ANAHEIM, Calif. — It’s the peanut butter and the chocolate of freight hauling — combining an electric powertrain with an autonomous driving system. Kodiak Robotics is showing the result at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo.
At just 150 miles of range and three hours to charge, the autonomy-equipped Model 579EV is mostly good for generating some publicity in a week crowded with weightier electric powertrain and infrastructure developments. Kodiak bought the truck and retrofitted it with its fifth-generation sensors.
Paccar has not said when the newer Model 579 will get a battery-electric option. The current Model 579EV model — sans autonomy — is part of a ride and drive offered to the approximately 11,000 ACT Expo attendees.
By installing the Kodiak Driver in the Class 8 tractor, Mountain View, California-based Kodiak jumped ahead of rival Aurora Innovation, which is working with Paccar Inc.’s Peterbilt and Kenworth brands to install its Aurora Driver in the newer version of the diesel-powered trucks. The Aurora Drive system in a Model 579 is on display at the Expo.
Kodiak Robotics retrofitted a Peterbilt Model 579EV with its autonomous driving system. (Photo: Kodiak Robotics)
Plus technically accomplished 1st integration but …
Technically, Plus was the first to integrate its autonomous system into a Class 8 truck. It said in February it plans to have factory-installed PlusDrive systems in Nikola Tre electric trucks in late 2024. But PlusDrive operates as a partial autonomy vehicle that runs its full autonomy system in the background.
Kodiak is testing the current generation 670 peak-horsepower Model 579EV and will add it to its fleet of driver-supervised autonomous trucks in 2024. Mating it with autonomous operation uses about 10% less fuel, extending the electric-driving range.
Kodiak’s autonomous system is vehicle- and powertrain-agnostic. That enables easy integration of its autonomous system into emerging truck platforms as they become available, regardless of fuel type. Kodiak will adapt a fuel cell electric truck when one is available for sale.
Kodiak autonomous electric truck is a ‘vision’ for now
“Battery electric and fuel cell electric is the future of freight, eventually. It’s not there yet,” Andreas Wendel, Kodiak chief technology officer, told FreightWaves. “For us, it’s really a vehicle where we can show the vision.”
Retrofitting a hydrogen-powered fuel cell truck would not be a big deal, Wendel said.
“Our integration is with an electric vehicle,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter where the energy is coming from. The fuel cell feeds the battery and then the battery propels the vehicle. The battery is for your short-term peaks and the fuel cell charges the battery while you use it. Once you integrate with an electric vehicle, whether it’s fuel cell or battery, you can do them all.”
Now that California has banned new diesel trucks on its roads after 2036, the urgency is greater for autonomous trucks to emit no emissions.
“Customers have been long asking for an autonomous electric vehicle and we are delivering on that need,” Don Burnette, co-founder and CEO of Kodiak Robotics, said in a news release.
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