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Mercedes debuts its first fully electric semi truck in Europe

TSemi

Member
Sep 7, 2020
110
132
Texas
Mercedes debuts its first fully electric semi truck in Europe This is the biggest EV ever to wear the three-pointed star and it could be a game changer for European trucking.-CNET


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It may be a little different than the semi trucks we're used to here, but it could be a big deal for European trucking.
Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz has been hard at work on an electric heavy-duty truck that it hopes will be the start of a new era for trucking (in Europe, at least). The truck is called the eActros, and it's the first electric truck to wear the three-pointed star, the company announced Wednesday.

Of course, it's not the first heavy-duty electric truck from Mercedes' parent company Daimler. That honor goes to the Freightliner eCascadia and eM2. Still, the eActros looks to be pretty impressive, thanks to its 249-mile range. That range may not seem that awesome to people used to looking at Tesla ranges, but for something as big as a semi truck, it's damned good.

That range is possible thanks to eActros' giant 420-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which Mercedes claims can be fast-charged from 20% to 80% in an hour. That kind of turnaround is likely to be vital when trying to convince companies to adopt new technology when time is money. The eActros is also available with smaller battery pack sizes for the kinds of operations where maximum range isn't as critical.

As part of the push to have the truck adopted by businesses, Mercedes is offering a suite of support services to help those companies transition their fleets to electric vehicles. These services include consultation to help set up a charging infrastructure and working out the planning necessary to get the most use out of each truck since it's not making money if it's not being driven.

Mercedes plans to launch the eActros this fall and sell it in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Denmark, Norway and Sweden to start. There's no word yet if it'll come stateside, but given Freightliner's work here, we kind of doubt it.
 

TSemi

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Sep 7, 2020
110
132
Texas
Seeking Alpha


Daimler Truck Spinoff And Volvo Group: ICE Out, BEV (And Hydrogen?) In​

Jul. 01, 2021 6:48 AM ET Daimler AG (DDAIF), DMLRY ENGIY, ENGQF, RDS.A...6 Comments1 Like

Summary​

  • Daimler separating car and truck businesses by spinning out truck business.
  • Volvo Group (trucks) focuses on electrification with BEV and FCEV developments.
  • Daimler Truck and Volvo Group have a similar strategy with BEV trucks becoming mainstream and flirting with hydrogen which involves a planned JV.
  • Various plans for hydrogen corridor in Europe to field test heavy truck FCEV.
  • Tesla Semi is still coming.

Tesla Semi Truck


MikeMareen/iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Trucks are big business and this is clear from recent developments where major players Daimler (OTCPK:DMLRY) (OTCPK:DDAIF) and Volvo Group (OTCPK:VLVLY) (OTCPK:VOLAF) have, or plan to, separated their trucking and car businesses to provide a clearer focus. This is not surprising as there are significant differences between cars and trucks in how to exit the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and electrify, through BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) adoption and/or FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) developments. Here I discuss recent developments in Daimler and Volvo Group to decarbonize heavy transport. In line with current hype, both companies talk about hydrogen, but it is clear that the heavy lifting is being done by BEV developments in both companies. Investment in Volvo Group (trucks) is available now, while soon Daimler, the world's biggest big truck maker, plans to spin out its trucking division. This is an interesting investment opportunity, but in the shadows is the Tesla Semi; investors looking to shift their heavy transport investment focus to zero carbon initiatives have choice about who to back.

Everywhere I look I see more upbeat articles about hydrogen, but the feature of them all seems to be that hydrogen isn't feasible now and that we need to be patient for 5-10 years to see that hydrogen will win. Meanwhile, electrification based on batteries seems to be available more or less now. Nowhere is this divergence between reality and fact more apparent than in discussions about big zero carbon trucks. And so it was in an article in the New York Times which talked down BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) trucks and talked up a future where FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) trucks will dominate. Here I conclude that heavy FCEV trucks could do the job, but only with significant advances all along the hydrogen path and with massive investment. The path to success with BEV heavy trucks seems close, with fewer barriers to success than those posed by heavy FCEV trucks and their infrastructure.

The reality for traditional truck manufacturers Volvo Group and Daimler seems to be major efforts to decarbonize through BEV adoption, while not ignoring the possibility of FCEV solutions for big trucks if Governments support such efforts. On the other hand, the soon-to-be-released Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Semi has a simpler path to a BEV heavy truck and it seems like it might have the bases covered for success. When contemplating investment in heavy trucks, Daimler Truck (soon) and Volvo Group offer existing major players who are in the process of exiting ICE and adopting BEV, while Tesla comes from left field. Lots to think about here.

