An Explosion of Interest in Electric Vehicles

an explosion of interest in electric vehicles

All across the trucking industry in the United States observers are currently seeing an explosion of interest in electric vehicles. Diesel’s US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, tells us the latest announcements are topped by Amazon’s decision to purchase 100,000 Rivian electric delivery vans for last-mile operations. The most remarkable thing about this amazing order is that the vans currently do not even exist.

Rivian is a start-up that caught everybody’s interest with the showing of the R1T all-electric full-size ute and R1S, an SUV based on the same platform. Launched at the LA Auto Show in 2018, these are the only vehicles, in prototype form, that actually exist. But Rivian has caught Ford’s attention with the legacy automaker investing $500 million in the company. 

This, plus the backing by Saudis and banks allowed the fledgling company to buy a shuttered Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois back in 2017. Showing its canny plan to become an automaker to rival Tesla, the huge car parks surrounding the car plant make money storing diesel Volkswagens that are forbidden on US roads. This revenue stream covers the standing costs of the plant, says Rivian.

The deal with Amazon has also resulted in a $700 million investment by Amazon which sounds like a lot, but for the world’s biggest retailer it’s just walking-around money.

Based on the claims for the ute and SUV, the vans should be highly viable. The two existing vehicles have a claimed range of 400 miles and a 0-60mph performance in the three and a half seconds. They are highly distinctive, a bit homely but the automotive world is waiting for things to get going with these models. 

Rivian is to get state funding for putting people to work in the plant, but already the company employs 750 people in the Detroit area, in R&D in California and at the plant.

The Rivian will be a delivery van, but the plug-in electrics are creating a renewed interest as heavier commercial vehicles get into ‘customer’ hands. Freightliner has delivered the first eM2 106 medium-duty truck to Penske Truck Leasing in Los Angeles and the first two eCascadia class 8 tractors to Penske and innovative carrier NFI.

NFI is interesting as it only carries dedicated freight for its customers, so has a very good handle on its freight lanes. It has also recently added hauling out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where there are efforts to convert all vehicles used in the ports or hauling freight out to be zero emissions. And currently the only zero emissions vehicles are electric.


an explosion of interest in electric vehicles

Peterbilt just announced it is to deliver six battery electric Model 220EV medium-duty trucks to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division. It made the announcement in late 2019 with the delivery of the first truck which is part of Frito-Lay’s Modesto, California, Zero- and Near Zero-Emission Freight Facility Project (ZANZEFF).

“Peterbilt continues to lead the charge in electric commercial vehicle development,” said Jason Skoog, Paccar Vice President and Peterbilt General Manager at the hand-over. “With Frito-Lay’s Model 220EV, Peterbilt will have 15 battery electric trucks in three applications, city delivery, regional haul and refuse, in customers’ hands running real routes and collecting real world validation data.” 

Peterbilt’s Model 220EV was introduced at CES (aka Consumer Electronics Show) in January 2019 and now joins the Models 579EV drayage tractor and 520EV refuse truck in customer field trials.

Skoog’s comment really sums up the applications all the heavy duty nameplates are targeting. Freightliner already is operating in selected distribution operations the plug-in electric eCanter from Daimler’s Japanese Fuso brand. 


an explosion of interest in electric vehicles