2019: The Future in Truck Technology Begins

This year hasn’t yet faded from the rear-view mirror, and I’m already looking forward to 2019. The technology advances we have been watching over the past few years look finally to be coming to fruition, and some of those new bits will be hitting the street next year, some within the first few months of the New Year.

Nokola Motors plans to launch its fully electric hydrogen-powered semi-truck in Scottsdale, Arizona, in April. Hard to believe it’s been two years since the prototype was unveiled in Salt Lake City in December 2016, but the road-ready version will be launched in a few months with much fanfare, I’m sure, and I’ll be there.

On the battery-electric front, in the dying days of December, Daimler Trucks North America delivered its first Freightliner eM2 to Penske Truck Leasing. Penske has committed to install 20 high-power charging stations across five California locations this month, setting up support for nine more eM2s and 10 e-Cascadias that will begin service along the West Coast in 2019 and beyond.

All of the other OEMs are working to bring battery electric trucks to market, with Volvo, for example, planning to have customer-ready product ready by 2020. All of the North American Class 8 truck makers have product in the pipeline, and many more of the medium-duty truck builders are already there or soon will be. And, of course. there are several other truck builders in the game and heavily testing product, such as BYD, Thor, Tesla and others.

Tesla is more of a distractor than a disruptor, siphoning off interest and possible investment dollars from the more serious developers of the technology. Because of Tesla’s fan base, it’s setting expectations pretty high for whichever battery-powered trucks make it to market and gain a foothold. The most successful ones, I’d venture, will be much less sexy than Tesla, and that’s why I call it a distractor. Real truckers don’t buy trucks because they are cool; they buy them to make money.