Traton Maintains Battery-Electric Decarbonization Focus

Company Executive Says Truck Maker 'Doesn’t Really Have an Option B' for Shift Away From Diesel
International eMV truck
An International eMV medium-duty truck, Navistar's one battery-electric truck. (Navistar Inc.)

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Navistar parent company Traton is standing firm in its belief that battery-electric trucks are the best alternative for trucking fleets looking to decarbonize their operations, even as other equipment manufacturers invest resources in multipronged paths that incorporate multiple fueling technologies.

“We don’t see any real alternative to battery electric” when it comes to the transition away from diesel, Traton Vice President of Alternative Drivetrains Andreas Kammel said during an April 22 webinar on the outlook for BETs. “We don’t really have an ‘Option B.’”

From 2040 onward, Munich, Germany-based Traton — which also owns the global Scania and MAN brands — has pledged that the drivetrain of every truck it sells will be free of fossil fuels. Navistar sells the International brand of trucks in North America. Kammel explained that vehicle cost, cheaper energy, sustainability and infrastructure all factor into the company’s rationale.

Lisle, Ill.-based Navistar currently offers one BET, the International eMV medium-duty truck. The manufacturer has more than 100 dealer locations authorized to sell and service electric vehicles — about 30% of its overall network — with more in the works, it said. Its dealerships span 41 U.S. states and seven of the 10 Canadian provinces.

Andreas Kammel


Traton — itself a subsidiary of global automaker Volkswagen — has just one other truck powered by a renewable fuel in its plans; MAN is planning to launch a truck with a hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine later this year. Called the hTGX, it will be produced in a limited run of 200 vehicles.

For the North American market, Navistar CEO Mathias Carlbaum said at the ACT Expo last year that the company plans to introduce a Class 8 BET for regional haul applications. No further announcements on that truck have been made.

Scania Group Head of E-Mobility Fredrik Allard said lessons Traton has learned so far for the nascent BET market in both the U.S. and Europe are that the trucks can cover about 217 miles (350 kilometers) on a charge and can use public infrastructure to keep charged. “It works. That is the main conclusion,” he said.

Fredrik Allard


Allard told webinar attendees he also expects substantial decreases in retail BET prices during the next three or four years. He said battery-electric trucks will become more affordable as volumes increase, creating economies of scale. He projected that once BET prices fall to about twice that of diesel-powered trucks — down considerably from current levels — cost parity will be reachable as fuel cost savings make more of an impact.

Also vital is broad, affordable charging infrastructure, a point on which all other OEMs looking into BETs agree, Kammel said. He stressed that development and deployment of Megawatt Charging System technology could be a game changer. MCS will bring smaller and lighter batteries and shorten recharging time to be comparable with diesel, Kammel said. “It’s almost like cheating,” he quipped. While currently few in number, MCS charging stations could reach critical mass by 2027, Allard added.

“Battery-electric technology is getting better and better with each generation,” said Stefan Sahlmann, Navistar vice president of EV solutions development and activation.

Navistar in January founded a coalition alongside two of its truck maker peers aimed at educating and working with stakeholders to accelerate construction of charging and refueling infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles.

Powering America’s Commercial Transportation — formed alongside Daimler Truck North America and Volvo Group North America — aims to educate policymakers, regulators and other stakeholders in Washington and across the U.S. on the zero-emission infrastructure needs of the trucking industry.

Milence charging site

The first Milence charging site in Venlo, Netherlands. (Milence)

Traton also teamed up with Daimler Truck and Volvo in Europe to create the charting partnership Milence, which opened phase one of its first heavy-duty vehicle charging hub in the Dutch town of Venlo in December.

By 2027, Milence aims to have at least 1,700 high-performance charging points across Europe. Milence plans to open sites in Antwerp and Ghent, Belgium, in May 2024 and 2025, respectively.

Traton’s charging infrastructure partners, however, are spreading their nets far and wide when it comes to the transition away from diesel. Both Daimler Truck and Volvo are investing heavily in other technologies, including fuel cell electric vehicles, hydrogen internal combustion and renewable diesel as drivetrain alternatives.

Navistar and General Motors in 2021 inked a deal to develop hydrogen fuel cell electric technology for a longhaul applications. J.B. Hunt Transport Services was an initial pilot partner in that initiative.

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