Freightliner Unveils eCascadia and eM2 Electric Trucks

Is the company ready to take on Tesla?

Daimler AG – Global Communications Commercial Vehicles—Daimler AG

Daimler has delivered a limited number of its Fuso eCanter electric delivery trucks in the United States and shown a larger Mercedes-badged model for Europe, but the company hasn't unveiled a direct competitor to Tesla's much-discussed Semi. Now, the German company's U.S.-based Freightliner brand is launching two electric trucks, including one that could go head-to-head with Tesla.

The Freightliner eCascadia is an electric version of the brand's Cascadia semi truck. It debuted earlier this week at a company event alongside the eM2, an electric version of Freightliner's M2 medium-duty truck. Both trucks will be delivered to North American customers in small batches beginning later this year, Freightliner said.

The eCascadia boasts 730 horsepower and a 550-kilowatt-hour battery pack that allows for 250 miles of range, according to Freightliner. It's a long-haul semi truck like Tesla's but the Silicon Valley automaker is promising at least double the range of the Freightliner per recent releases. Tesla previously said its truck would have a range of 500 miles, but CEO Elon Musk recently indicated that the company is aiming for closer to 600 miles of range. But Freightliner's greater experience in manufacturing and selling commercial trucks means the company is better equipped to actually put its truck on the road in large numbers.

The eM2 is designed for lighter loads. The box truck has a claimed 480 hp and a 325-kWh battery pack. Despite having a much smaller pack than the eCascadia, Freightliner claims the eM2 will only fall 20 miles short of the bigger truck's range. Both trucks will be equipped for DC fast charging, likely a necessity given their massive battery packs.

Before the end of the year, Freightliner expects to deliver around 30 units of both trucks to North American customers. Parent Daimler will monitor day-to-day operations in order to fine-tune the designs of future, higher-volume electric trucks. Commercial vehicles are likely to be the next major front for electrification, with many companies looking to launch their own electric trucks.

In addition to Tesla, startup Nikola Motors is developing a hydrogen fuel-cell semi truck. Nikola has filed a lawsuit against Tesla claiming patent infringements. Among legacy manufacturers, Volvo Trucks (a distinct entity from the automaker) recently unveiled its FL Electric medium-duty truck. Navistar and Volkswagen's commercial-vehicle division have also discussed plans for electric trucks.