Cummins unveiled a revolutionary new all-electric powertrain in a demonstrator truck to the media on August 29, a few weeks ahead of Tesla’s planned revealing of its own electric “semi” truck. The truck is not self-driving, yet it fills a direct need in the path of self-driving trucks.

SupplyChain reports Cummins Taking on Tesla with Electric Semi Truck.

Cummins Inc. has unveiled plans for an electric truck, beating Tesla to the punch.

Cummins late yesterday showed off its designs revealed a fully electric class 7 demonstration Urban Hauler Tractor, adding to its portfolio of environmentally friendly engines.

The lighter, denser battery design allows it to hold a longer charge for improved range and faster charging, reducing down time.

The truck is expected to have a maximum payload of 44,000 pounds, with a battery’s capacity is 140 kilowatt-hours, which is enough for about 100 miles of range, making it more suitable for local deliveries.

An extended-range version is also being developed with a 300-mile range thanks to a diesel engine serving as the range extender.

Cummins predicted that battery improvement could lead to a 20-minute charge time for trucks by 2020, compared to the one hour it takes now.

Tesla is expected to unveil its plans for an electric semi in September with a range of somewhere between 200 and 300 miles.

Another Cog in Autonomous Puzzle

The vehicle is not self-driving, yet. But there is no reason it cannot be or will not be by 2021 or so. Third parties may be able to modify the truck so that it is self-driving.

Even if that does not happen soon enough, the truck nicely fills in a piece of the puzzle. Self-driving trucks will initially be on highways, hub-to-hub. The last mile may require a driver.

Give this thing a 20-minute recharge time and a range of 200 miles and it is nicely suited as a last-mile piece of the puzzle.

Eventually, trucks will self-drive in cities even if that is not allowed initially.

Conversation With a 25-Year Short-Haul Trucker

On August 6, I had a Conversation With a 25-Year Short-Haul Trucker.

I nicknamed the driver “SH”. His definition of “short-haul” meant he returned home every night. However, “SH” did not do end deliveries. Rather, he did hub-to-hub deliveries, driving five hours in one direction, then five hours back, dropping off loads in each direction.

SH’s Job Routine

  1. SH drives his car to a trucking hub.
  2. He picks up a loaded truck and drives 4-5 hours in one direction.
  3. He drops off the load at a designated hub.
  4. He picks up a load or another truck that someone else dropped off.
  5. He drives that load back 4-5 hours at his starting hub.
  6. SH picks up his car and drives home.

Drivers Not Needed

In addition to the 11-hour limit, there are many additional restrictions as noted by the FMCSA Summary of Hours of Service Regulations.

Particularly limiting is the 60/70-Hour Limit: “Property carrying drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.”

The moment drivers are not required, the cost of the driver, the cost of the driver’s benefits, and the mandated down time will all go away.

Long haul and hub-to-hub drivers will vanish within a year or so of self-driving trucks being allowed on the highways.

Both autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles will take over at a pace far faster than most expect.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock