Volkswagen Will Build Electric Trucks, Buses by 2022

The move is part of a $1.7-billion technology investment.

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It previously looked like Volkswagen would leave the development of electric commercial trucks to other companies, but the German behemoth apparently has other plans.

VW will launch electric trucks and buses by 2022, Andreas Renschler, head of the company's commercial vehicle division, said in an interview with Reuters. Volkswagen plans to spend 1.4 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to fund their development, as well as on other new technologies. Yet Renschler also said a spin-off of the company's commercial-vehicle operations remained an option.

In an interview last month, Renschler indicated that Volkswagen would take a wait-and-see approach to electric trucks, letting companies like Daimler and Tesla release trucks first, before launching its own.

But VW will now move ahead with development of electric trucks and buses. At a company event in Hamburg, Germany, it announced plans for a an all-electric delivery vehicle, as well as a basic architecture for electric buses that will be used by its MAN and Scania commercial-vehicle brands.

Volkswagen already faces significant competition from other potential electric-truck makers. After multiple delays, Tesla will unveil its electric semi truck November 16, and Cummins has already shown a prototype electric truck. Daimler recently delivered the first Fuso e-Canter box trucks in the United States, and may add more electric trucks to its lineup.

While the electric-truck segment is just now beginning to trend, the electric bus market is already maturing. Companies like Volvo, California-based Proterra, and Chia's BYD already sell electric buses, and their numbers will likely grow as city officials look for ways to reduce air pollution.

Electric commercial vehicles will complement Volkswagen's ambitious electrification plans for passenger cars. VW wants to offer a hybrid or all-electric version of every model across all of its brands by 2030. That includes 50 new electric cars, due by 2025.