A recent report, by the European Federation for Transport and Environment, on decarbonizing heavy transport in Germany indicates that BEV heavy trucks are likely to dominate zero emissions transport and that their introduction will be well established within 5 years, while hydrogen vehicles will not be competitive for a decade. This provides a major question mark about hydrogen as it is clear now for personal transport that hydrogen has missed out and the BEV is going to dominate personal transport. The report indicates that direct electrification (BEV) is now (and will remain so) at least twice as efficient as renewable hydrogen and ~3x as efficient as ICE vehicles. Considering power needs for BEV transformation (of the German system) would require 46% of Germany's current electricity consumption, while less efficient hydrogen-powered transport would need 75% of existing energy generation. The hydrogen fuel cell trucks might be more cost efficient for trips longer than 1200 km, which account for ~11% of total European freight activity, although the range of BEVs is expected to increase in coming years which might impact the cost of these long range trips. Megawatt charging stations are essential and there are plans for good coverage in Europe by 2025. Development of a hydrogen refuelling network is less well developed and is likely to be a major issue for development of heavy duty hydrogen road transport.

Tesla's projections on its soon-to-be-released 80-ton Semi (80% charge in 30 minutes with a Tesla Megacharger) claim that energy costs are half those of diesel; they suggest $200,000 fuel savings and a payback period of just 2 years for the Semi in comparison with ICE (diesel) trucks. Elon Musk indicates a range of 800km (and possibly up to 1000 km) in the near future, with 800 km range prototypes already having 1 year of field testing. 800 km is a key range as this distance encompasses 76% of total road freight in Europe. The release of the Tesla Semi has been held up by lack of battery manufacture capacity (and probably also establishing a charging network for the heavy trucks).

Daimler Trucking spinout​

The Daimler trucking (and bus) division is being spun out as a separate business and this is a big deal. In fact, the personal transport business left behind is being renamed Mercedes-Benz (cars and vans), with the new trucking company branded as Daimler Truck (which includes Buses). The spinout is planned for the end of the year and there is a lot of preparation evident. This spinout covers a number of business issues for Daimler and it is well laid out in the spinout presentation.

Firstly, there are five regional and business units (Trucks North America, Mercedes-Benz Trucks (mostly Europe), Trucks Asia, Daimler Buses and Financial Services) which have varying success. Trucks North America is the best performing unit and Mercedes-Benz Trucks the weakest. All five reporting segments are under the microscope, with no excuses accepted. Mercedes-Benz Trucks, largely the European segment, is seen as underperforming with Products ranking #4, Sales ranking #5 and Service ranking #6. Brazil needs to be fixed. This contrasts with the North American success story (On-highway large/mega fleets #1, On-highway small fleets #1, Off-highway vocational #2). The key features of North American success are industry-leading technology, best-in-class production footprint, world-class dealer network and uncompromised customer focus.

The growth opportunity lies in Asia, with a focus on Japan, Indonesia, China and India. The plan for Asia also involves a "next 30" countries strategy. China seems interesting with an advanced truck segment planned which has a goal of moving from ~2% market share in 2020 to 20% in 2030. This seems a very ambitious target, given the rapid electrification across Chinese companies.

The above issues relate to "normal" business development, but these are happening in an environment that focuses on exit from ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) to zero emissions technologies (BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) and FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles)). The goal is for 60% of zero emissions vehicle sales by 2030. In the Q&A at the end of the presentation, there was some clarification about Daimler Trucks' zero emissions technologies approach, which was a bit convoluted. As is always the case, there was an acknowledgement that until at least 2025 BEV would be the sole contributor to zero emissions transport. Daimler has an existing commitment to BEV trucks which includes heavy duty trucks in a battery partnership with CATL.

A further BEV partnership is with Siemens (OTCPK:SIEGY) Smart Infrastructure, ENGIE (OTCPK:ENGIY) and EVBox Group in strategic charging infrastructure. The EV Box Group is a spinout from ENGIE which is thought to be the target of TPG Pace Beneficial Finance (NYSE:TPGY) SPAC for listing on the NYSE. The status of the EV Box Group listing isn't clear. The plan is that this group of companies will provide a holistic environment for trucking companies switching to a BEV fleet. This will include centralised depot charging infrastructure for truck fleets. The above partnerships along with internal plans for Daimler Trucks make clear that there is a deep commitment to exit from ICE and go electric via BEV.

It gets a bit more murky in the period 2025-2035, which is seen as a time of massive adoption of net zero transport. I found it unconvincing that Daimler suggests that this cannot be achieved solely by BEV adoption. It was argued that the electrical grid could not support such a development. Instead, it was claimed that two power train options are needed (hence introduction of FCEV technology to complement the BEV). The report by the European Federation for Transport and Environment mentioned above makes clear that hydrogen requires substantially more electricity than a BEV transition. I am not aware of the suggestion that the grid alone cannot support BEV transport. In my opinion, Daimler did not make a convincing argument for hydrogen, and the massive capital investment needed was assumed to be going to be put in place (funded by I'm not sure whom, but presumably Government). I remain sceptical about adoption of FCEV for heavy transport.

Beyond 2035 Daimler Truck assumes that there will be two energy sources used: BEV and FCEV. It was claimed that only hydrogen could move electricity from a distant manufacturing source (e.g. offshore wind, desert-based solar PV) to where the trucks need the power. There are already quite an extensive HVDC cabling networks emerging all over the world that can move electricity efficiently over large distances.

