U.S. Manufacturer Beats Tesla To Stage With Electric Semi-Truck

Cummins, an Indiana-based maker of diesel and natural gas engines, revealed an all-electric demonstration truck powered by lithium-ion batteries.

(TNS) -- Tesla CEO Elon Musk teased plans to unveil a new electric semi-truck next month, but another major manufacturer has beaten him to the stage.

Cummins, the Indiana-based maker of diesel and natural gas engines, revealed an all-electric demonstration truck on Tuesday powered by lithium-ion batteries. The company announced it would manufacture and begin selling the 140 kilowatt hour battery packs to bus operators and commercial truck fleets in 2019.

The concept Urban Hauler Tractor — known as Aeos, after a mythological Greek horse — carries a range of 100 miles on a single charge, with optional batteries extending range to 300 miles. The battery pack charges in an hour. The hauler is designed for short local routes, with a maximum payload of 44,000 pounds, the company said.

Cummins produces a range of diesel engines for light and heavy-duty trucks, as well as natural gas engines and related equipment. It also introduced an array of new, more efficient diesel engines.

Ryan Popple, CEO of electric bus maker Proterra, said the announcement signals a big step toward electrifying transportation.

“It’s a fantastic example of the industry trying to look like the upstart,” said Popple.

Technology gains and lower battery costs have made electric vehicles cheaper and more competitive against inefficient gas and diesel trucks, he said. The adoption of electric trucks and buses is “going to be driven simply by cost-per-mile,” he said.

He expects the market for electric vehicles to expand to school buses, refuse trucks and short-haul semis. The Burlingame-based Proterra has recently opened a new factory in Los Angeles, and is working at full capacity to fulfill new orders, he said.

Tesla has been working longer than Cummins on an electric semi, and Popple says the Palo Alto EV maker will probably produce a truck with more range and features.

Tesla is planning to unveil its semi-truck in September. The company expects to lower the cost of trucking, while bringing autonomous features into truck fleets.

Tesla has asked Nevada to test a platoon of semi trucks, with trucks automatically following one lead vehicle. The EV maker and renewable energy company also plans to triple the size of its fast-charging network, adding connections and new stations around the world.

The company is eyeing an expansion in Mexico and Canada, routes that could benefit truckers supporting the flow of goods through North American borders.

California is also trying to encourage more low- and zero-emission vehicles for commercial transport. Several ports have set clean air goals to eliminate diesel equipment by 2035.

State lawmakers are also urging the use of more cap-and-trade proceeds to subsidize the purchase of clean buses and trucks. Supporters have rallied for a share of the expect $1.4 billion available next year for clean energy projects.

©2017 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.