ETruck Transportation Set to Revolutionize Powertrains by 2024

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ETruck Transportation aims to start producing powertrains that convert Class 8 diesel trucks into hybrid battery-electric vehicles by the end of 2024, according to a top executive.

The powertrain systems are already available for pre-order, and ETruck plans to start full-scale production by the end of the year, said company President Russell Knudsen to Transport Topics.

ETruck, based in Omaha, Nebraska, currently offers a Class 6 retrofitted battery-electric truck and has sold 23 powertrains so far, according to Knudsen. His wife, Judith Knudsen, is the CEO of the family-owned business.

Previously, the Knudsens owned Rage Exotic Vehicles, which specialized in designing and manufacturing exotic vehicles. Before that, Russ Knudsen was the president of Knudsen Automotive, known for creating customized vehicles for TV shows like “Miami Vice” and for big manufacturers like General Motors.

ETruck’s target market is much broader, with Knudsen stating that their solution is one that any fleet can adopt.

For their Class 6 truck, ETruck replaces the diesel engine with an electric drive system, keeping the transmission and driveshaft intact. They attach an electric motor to the transmission, bolt battery packs on the frame rails, and install a control system in the truck.

In the retrofitted Class 8 hybrid truck, the electric motor and battery packs are still used, but a small diesel engine is added. There’s also an option to extend the range with a gasoline-powered generator to recharge the batteries, said Knudsen.

“It’s very simple. That’s one of the reasons it’s going to be very popular,” Knudsen said, adding, “We don’t have any competition, and we’re not competing with anyone else. Someone wanting a new truck will buy one. But for those who can’t afford that, we offer three for the price of one new truck.”

Rolls-Royce will supply the small twin-turbo diesel engine for the hybrid truck, and Siemens will provide the recharging system components. ETruck is still negotiating with battery suppliers.

Negotiations with battery suppliers are taking time because they are not accustomed to handling ETruck’s volume needs, Knudsen explained.

ETruck has not patented its products, as any component being copied would come from a billion-dollar corporation, according to Knudsen.

The powertrains will have a 500,000-mile warranty and won’t change the weight of the original diesel truck, Knudsen noted.

Customers will either already own the truck or buy a used one. The economics are favorable as second-hand truck prices are dropping, Knudsen mentioned.

In April, the average retail price for a used Class 8 truck fell 17.3% year-over-year to $58,869 from $71,205, and 1.9% from $59,987 the previous month, according to ACT Research data.

ETruck has 14 facilities for installing the Class 6 powertrain and expects larger customers to handle the work with their technicians. ETruck is willing to train these technicians, Knudsen added.

ETruck chose Freightliner trucks for both Class 6 and Class 8 options due to their abundance in the market, which is why ETruck expects rapid expansion.

The company currently has five employees but plans to grow to 500 within two years. It also has a 30,000-square-foot facility that they plan to expand to 300,000 square feet within a couple of years.

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