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5/19/2017 4:00:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Industry Looks Beyond Batteries to Power Longhaul Electric Tractors

Sturgess Associates

This story appears in the May 15 print edition of Equipment & Maintenance Update, a supplement to Transport Topics.

Technological advances soon could make electric Class 8 tractors feasible for longhaul applications, but rather than relying solely on plug-in battery systems, those trucks likely will incorporate other power configurations such as hybrid solutions and hydrogen fuel cells.

At the same time, many predict that ­diesel fuel will continue to play a prominent role in powering the truck of the future.

“For longhaul, I don’t think any of the regulators or truck manufacturers today see batteries as a path to get to an all-­electric truck,” said Patrick Couch, vice president of technical services for Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in alternative-fuel applications. “There would have to be a really fundamental breakthrough in the technology we have today.”

BEST OF MAY E&MU: More stories, columns

The challenge of a battery-electric vehicle for longhaul is the battery weight and charging requirements.

“If you were to consider a full-electric vehicle, Class 8, with a 200-mile range and a 65 miles-per-hour top speed, you’re looking at a battery that weighs as much as 16,000 pounds,” said Darren Gosbee, vice president of powertrain and advanced technology for Navistar International Corp., maker of the International brand of trucks.

Bill Kahn, principal engineer at Peterbilt Motors Co., a unit of Paccar Inc., estimates that a battery with a 200-mile range could cost up to $100,000.

Manufacturers have several methods beyond batteries to electrify a Class 8 tractor.

Many manufacturers are taking “baby steps” before going all in, said Robert Braswell, acting executive director of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council. “In terms of electrification, you can either do a lot or a little.”

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By Mindy Long
Contributing Writer

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