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Jon LeSage

Jon LeSage

Jon LeSage is a California-based journalist covering clean vehicles, alternative energy, and economic and regulatory trends shaping the automotive, transportation, and mobility sectors.

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Daimler vs Tesla: The Electric Truck War


As Tesla prepares to jump into the electric truck market, Daimler is poised and ready to take on the competition.

Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, has been investing heavily in the global truck business for years. The German automaker now has five commercial truck brands: Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Freightliner Trucks, Mitsubishi FUSO, Western Star, and BharatBenz.

Freightliner has 40 percent market share in the U.S. heavy duty vehicle market.

In an April Twitter post, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that a Tesla semi-truck reveal has been set for September. And that the company’s truck team has done “an amazing job. Seriously next level.”

As for a pickup truck, that will be rolling out in 18 to 24 months from April, Musk said.

Tesla is preparing to meet demand in global markets like the U.S., Europe, and China, where vehicle emissions rules are getting tighter. Most of these trucks are diesel powered, which has fallen out of favor during the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. Electric trucks are much more viable now with fleet operators.

Daimler is making inroads to the electrified truck market. The company introduced its eCanter light duty electric truck last September. Since then, it has accumulated over 37,000 miles of testing on public roads in Germany and in Portugal.

Full production will be ready for 2019 – the same year the U.S. electric automaker has committed to bring the Tesla Semi to market.

The eCanter can go about 60 miles on a charge, which is considered to be more than adequate for daily urban deliveries. Recharging can take place in about an hour through fast-charging equipment.

Daimler has also been testing out its medium duty Urban eTruck in German. That electric truck will be launched in the market during 2020, the vehicle maker said.

Related: Solar And Wind Revolution Happening Much Faster Than Expected

Tesla has been in competition in the trucking space for a while now. Last year in July, Musk confirmed that Jerome Guillen was in charge of the Tesla Semi program. Guillen had been a longtime engineer at Daimler, and had led the development of the successful Cascadia truck.

Marc Llistosella, head of Daimler Trucks Asia, isn’t concerned that Tesla can bump Daimler out of the trucking space.

“In trucks, of course [Elon Musk’s] stepping into it, but we don’t see him as someone who is threatening us because you need a whole infrastructure. You need dealerships, you need infrastructure, you need maintenance,” Listosella told the press this week.

There’s a clear distinction between consumer goods like the Tesla Model S and upcoming Model 3 – and industrial goods like the Tesla Semi or the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck.

Daimler is ready for the competition, he said, and will stand out in that market.

“In class 8, with Freightliner, we are the #1 in America, so we have something to defend,” Llistosella said. “In the smaller ones, the game is just starting.”

He does see the appeal of electric trucks showing up in their lifespan benefits.

The total cost of owning an electric truck can be significantly lower than a diesel truck once lower costs of maintenance and the diesel fuel are factored in.

Daimler wants to be ready to meet that growing demand.

By Jon LeSage for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Josh Gregner on June 18 2017 said:
    "A little less talk and a little more action please!" - I'm still waiting for all those dozens of "Tesla Killers" that were announced since the launch of the Model S in 2012. To my knowledge Tesla still has this market entirely to themselves.

    So by now, I really don't give credence to any press release /interview of any established car maker any longer. For this case in particular, keep in mind that several high-profile customers in Germany couldn't compel Daimler to produce a viable BEV truck: it got to the point where the German postal services (Deutsche Post) created a new company that is developing and producing BEV trucks for them. And guess what? They recently started to sell them to 3rd parties. This really doesn't look like Daimler has the market cornered...

    Having said this: The thing here is BEVs vs. ICE - the more BEV options, the more dangerous to oil demand. And the one who cracks the Class 8 Semi truck market will destroy quite a bit of oil market forever.
  • snoopyloopy on June 18 2017 said:
    Planning a launch for 2019 and 2020 is way too far in the future for a group that intends to retain their spot at #1. Tesla is not just selling an electric truck, they're selling an autonomous-capable electric truck which offers the opportunity for even further cost savings by removing the driver from the equation. Also, first mover advantage will be absolutely critical for any company that intends to provide any real competition to Tesla. Waiting another two or three years to launch will be a colossal error on Daimler's part.
  • jhm on June 19 2017 said:
    I'm sure that 60-mile eCanter will look like a real killer coming out after Tesla has launched a 600+mile range Semi.

    If Tesla captures just 10% of the semi market, it could destroy up to 700kb/d of diesel demand per year, 2 b/d per long range truck. If Daimler and Cummins wish to defend market share with long-haul electrics, this will multiply the impact on oil demand.
  • Ian on June 20 2017 said:
    Sounds like Nokia or Microsoft poo poo-ing the iPhone just before it's launch in 2007!
  • Bharath on June 20 2017 said:
    Whoever wins in this electric truck race, the loser is surely oil and its middle east producers. Waiting here eagerly for the collapse of saudi and its terrorists
  • Trucker on June 21 2017 said:
    Neither of these are realistic for the class6-8 market,60 mile range is far below necessary for urban use(unless 1/2 day of work,200-300 miles minimum),1200 mile minimum for OTR with fast(1 hour max )recharge to be competitive (if there is infrastructure). Life cycle has to be 1 million miles+ without costly maintenence(battery,motor,transmission). Most likely to be pushed for terminal operations or shuttle type work in urban centers(need infrastructure to support operations). Performance(gradability,load pulling ect.)are real questions.
  • wer on June 21 2017 said:
    "The eCanter can go about 60 miles on a charge, which is considered to be more than adequate for daily urban deliveries"

    60 miles? Must be a misprint!
  • Philip Branton on June 22 2017 said:
    We want to see the Tesla minivan vs. the Honda Odyssey electric minivan......soccer moms unite!
  • Charles Z on June 23 2017 said:
    It's foolish to consider big rigs using battery power with such a small range. It is far more viable to consider expanded use of CNG for heavy trucks as the wave of the future. I have always held that heavy trucks should be moved to the rail as the most efficient and effective way to move cargo.
  • Naomi on June 24 2017 said:
    Railroad locomotives use Diesel electric drive. This is the efficiency model to follow for cars and trucks.
  • George Kafantaris on July 04 2017 said:
    Both Daimler and Tesla are wrong. Hydrogen is better:
    “The use of batteries to power heavy duty trucks would be very expensive. They would also be so large and heavy that the trucks’ payload capacity would be considerably reduced. We have to obey the laws of physics and respect material-related constraints.” -- Anders Ødegård

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