in to Truck Tech on FreightWavesTV on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. EDT.
Next week on the show: A stunningly candid discussion with Rick Dauch, CEO of Workhorse Group, seeking to regain a twice-fumbled first mover advantage in medium-duty electric delivery vans. If you miss the show, catch it later as a podcast on Apple or Spotify.
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