Mack: Path to Electrification is Not Straight to Linehaul

Mack Trucks continues to see a healthy future for diesel engines, even as alternatives like electrification begin to emerge.

“Diesel today, it’s performing extremely well. It’s cleaner than it’s ever been, it’s robust, it’s versatile,” said Roy Horton, director – product strategy, during a briefing in Oakland, California. As for talk about electric trucks? “It’s almost a little bit of an uphill battle there.”

Electrification is “on the bubble, and it’s something everyone is looking at,” he said, admitting that the recent unveiling of Elon Musk's Tesla Semi attracted attention. “It’s definitely going to be part of our future.” Just not for longhaul. Not right away.

Mack believes the earliest adopters of electrification will be operations with the chance to charge at a home base and not depend on general infrastructure for fuel. That includes refuse, local delivery, and public transportation fleets.

Next would be applications with fixed routes where infrastructure is established but longer ranges are less of a concern. That opens opportunities for local distribution, regional haulers, and select vocational segments.

Longhaulers would be the last to use the trucks, drawing on power from secured infrastructure.

For its part, Mack has already been working with electrification in its own right. It unveiled a range-extended LR refuse truck in 2016, and a diesel-electric hybrid drayage truck. With Siemens it is also experimenting with the idea of electric highways, with vehicles drawing on the power of wires strung along the routes. The company is producing electric buses, too.

Mack will focus on electrification where it’s “commercially viable”, stressed Jonathan Randall, Mack’s senior vice president – North American sales. As for new players such as Nikola Motors and Tesla? “Competition is good.”

Mack’s work with alternative power sources hardly ends there. It already has experience with biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas, propane, and Dimethyl Ether (DME).

“We have, and continue to investigate, all of the viable alternatives,” Horton said.

“Mack is well-positioned, no matter which way the market goes.”

John G. Smith is the editor of the award-winning Canadian publication Today's Trucking. This article was used under a cooperative editorial sharing agreement between HDT and its Canadian counterpart.

 

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