Mercedes Electric Truck To Challenge Tesla

Mercedes-Benz outlined plans to start selling an electric heavy-duty truck in about 5 years, a week after Tesla Motors’ initial sketch on battery-powered commercial vehicles failed to impress investors.

The Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck will have a range of about 200 kilometers (120 miles) per battery charge and capacity for loads of as much as 26 metric tons, parent company Daimler said recently. The model, targeted for inner-city tasks such as supermarket deliveries, could go on sale by the start of the next decade, it said.

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Truckmakers are starting to develop electric models to meet tighter emissions rules for city centers, though options are limited due to a lack of batteries with the durability to propel fully loaded vehicles for long periods of constant use.

Trucks tested include the 6-ton Canter e-Cell from Daimler’s Fuso brand and a model from Swedish competitor Scania that’s powered by overhead electric cables, while U.S. startup Nikola Motor has outlined plans to unveil a battery-powered prototype in December.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk included a freight truck as part of a proposed lineup expansion in his July 21 master plan for the U.S. manufacturer. While the company’s Model S sedan was the first e-car with broad appeal, a commercial vehicle will pose a new challenge as fleet operators focus on cost of ownership and durability over design and comfort features.

Customers will also be reluctant to risk buying unproven technology, said Tom De Vleesschauwer, an analyst at research company IHS Markit. Tesla has the potential to overcome those doubts by cooperating with co-founder Ian Wright’s Wrightspeed, a manufacturer that specializes in electrifying trucks, De Vleesschauwer said.

Sales of electric versions might account for 4% of European Union and U.S. medium- and heavy-duty truck sales by 2025.

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