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As diesel passenger vehicles continue to plummet in key markets like Europe, does the same fate await linehaul trucks soon?

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According to Cummins, the answer is a resounding “No”. The leader in diesel engines has doubled down on diesel power when it comes to commercial vehicles for the foreseeable future.

cummins_logoIn a recent Podcast interview on Roadsigns.com, Julie Furber, Cummins’ Executive Director for Electrified Power, admitted that we’re still quite a long way off from electric long-haul freight.

According to Furber, among the obstacles are the nascent battery technology and additional infrastructure needed to make electric commercial hauling as viable as electric private transportation.

“The weight of batteries (and) the cost of batteries just do not make it an economic or effective solution for linehaul trucking today. As well as the need for charging infrastructure and the charging rates for batteries also present a barrier.”

However, it’s interesting to note that Cummins, synonymous for its diesel engines, has been investing in electric technology recently.

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Last year, Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger announced an ambitious plan to make Cummins “the leader in electric powertrains for urban transportation”, and to diversify the company’s product line beyond diesel and natural gas-powered engines.

As part of this new direction, Cummins has embarked on an electric startup buying spree to complement its own R&D. Last October, it acquired battery maker Brammo, while In January, it bought the battery unit of UK sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey.

More recently, Cummins announced the acquisition of Silicon Valley-based Efficient Drivetrains Inc, which designs and produces hybrid and fully electric powertrains for commercial use.

Despite this aggressive push for electric technology, Furber acknowledges that most of the payoff would likely be in hybrid technology. For fully electric trucks, the current level of technology is only feasible for return to base operations, which are typically limited to 100-200 miles per day.

“Longer term, electrification will come to all of our markets. We are looking into mild hybridization to gain efficiency, but fully electrified powertrains for long-haul vehicles is a way out into the future.”

“So, for Cummins, the good news is we continue to invest in all those technologies and can see that for the next several years diesel will be very hard to beat in that market.”