AnalysisNew Heavy-Duty Trucks

A long journey for electric trucks

Daimler Truck and MAN simultaneously introduce their first battery-electric heavy-duty trucks. So far, the alternative to diesel has played a minor role on the roads.

A long journey for electric trucks

The only sound echoing at the MAN test track in Karlsfeld, located on the northern outskirts of Munich, is that of tires rolling on the asphalt, occasionally splashing through puddles. There's no diesel engine clatter, no vibrating noises. The air is scented with the fresh aftermath of rain that ceased just a few minutes ago. Enter the E-TGX, the first heavy electric truck from the Munich-based company that has specialized in manufacturing commercial vehicles for 108 years. This electric truck doesn't rely on diesel – it marks a new era in the company's history.

"The Future starts now" and "100% electric" are prominently displayed in large letters on the canvas of the long three-axle trailer being towed by the tractor. Friedrich Baumann, Chief Sales Officer of MAN, puts it even more succinctly: "The age of electrification is already here."

Baumann makes this statement on a small stage inside one of the large, white, dome-shaped tents beside the test track. He points out that there are now 2,500 units of the battery-electric MAN TGE transporter on the road. “And recently, we handed over the thousandth Lion's City E to a Spanish customer.” MAN has been offering the electric city bus since 2020 and the smaller E-TGM truck for four years.

Series Launch Next Year

Now, the E-TGX and the slightly smaller E-TGS complete the electric product range for heavy-duty and long-distance transport. Series production of the heavy series is set to begin next year at the Munich plant, on the same production line as the diesel trucks. The first 200 units will be delivered to selected customers, and production and orders are expected to ramp up in the following year.

Just a few days earlier, competitor Daimler Truck presented the production version of its first battery-electric long-haul truck near Hamburg: the E-Actros 600 under the Mercedes-Benz brand. Sales are scheduled to start later this year, with series production set to begin at the end of the next year. Swedish competitor Volvo has been in series production of a heavy range since September 2022.

Volvo states a range of 300 kilometers for the FH Electric. Daimler Truck promises 500 kilometers without recharging for the E-Actros 600, allowing for more than 1,000 kilometers in a day. MAN specifies a maximum of 600 to 800 kilometers per day for the E-TGX and the smaller E-TGS – albeit with one intermediate charge. The response to the existing range of electric trucks has been modest. Christian Levin, CEO of Traton, expresses discontent with the order intake: “It is far from being satisfactory.”

Strong Increase Expected

The Munich-based VW Commercial Vehicles holding, Traton, which includes the MAN and Scania brands, sold only 1,190 fully electrified trucks and buses in the first nine months of this year and received orders for 1,703 vehicles.

However, Levin expects a significant increase in the next two years, with a share of 10% of sales. MAN's Sales Director, Baumann, is confident that by 2030, every second truck produced by the company will have a battery drive. He justifies his optimism by stating, "The ramp-up curve starts slowly but will become exponential later on." In any case, MAN's first heavy electric truck is doing well in the market. Baumann wouldn't be a good Sales Director if he said otherwise.

Three obstacles

However, offering compelling products is not enough. According to Traton CEO Levin, customers face three obstacles: First, electric trucks are two to three times more expensive than their diesel counterparts. Second, there is still a lack of widespread charging infrastructure, similar to the situation with passenger cars. The third point pertains to the recent volatility in electricity prices: "Customers demand stability," emphasizes Levin.

According to Daimler Truck's calculations, the E-Actros 600 could be more profitable for the buyer in Germany and France within the average service life of five years or approximately 600,000 kilometers in long-haul transport, despite its significantly higher purchase price. What matters to customers are the Total Costs of Ownership (TCO), which include all operational expenses in addition to the purchase price. This includes toll charges. Starting from December 1st in Germany, a CO2 surcharge will be imposed on them, giving electric vehicles an advantage.

The question regarding warranty

This aligns with the intentions of Martin Daum, the CEO of Daimler Truck, to promote electromobility. He expressed this sentiment two years ago in an interview with Börsen-Zeitung, stating, "Regulators can quickly set the direction in freight and, especially, long-haul transport."

Regarding the topic of battery charging, MAN's Sales Director Baumann acknowledges some reservations. Many customers express interest in electric trucks but pose the question, "Who can guarantee that I will have access to charging?" However, manufacturers emphasize that heavy-duty trucks do not typically cover extremely long distances in a single day. Baumann encourages customers, such as logistics companies, to improve their route planning to sensibly break up long distances.

Not Just Long Hauls

Daimler Truck points out that about 60% of the long-haul journeys for Mercedes-Benz customers in Europe are shorter than 500 kilometers. Charging at the depot and where the truck is loaded and unloaded is sufficient for these cases.

However, the statistics show that the bus segment is further ahead, partly due to the charging issue. City bus batteries can be replenished with new energy overnight at the operating companies' depots. In the EU, the number of new electric bus registrations increased by nearly a third in the first nine months of 2023 to over 3,400 units. According to the manufacturer association Acea, this raised their market share from 13% to a notable 14.4% within twelve months. This trend is supported by the fact that more and more cities aim to be role models in environmentally friendly transportation.