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August 29, 2017 4:30 PM, EDT
Cummins Debuts All-Electric Demonstration Truck, the Aeos
Aeos main view Up close with the new Aeos at its unveiling. (Steve Sturgess for Transport Topics)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Cummins Inc. has unveiled a concept truck with an all-electric powertrain, highlighting the diesel engine manufacturer’s commitment to electric power as an important part of its future.

The Class 7 urban delivery tractor, dubbed Aeos, was revealed Aug. 29 at Cummins’ technical center here.

The all-electric, two-axle concept vehicle features a production-intent Cummins electric power module.

The Aeos demonstration truck — named for one of the four flying horses in Greek mythology that pulled the chariot of the sun god Helios across the sky — mainly will be an engineering tool, but Cummins said it plans to put the vehicle into commercial service with a few carriers.

The company also announced plans to introduce a new heavy-duty diesel engine design in 2022. A prototype was on display at the event.

The Aeos from the rear. (Steve Sturgess for Transport Topics)

Cummins, the largest supplier of diesel engines for the North American heavy-duty trucking industry, demonstrated its continued investment in alternative fuels with the Aeos debut.

“Over the past century, our ability to innovate and adapt has fueled our success and we are confident we are on the right path to do it again,” said Rich Freeland, Cummins’ president and chief operating officer.

Cummins joins a growing list of manufacturers to showcase electric-vehicle technology in commercial trucks within the past year.

In December, startup Nikola Motor Co. introduced the Nikola One, a hydrogen-electric Class 8 tractor for over-the-road applications that the company aims to launch in 2020.

Last fall in Germany, Daimler Trucks showed its plug-in electric Mercedes-Benz ­Urban eTruck for local distribution.

Meanwhile, electric car maker Tesla Inc. has said it will soon unveil its own electric heavy-duty truck.

Prior to the unveiling of the Aeos in front of Cummins employees, local dignitaries and press, Cummins executives pledged the company would support its customers with conventional diesel, alternative fuels and various electric powertrains based on market demand.

Srikanth Padmanabhan, president of Cummins’ engine business, said the company will pursue three electric powertrain architectures: pure electric using only batteries, electric powertrain with range-extending power generation that could someday use fuel-cell technology from supplier partners, and hybrid power systems with smaller diesels complemented by electric drive.

Cummins is determined to be the supplier of choice for whatever powertrain technologies customers demand, Padmanabhan said.

Cummins' Julie Furber before the Aeos is unveiled. (Steve Sturgess for Transport Topics)

Julie Furber, executive director of Cummins’ electrified power business, said the Aeos weighs no more than its diesel-powered counterparts but provides greater performance and generates zero emissions. Range with its single 140 kilowatt-hour battery pack is 100 miles, which can be boosted to 300 miles with a second battery.

The battery’s lighter, denser design enables it to hold a longer charge for improved range and faster charging to reduce downtime, the company said.

The exterior styling was made to Cummins’ design and executed by a Detroit-based automotive supplier.

Furber said Cummins is not interested in becoming a truck manufacturer but is keen to help manufacturers develop electric powertrains.

Tim Proctor, executive director of product management and market innovation, said the electric motor offers peak power of 470 horsepower and a continuous rating of 300 hp with 2,500 pound-feet of torque at peak and 1,365 pound-feet continuously. With this torque, the truck accelerates more rapidly than a diesel equivalent vehicle while offering better than 30 miles per gallon in equivalent mileage.

With today’s technology, the battery takes an hour to charge, he said, but Cummins is predicting that battery advances in the interim will cut this charge time to 20 minutes by 2020.

During a tour of the technical center, Cummins also presented its latest diesel engine technology, represented by its X15 and lightweight X12 engines.

For many markets, diesel engines will be the best solution for decades to come, the company said.

In 2022, Cummins plans to introduce a new heavy-duty diesel engine featuring a new block and head without the “boxy” top end. It will dispense with the heavy camshaft and drive that distinguish the 20-year-old ISX and the current X15.

The company also highlighted research and development projects, including a high-efficiency, spark-ignited engine technology designed to deliver diesel-like performance and durability across a range of liquid fuels, such as ethanol, methanol and gasoline, while meeting increasingly stringent emissions requirements. Cummins said it continues to investigate the viability of alternatives such as biofuels, synthetic fuels and hydrogen.

The company also revealed its latest Near-Zero natural gas engines during the event. Cummins said those engines will provide performance equivalent to diesel and have little to no emissions for customers looking to minimize their carbon footprint.