Freightliner debuted its on-highway flagship Cascadia in 2007, and has sold 800,000 units in the 15 years since. The truck itself has undergone multiple design and technology changes in that time, but likely none more significant than the deployment of an all-electric version.
A fully battery electric eCascadia made its debut in 2018 as a proof of concept before swiftly being handed off to demonstration fleets with almost 50 trucking customers running real freight in the real world. To-date, Freightliner electric trucks have logged well over one million miles in day-to-day operations, pulling real loads and making real drops.
Rakesh Aneja, vice president and chief of eMobility at Daimler Truck North America, said the rigorous testing and development cycle resulted in a production-ready model, which was unveiled Monday at the ACT Expo in Long Beach, California, featuring multiple battery and drive axle options and a typical range of 230 miles, depending on vehicle configuration.
Ideally suited for short-haul routes that allow for depot-based charging, eCascadia is powered by the Detroit ePowertrain. The eAxle is an electric drivetrain component integrated with an electric motor, transmission and specialized electronics within a compact unit. Detroit’s ePowertrain provides two eAxle designs, including a dual motor with max torque of 23,000 lb-ft and max power of 395 hp and a single motor featuring a max torque of 11,500 lb-ft and max power of 195 hp.
The Detroit ePowertrain offers three battery options for a range of sizes and average, zero-to-full charging times starting with 194 kWh (one and a half to three hours), 291 kWh (two to four hours), and 438 kWh (two to six hours). Regenerative braking helps maximize range and across the pilots, the average energy recuperation ratio was 20%-25%, with some drivers achieving even up to 30%.
Detroit’s Li-Ion batteries enable the eCascadia to meet range targets without sacrificing payload. eCascadia comes equipped with sensors throughout the vehicle to detect a collision and automatically open the electrical circuit for the high voltage system, shutting down the batteries and eAxle to avoid risk of electric shock or thermal event.
Because the Detroit ePowertrain produces less heat than a traditional combustion engine, temperature and packaging requirements for cooling are minimized. That allows the eCascadia to come with closed hood vents and a new grille that reduces drag by forcing more air around the vehicle, opposed to pulling it through the radiator. Additional aero improvements are available in the Aero-X package, standard on the 6x4 model, which includes front wheel well closeouts, air skirts under the high voltage battery impact protection panels, quarter fenders with aero spoilers and drive wheel fairings.
New onboard technologies
Detroit Connect eServices have been developed to support eCascadia, including an in-house developed Charger Management System (CMS) integrated directly into the Detroit Connect portal, which is set to debut later this year. CMS provides reports about depot utilization, data for grant compliance and Low Carbon Fuel Standard credit reporting, and can strategically save fleets money by leveraging demand- response incentives from local utilities. Additionally, CMS allows for staggered charging of multiple vehicles, charging during off-peak-demand hours, and partial charging. CMS is optimized for use with Detroit eFill chargers, and is also compatible with other popular charger models.
The eRange prediction tool automatically and accurately calculates and displays range over the course of a proposed trip. To give the most accurate indication possible, the tool analyzes multiple data inputs including vehicle parameters, load, weather, traffic, and road gradient. eRange Prediction allows for testing of “what-if” scenarios and performs analysis.
Battery health monitoring tracks and gives visibility into the eCascadia battery’s state-of-health percentage, state-of-charge percentage, remaining range miles, and charging status. Post-trip analysis gives actionable information to improve the eCascadia’s performance, utilization, and driver training. Based on actual trip data, users can visualize and quantify operational differences between trips. Outlying data is highlighted so that managers can easily identify exceptional situations.
Detroit Connect’s traditional features are also available on the new eCascadia, including remote updates that allow users to update one or hundreds of trucks from a single location.
The Freightliner eCascadia comes standard with Detroit Assurance with Active Brake Assist 5 (ABA 5), and release of the series production eCascadia marks the debut of a new Detroit Assurance safety feature: Active Side Guard Assist (ASGA). This industry-first technology engages at urban speeds (12 mph or less) to mitigate the truck from making a right turn when a moving cyclist or pedestrian is detected along the passenger side of the truck. ASGA applies automatic braking along with visual and audible warnings, and is ideal for busy urban settings. This first-of-its-kind technology will help to protect pedestrian on the road today.
The eCascadia will also be the first version of the Cascadia to come standard with Active Lane Assist (ALA).
Battery charging & customer support
Daimler Truck North America, in partnership with NextEra Energy Resources and BlackRock Renewable Power, plans to build a network of charging sites on critical freight routes along the East and West coast and in Texas by 2026, leveraging existing infrastructure and amenities while adding complementary greenfield sites to fulfill anticipated customer demand. First phase is set to begin construction in 2023.
Additionally, the Detroit eFill line of electric commercial vehicle chargers provide an array of commercial charger options for customers and charging station operators designed for integration with the Detroit ePowertrain. The first Detroit eFill chargers were deployed across California earlier this year by California Truck Centers.
DTNA President and CEO John O’Leary noted that his company was also working on what to do with the truck batteries once they've reached the end of their useful life. "There's already work and regulation being done to make sure the batteries continue to be used," he said, adding that "if you can repair and reuse it, [they can be used] for stationary storage or be redeployed as infrastructure."
DTNA has also taken a consultive approach via Detroit eConsulting – a customer-solution with the goal of making electrification for fleets approachable. The team has worked with nearly 40 Freightliner customers in the last several years. Detroit eConsultants are able to connect all of the dots for customers including right-sizing infrastructure, choosing ideal chargers, navigating rebates and incentives, site selection, connectivity insights, photovoltaic and energy storage options and more.
Detroit eConsulting offers three packages: Baseline, Powerline, or Megaline. The Baseline package is free to all purchasers of Freightliner electric trucks and includes best practices and dealership-level consultation. Services of the Megaline and Powerline packages are not dependent on purchases of a Freightliner truck.
Under the Powerline package, customers will find similar benefits to the Megaline package, without the support for distributed energy resources (for example: solar, storage, and others) or the interface to local utilities.
The top-tier Megaline package is recommended for large-scale electric truck deployments. Customers receive assistance with planning for charging infrastructure, solar panel, and stationary energy storage projects. The eConsulting team interfaces with local utilities on the customers’ behalf. Additional services include a comprehensive cost-benefit and route analysis, and assistance with capital and operating expenditure optimization.