Once the flywheel that is electric trucks gets spinning, there will be no slowing it down. But as former college football coach Lee Corso is fond of saying on ESPN Gameday: “Not so fast, my friend.”

Taking it easy on electric trucks

A wire cage inside the Peterbilt assembly plant in Denton, Texas, allows entry to only certain workers and engineers. Inside two white Model 579EVs exemplify the Paccar Inc. subsidiary’s deliberate approach to electric Class 8 trucks. 

It has delivered more than 100 EVs among the 220EV low-cab forward medium-duty truck, the 520EV low-cab forward used mostly for refuse, and the Model 579EV on-highway truck. Tiny volumes though  Peterbilt was among the first to take customer orders in November 2020.

Peterbilt began taking orders for the Model 579EV in November 2020 but it builds just two of them a week. (Photo: Peterbilt)

Yet just two current Model 579EV are produced a week. Peterbilt assembles 201 conventional diesel-powered trucks a day in Denton, its only U.S. assembly plant. 

Like every truck Peterbilt sells, a customer order is written before assembly begins. 

“We still have some availability for this year, depending on the model,” Patrick Wallace, Peterbilt marketing manager for electric and connected vehicles, told me on Tuesday during the brand’s reveal of its latest truck, the traditional Model 589, which wraps a nearly complete makeover of Peterbilt’s lineup over the last three years.

The wait list for heavy-duty EVs should grow, especially with implementation of California’s Clean Truck rule that requires drayage trucks to account for specific percentages of sales in the state beginning in 2024. 

Peterbilt sees its lead in refuse trucks carrying over to electric power

For now, Wallace sees the 520EV built in Mexicali, Mexico, as an early leader, consistent with its nearly 40% share of petroleum-powered waste trucks. The 220EV and the 520EV are built alongside their diesel counterparts in the city 20 miles south of El Centro in California’s Imperial Valley. 

“Refuse is a great application for electric vehicles. Lots of stopping and starting and idle time. They usually don’t go super far on a route during the day. They use up a lot of brakes and when you do regenerative braking, it saves your normal brakes,” Wallace said.

Electric refuse trucks are an especially competitive segment. Mack Trucks issues a news release with practically every delivery of its LR Electric. Republic Services signed a long-term deal in February with Oshkosh Corp. for electric trash haulers. Battle Motors, formerly Crane Carrier, is carving out a piece of the growing pie. 

Nearly two of three [63%] of the 136,000 garbage trucks in the U.S. could be battery-powered by 2030, according to a January white paper from the International Council on Clean Transportation and Energy Innovation.

The Peterbilt Model 520EV low cab forward is an early leader among battery-electric refuse haulers. (Photo: Peterbilt)

Are utilities getting a pass in the regulation-driven electric truck market?

Meanwhile, Peterbilt is building a spur off the main assembly line in Denton to increase production of the Model 579EV. 

“Anything that we do that’s going to be high volume, we’re going to be able to run down our line,” Wallace said. 

Jason Skoog, Peterbilt general manager, notes that even though California is making a market for electric trucks by requiring fleets to purchase them, one player is getting a free pass on regulations: electric utilities.

If utilities decline to bring power to the site where trucks are, there is no rush to build them or charging stations.

Volvo Group claims its electric truck sales lead intact

Volvo claims a substantial lead in what might or might not be a horse race among electric truck manufacturers. In a news release Thursday, the Sweden-based truck maker said its sales of 5,000 electric trucks in 40 countries through the first quarter equates to a 50% market share in Europe and nearly 50% in North America.

EV order intake in Q1 reached 486, up 141% compared to the same period in 2022. The bulk of orders came from the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Customers in South Africa, South Korea, India and markets in Latin America will begin to get EVs this year.

Volvo last year electrified its three most popular 44-ton heavy-duty trucks: the FH, FM and the FMX. That brought its portfolio of zero-exhaust emission trucks to six. Scaling of EV production is underway in Gothenburg, Sweden; Blainville, France; and New River Valley, Virginia. Volvo’s largest factory in Ghent, Belgium, begins producing electric trucks in the third quarter.  

Volvo Group workers during heavy-duty electric truck manufacturing in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2022. (Photo: Volvo Group)

Here we go again

It didn’t seem to help all that much last year, but Nikola is again pitching its case for a critical share authorization increase with direct-to-shareholder videos from its CEO.

President and CEO Michael Lohscheller explains why he is urging votes for all six proposals on the June 7 annual meeting ballot. But his focus is on Proposal 2 — its outcome could determine the fate of the company. 

“I need your help to guarantee Nikola’s future,” Lohscheller says in the video. “Without additional shares, our ability to raise the capital we need to further our mission will be out of reach.”

Nikola had less than $200 million of free cash on its balance sheet as of March 31. It has interest payments due on $200 million it borrowed last year from Antara Capital. Nikola lacks the cash to keep building trucks and repay the hedge fund. So it wants shareholders to double the number of authorized shares, which theoretically could dilute current holders by half.

Nikola CEO MIchael Lohscheller pleads for shareholder votes to increase the number of authorized shares. (Screenshot from Nikola video)

It took four tries and an expensive beating of the bushes for unvoted shares by a proxy solicitation firm to get a much smaller 200 million share authorization increase passed in 2022. 

Nikola’s shares traded at an all-time low of 80 cents Wednesday after reporting a bigger-than-expected first-quarter loss and the sale of its 50% stake in a manufacturing joint venture with Europe’s Iveco.

Liquidity issues appear scarier for investors who have seen shares plummet from a 52-week high of $8.97 to 78 cents Thursday before rebounding to close at 83 cents. Longtime analyst Jeffrey Osborne of TD Cowen, who put a $78-per-share target on Nikola in 2020, said he is “moving to the sidelines.”

Briefly noted …

Volvo Group is scrapping a 2021 agreement to purchase a subsidiary of Jiangling Motors Co. Ltd. in China and will go it alone in trying to grow its presence.

Autonomous trucking software developer TuSimple faces a Monday deadline of being delisted from the Nasdaq for failure to file financial reports for 2022. It will seek an extension.

Einride CEO Robert Falck tells CNBC the business case exists to electrify at least half of all electric trucks.

C.R. England is testing autonomous hauling of refrigerated trucks by Torc Robotics and Kodiak Robotics announced earlier.

Lion Electric showed its Class 5 medium-duty battery-powered truck at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo and said it is already practically sold out for the year.

The bullet-nosed Shell Starship is changing its fuel source in the 3.0 version to renewable natural gas from diesel fuel.

Green Car Journal has named the Freightliner eM2 as its Commercial Green Truck of the Year. Several other BEVs fared well too.

Supplier Robert Bosch is collaborating with autonomous trucking software provider Plus to productionize parts for the driver-supervised partially autonomous PlusDrive.

Volvo Truck is testing its version of the cellcentric fuel cell in the Arctic Circle.

That’s for this week. Thanks for reading. Click here to get Truck Tech via email on Fridays. And tune into Truck Tech on FreightWavesTV on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. EDT.

Next week’s scheduled guest is Niklas Reinedahl, Einride general manager of North American Operations. We’ll talk about the Swedish startup’s preference for teleoperations and futuristic driverless cabs and whether Einride is an outlier or an alternative to its driverless competitors.

The post Tortoise and hare approaches to electrified trucking appeared first on FreightWaves.

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