The green future of big rigs is almost here

Anyone who has driven the roads in their part of the country has seen semi-trailers delivering goods and other items. The semi-trailers you see on the road today are powered by huge diesel engines capable of going a million miles or more. With federal mandates trying to push people from traditional combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles, manufacturers of large heavy trucks and owners of large fleets feel the same pressure. Several of the largest manufacturers in the semi-trailer market are hard at work on electric vehicles and other mission-zero technologies for the future, and here are some of their trucks.

Tesla Semi

When it comes to electric cars for the masses, Tesla is the undisputed industry leader right now. While Tesla is primarily known for its all-electric cars and SUVs, it is also working on the Tesla Semi, a fully electric semi-trailer for transporting loads. While this truck has been delayed multiple times, it will eventually hit the market and promises a 300- or 500-mile electric drive range, depending on the version chosen. Tesla has promised that the vehicle will consume less than 2 kWh of electricity per mile traveled.

The Tesla Semi has an expected base price of $ 150,000 for the 300-mile range version and an expected base price of $ 180,000 for the 500-mile range version. While those prices sound high, they’re in the normal range for diesel-powered semi-MSRPs today. A new diesel semitrailer from any manufacturer will cost more than $ 150,000, and some specialty trucks will cost more than twice that.

Freighliner eCascadia

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When it comes to popular trucks operated by large fleet owners and owner-operators, one of the most popular trucks is the Freightliner cascadia. Freightliner has been working on an all-electric version of the Cascadia, appropriately known as the eCascadia. The Freightliner eCascadia is a large Class 8 platform with between 360 and 500 horsepower, depending on the version chosen. It can carry a maximum gross payload of 82,000 pounds and has an electric driving range of 250 miles.

The usable energy capacity is up to 475 kWh and, perhaps most importantly, the eCascadia can be charged to 80 percent of its capacity in 90 minutes. A typical semi-trailer used for local or highway applications can be driven by a single driver for up to 11 hours and can travel hundreds of miles during that time. Quick recharging is critical to the success of large electric platforms. Freightliner doesn’t mention prices for the eCascadia, but the average cost of a regular Cascadia today is around $ 165,000.

NEXT eMobility International Solutions

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Another manufacturer of heavy trucks for a variety of purposes is International. International hasn’t given a specific name for its electric trucks, but they all fall under its NEXT eMobility Solutions umbrella. What we know about International’s project is that its electric vehicle will peak at 645 horsepower and 402 continuous horsepower. Maximum torque will be 2102 pound-feet with a continuous torque of 1,549 pound-feet.

International offers three different battery capacity options, including eMV Base with 107 kWh, eMV Mid with 214 kWh, and eMV Max with 321 kWh. The company notes that the eMV Max version is only applicable for certain chassis specifications. Much of International’s electrical offerings are a mystery at the moment.


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Peterbilt is one of the most popular manufacturers of semi-trailers and other medium and heavy duty trucks. Peterbilt has a number of fully electric trucks for different uses, including the 220EV design for pickup and delivery, regional transportation, and food and beverage applications. This is a small, straight truck, which means that the cargo area is attached to the same frame as the tractor at the front. Offers a range of up to 200 miles.

Peterbilt’s The electric semi-trailer is the 579EV., which uses a daytime cab configuration. For those of you who may not know, a day cab is a large platform that does not have a rear bedroom that is typically used for local operations where the driver does not sleep in the truck. Peterbilt says the 579EV is designed for short haul and haulage applications.

The latest of the electric trucks Peterbilt is building is the Model 520EV designed for commercial and residential garbage collection. Peterbilt doesn’t offer any specs on its large electric rigs at this time, so we don’t know about battery capacity or driving range. It’s also worth noting that Peterbilt trucks tend to be some of the most expensive you can buy, typically costing more than other brands like Freightliner.


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Another of the most popular manufacturers of semi-trailers is Kenworth. Kenworth has a semi called T680E, a fully electric class 8 large truck. Kenworth says this model has an estimated operating range of 150 miles depending on the application. The T680E is compatible with a CCS1 DC fast charger that offers a maximum charge rate of 120 kWh and an estimated charge time of 3.3 hours.

The Kenworth semi electric has 536 continuous horsepower and 670 horsepower. It produces 1,623 pound-feet of torque, giving it plenty of towing power. Both Kenworth and Peterbilt are owned by the same parent company PACCAR, so the specifications for the Peterbilt electric truck could be similar. Pricing for the T680E is not advertised, but like Peterbilt, Kenworth trucks tend to cost more than competitive offerings from Freightliner and others.

Nikola Two and Tre

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One of the most interesting zero-emission options out there when it comes to semi-trailers comes from Nikola. Nikola has two zero emission models, including Nikola Two and Nikola Tre. The Two is very different from the other zero-emission offerings because it uses a hydrogen fuel cell rather than relying solely on battery packs. The Nikola Tre is a battery electric vehicle.

Looking at the hydrogen fuel cell Two, it is emission free and relies on hydrogen to produce electricity to operate the vehicle. Not long ago, Nikola confirmed that he had signed a hydrogen infrastructure agreement with TC Energy that will see the two companies deploy hydrogen fueling infrastructure along major truck routes across the country.

The main benefit of hydrogen fuel cells for fueling semis is that they can run almost continuously, just like a traditional diesel-powered vehicle does. The main hurdle for any hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle to overcome is the hydrogen infrastructure.

The Nikola Two has a driving range of up to 900 miles and can fully refuel in 20 minutes. Its driving range and refueling time are very similar to those of today’s large diesel trucks. The truck offers 645 continuous horsepower, and Nikola expects the Two to be available in 2024.

The Nikola Tre BEV has a driving range of up to 350 miles per charge thanks to its 753 kWh battery pack. It can be recharged from 10 to 80 percent in 120 minutes using a 240 kW charger. The electric vehicle has 645 continuous horsepower.

Can electric vehicles or fuel cell semi-trailers replace all diesel semi-trailers?

Now that we’ve talked about some of the zero-emission semi-trailers that will be available from various manufacturers, it’s worth taking some time to talk about how practical these trucks will be in all aspects of commercial transportation. Please note that all of these fuel cell and electric semi trailers are intended for local and short haul transport.

While local and short-haul trucking makes up a large part of the commercial trucking industry, the technology does not exist today to allow large, zero-emission rigs to take over the industry entirely. The problem for trucking companies and drivers is downtime for loading. Trucking companies and drivers don’t make money if their truck isn’t rolling.

In some applications, diesel-powered semi-trailers travel on US highways for up to 22 hours at a time. In many urgent applications, trucking companies use equipment drivers. Each driver can spend 11 hours behind the wheel, and with a team of two, the truck can run for 22 hours straight. Ideally, when a semi-trailer comes to a stop on an axle, they are unloading the trailer they’ve been towing and immediately picking up another load and heading back onto the road. Having a long recharge time and limited driving range just won’t work for long-haul trucks.

Assuming Nikola can implement a hydrogen fueling infrastructure that can serve all major truck routes, his technology seems to have the best chance of replacing traditional diesel-powered trucks. The driving range and refueling time are close enough to modern diesel trucks that hydrogen fuel cell semi-trailers could replace diesel trucks without changing the way truckers and businesses operate. Of transport. Of course, a breakthrough in battery capacity or charging speed could eliminate the downsides of electric rigs.

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