If there was any doubt that zero-emission work trucks are coming – and, really, there isn’t – the 2022 ACT Expo made it abundantly clear they’re on their way. Certainly, some of them are already here. From creative ways to charge electric fleets to new all-electric trucks, from more hydrogen power to the release of a wide-ranging State of Sustainable Fleets report, there was plenty to learn and see this year in Long Beach, California.
After dealing with COVID restrictions last year, pent-up demand for this work-truck show resulted in attendance figures that were up about 60% to more than 8,300 attendees, compared to the partially virtual show that took place in August 2021. As packed as the week and convention center were, expect even more at next year’s ACT Expo. The event is moving to the larger Anaheim convention center in 2023 because it’s officially outgrown the space available in Long Beach. Here are some examples of what’s behind all the buzz.
Bollinger: Commercial EV production in 2024
Bollinger made a strategic shift in January to “postpone” work on its B1 and B2 electric SUV and truck models in favor of further developing its commercial vehicle platform for Class 3 and larger vehicles. To that end, Bollinger announced during the ACT Expo that it has selected Roush as its contract manufacturer to assemble Bollinger’s all-electric platforms and chassis cabs.
The change in direction required Bollinger to remind visitors to its booth what they’re all about, which explained the Class 5 platform on display in Long Beach alongside a B2 for eye candy, according to CEO Robert Bollinger. The B2 was there to remind people of Bollinger’s history and “to show that we’ve been in the Class 3 commercial-ish kind of world,” for a while, he said.
Had they come to market, both the B1 and B2 would have been Class 3 vehicles, even though they were marketed towards individual buyers and not focused on the utility side of the market. Under its new direction, Bollinger now will start building its commercial EV lineup with the new Class 3 platform before moving to larger vehicles.
“Basically, we’re going in order,” Bollinger said. “Three first and then 4, and 5, and 6. Class 3 is a much larger market than the others combined, so that’s the one to focus on.” Bollinger said his company’s updated plan is to have some of its Class 3 commercial vehicles running this year for tests and customer ride-alongs. In 2023, the company plans to build the next round of prototypes, design verification builds and more testing.
Bollinger admitted he’s still being vague but said the company’s first year of full production is likely to be 2024 with Roush’s help. Both Bollinger and Roush are located in the Detroit Metro area. Bollinger’s headquarters are in Oak Park while Roush’s facility is in Livonia. “The beauty is they’re only 20 minutes from our headquarters,” he said. “Roush is also a well-known name and they can help us with road testing and all of the engineering to get up to production. It’s a great combo.”
Hyundai: Hydrogen Xcient trucks coming to America
Hyundai used the 2022 ACT Expo to announce that the U.S. should be a little more like Switzerland. The OEM didn’t use those words exactly, but it did announce that it would deploy 30 6x4 Xcient Fuel Cell Class 8 tractors to the Port of Oakland in late 2023 as part of the NorCAL Zero Project. This initial deployment will be followed by a broader, official release of these hydrogen trucks in the U.S. market, according to Hyundai test engineer Steve Ramirez.
Hyundai does not have any of these hydrogen-powered tractors operating in the U.S. just yet, but it does have more than 1,000 rigid box truck versions of the Xcient Fuel Cell trucks currently on the road in Switzerland. The first batch of these trucks arrived in Switzerland in 2020 and have now carried freight more than 2 million miles (3.2 million km) in that country.
“They’re still going strong,” Ramirez said. “They’re doing basically extensive market research out there with this fuel cell.” Hyundai also sells diesel-powered Xcient trucks in Korea and other markets. The company currently only has two fuel cell Xcient tractors and brought both to Long Beach for display and ride-and-drives. The hydrogen Xcient tractor uses two fuel cell stacks from the hydrogen-powered Nexo CUV.
Hyundai engineers did not have to do much to the stacks, which together provide 180 kW, other than a little tweaking to accommodate higher voltages for the semi-truck. The difference between the Swiss box trucks and the U.S.-bound tractors lies in the hydrogen tanks. The European trucks hold around 35 kg (77 lb) of hydrogen in seven, 350-bar (5,075-psi) tanks; the U.S. tractor uses 10 tanks rated at 700 bar (10,150 psi) for around 70 kg (154 lb) of H2 – therefore providing more range.
Unloaded, the Swiss trucks can go around 300 miles (485 km), while the tractor with no trailer can go around 800 miles (1,290 km). With a trailer loaded up to 82,000 pounds (37,195 kg) gross vehicle weight, the tractor can drive around 400 miles (645 km).
“We’re working on long-haul operations, but that’s going to need fuel optimization, more powerful fuel cells, maybe even a sleeper, depending on your long-haul operations,” Ramirez said. “That’s going to be in the future. Right now, we’re focusing more on short haul, which I think is what most alternative-energy concept trucks are doing.”
Volvo Trucks: LIGHTS lessons learned
Volvo Trucks provided some updates on the evolution of its LIGHTS program, which ran for three years. One of the requirements when Volvo Trucks and its partners, including the South Coast Air Quality Management District, started LIGHTS (which stands for Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) was that the end result had to be actual sales of real, production trucks that customers want and can effectively employ, Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) president Peter Voorhoeve said at the show.
To prove the point, VTNA announced in Long Beach that Quality Custom Distribution (QCD), a food service company, and NFI Industries, a supply chain solutions provider, both recently made large orders for Volvo’s battery-powered VNR Electric freight trucks. QCD ordered 30 additional VNR Electrics while NFI ordered 60.
“[The sales mean] the concept works,” Voorhoeve said. “It’s real. It's not a gadget. It’s something that really works, and we see now that it is going forward.” Voorhoeve also compared the way Volvo is making some details of the LIGHTS project public to the way Volvo Cars decided not to patent the three-point seatbelt in the 1950s – because the larger mission of lowering emissions from work trucks is more important than just making money.
“We learned a lot,” Voorhoeve said. “We learned a lot about infrastructure. We learned a lot about chargers, we learned a lot about how to manufacture. All that is now in this lessons-learned guidebook, which you can download from the website... This is the same [as the seatbelt]. This isn’t a secret. We want everybody around here to learn from it so we can accelerate the shift towards a zero-emission transport environment.”
Other news, in brief
Cummins debuted a 15-liter hydrogen engine at the ACT Expo. The new powerplant fits into Cummins’ fuel-agnostic platform that keeps components relatively similar below the head gasket and lets the parts above the head gasket account for different fuel types. The 15-liter H2 version is expected to go into production in 2027.
WattEV is a group with the goal to get 12,000 heavy-duty electric trucks on the road in California by the end of 2030. To that end, the company announced at ACT Expo that it will build a “charging plaza” for heavy-duty EVs at the Port of Long Beach. By the end of 2023, WattEV wants to build what it’s calling an “electric-truck charging highway” that runs from the Port of Long Beach to Sacramento.
The latest State of Sustainable Fleets Report was released during the ACT Expo. Sponsored by DTNA, Penske Transportation Solutions, Cummins and Shell Oil Company, the report found that almost 85% of fleets surveyed say their use of “clean-vehicle technologies” is only going to grow.Continue reading »