Volvo Group​

Volvo is ahead of Daimler in separating the truck business from its cars. In the case of Volvo Group, the car business has been spun out to major Chinese company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, leaving Volvo trucks as a major part of the Volvo Group business along with buses, construction equipment, marine and industrial engines, and complete solutions for financing and service. To make things more complex Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is a major shareholder of Volvo Group.

While Volvo makes some mention of the possibility of fuel cell-powered trucks in the long term, this is presented as a distant possibility. It does talk about BEV and gas-powered trucks for sale now. Volvo Group's ambition for hydrogen-powered trucks lies with a JV with Daimler Truck (see below).

Hydrogen JV between Daimler Truck and Volvo Group​

A recent podcast involving a discussion between Martin Daum, CEO Daimler Truck, and Dr Ottmar Edenhofer, Director Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, presents the case for carbon pricing to facilitate rapid decarbonization of transport in Europe (but the discussion involves the rest of the world too). While not discussed in this podcast, it is clear that the technology most needing carbon pricing is the establishment of a hydrogen economy. As discussed above BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) technology needs less (if any) support than establishment of FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicles).

In further recognition of the intimidating costs to establish a hydrogen economy, Martin Daum CEO of Daimler Truck AG and Martin Lundstedt CEO of Volvo Group (the trucks not the cars) have publicly released plans for a fuel cell JV "cellcentric" to accelerate the development of long haul FCEV trucks. The plan is to commence operations in 2025. The giveaway for me was the following sentence, which is vintage Hydrogen Council speak: "To accelerate the rollout of hydrogen-based fuel-cells, the two cellcentric shareholders call for a harmonized EU hydrogen policy framework to support the technology in becoming a viable commercial solution." I think this is code for "it doesn't work now".

The European hydrogen corridor​

Daimler Truck plans to develop a fuel cell truck infrastructure with Shell New Energies NL B.V. (NYSE:RDS.A)(NYSE:RDS.B) and both companies are founding members of H2Accelerate. The details of the hydrogen partnership with Shell are big on plans by 2024, including a hydrogen refuelling network joining three green hydrogen production hubs at the Port of Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Cologne and Hamburg in Germany, and actual truck refuelling by 2025 in a 1,200 km network. This will be expanded to 150 hydrogen refuelling stations and 5,000 Mercedes FCEV vehicles by 2030. Both companies are inviting other companies to join them.

Crucial details, such as the form of the hydrogen fuel planned (high pressure gas or cryogenic hydrogen (liquid hydrogen at -253C)) are not yet worked out.

There are various plans for a hydrogen corridor in Europe, some of which stretch credibility. For example, another (or the same?) project initiated by the Port of Rotterdam and AirLiquide and several European companies has a goal of providing a hydrogen corridor for FCEV trucks in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Where this lacks credibility is that the goal is for 1000 trucks by 2025. As is usual for hydrogen plans, reality seems to be at this time… "To start with, the partners will do a feasibility study of the whole value chain envisioned by the project."

Tesla Semi​

As often happens with Tesla, timing doesn't always pan out as predicted. However, Tesla has an impressive track record of commercialising its innovations. There has been some controversy in the leadup to release of the Semi, but no one is suggesting that the Semi isn't just about ready for release. The major holdup seems to be battery supply.

Conclusion​

Volvo Group and Daimler are dominant players in heavy transport; their businesses are being simplified by shedding personal transport and both are moving rapidly to exit ICE (primarily diesel) and electrify. I see some risks in a big spend on hydrogen in the upcoming Volvo Group and Daimler JV, but this can only succeed with major Government support for the development of a hydrogen economy. The reality is that both companies have a major focus on near term development of big BEVs, and they are going to continue to be dominant players in heavy transport, which is a less crowded space than the car market. However, just as has happened in personal transport, there are hungry innovators who are not saddled by an ICE history. In particular, a disruptive risk for Volvo Group and Daimler is going to be the Tesla Semi. Even though the Tesla Semi will be released initially with a range of only 300 or 500 km, an 800 km range version will not be far away. There is a lot to digest for investors who are interested in heavy transport.

I am not a financial advisor but I pay attention to decarbonization of transport, including the contrasting futures involving BEV or FCEV in replacing the ICE. I hope that my perspective helps you and your financial advisor to consider investment in this space and to help balance out the pros and cons of Volvo Group, Daimler Truck, and Tesla for heavy transport investment.


Note: 'Even though the Tesla Semi will be released initially with a range of only 300 or 500 km, an 800 km range version will not be far away." This should be 300 or 500 miles, not km per Tesla website.
 
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PointHope

Member
May 11, 2021
26
10
Thailand
Competition like this is great for Tesla.
No matter how good the Mercedes looks and very likely is, it wont be able to compete with the very advanced model 3 motor technology, which will power the Semi-Tesla.
 

PerfectNumber

Member
Mar 29, 2021
113
124
Peyton, Colorado
Competition like this is great for Tesla.
No matter how good the Mercedes looks and very likely is, it wont be able to compete with the very advanced model 3 motor technology, which will power the Semi-Tesla.
I'd need to see some data about that before I would accept "it wont be able to compete with the very advanced model 3 motor technology." Where in the article does it talk about the Merc's motor and its technology? Do you have some insider information?
 

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