It’s been a tumultuous year for everyone in business, including delivery truck suppliers. Yet, despite the fact that many had to suspend equipment production operations for as much as three months, most still are on track to deliver the innovative, ergonomic solutions beverage fleet managers have come to expect. That’s especially true in the realm of emerging technologies such as zero-emission, battery electric vehicles. There also has been some activity in the autonomous truck space, which is expected to roll into a more significant position in five years or so.
The look ahead at 2021 and beyond begins, however, with some more conventionally powered vehicles (including those with gasoline engines), before we shift into the rapidly emerging, eco-minded technologies.
From the top fleet equipment suppliers, here are some of the newest offerings due to emerge in 2021.
Chevrolet announced a new engine for the Express and Low Cab Forward trucks, as well as several improvements to its Silverado 4500 HD, 5500 HD and 6500 HD chassis cabs. For 2021 models, Express configurations and Low Cab Forward are available with a new 6.6-liter V8 gas engine. Originally introduced in the all-new 2020 Silverado 2500 HD and 3500 HD, the direct-injected engine is SAE rated at 401 horsepower and 464 pound-feet of torque for the Express. That is 17 percent more horsepower and 24 percent more peak torque than the 6.0-liter engine it replaces. The 6.6-liter output on the Low Cab Forward is 350 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque, which is nearly 18 percent more horsepower and 14 percent more peak torque than the outgoing 6.0-liter.
The Silverado chassis cab trucks feature new enhancements, including an increased maximum gross combined weight rating of as much as 37,000 pounds, offering a 23 percent increase in hauling capability. The trucks also include a new mechanical locking rear axle that improves traction by automatically locking when a rear tire slips. The following are other features available: new extended mirror arms that offer better visibility on wider and longer upfit configurations; a new left hand power take-off capability that offers upfitters easy access to the PTO port from either side of the truck; and an auxiliary switch bank, conveniently located in the headliner, which is available with six additional upfit switches.
Ram Truck is calling its 2021 Ram 1500 TRX “the apex predator of the truck world.” Rated at 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, the 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine powers the Ram TRX to a top speed of 118 miles per hour (mph). Combined with a high-torque-capacity, the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission powers the Ram TRX to a new level of performance: 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds at 108 mph. Additionally, the new frame extensively uses high-strength steel that increases low-torsion attributes for greater durability and stability.
The following are other features offered:
- A new suspension system with active damping incorporating forged aluminum front upper and lower control arms
- A dual-path air induction system that delivers maximum output and feeds a steady supply of cool, clean air to the engine through the front grille and functional hood scoop
- A reimagined center console with maximum storage that includes a new performance-oriented floor shifter, wireless charging dock and five USBs, including Type A and C ports
- A flat-bottom steering wheel that offers enhanced handgrips wrapped in leather with optional suede and carbon fiber accents
- More than 100 active and passive safety features
This year, Isuzu unveiled two new gasoline engines for its N-Series low-cab-forward trucks. The engines include a 6.6-liter V8 that will be available in the Class 3 NPR and Class 4 NPR-HD, and a 6.0-liter V8 that will be offered in both the Class 5 17,950-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) NQR and the Class 5 19,500-pound GVWR NRR.
Isuzu says that the NRR will be the first 19,500-pound GVWR low cab forward truck on the market to offer a gasoline engine option. Highlights of the NPR Gas and NPR-HD Gas engines include:
- Direct injection that provides precise fuel control and more complete combustion for greater efficiency
- Variable valve timing that improves performance, economy and emissions
- Variable displacement oil pump that varies the oil pressure based on engine demand
- Power output of 350 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque at 3,800 revolutions per minutes (rpm) 200,000-mile design life
Certified and supplied by Power Solutions International, the NQR Gas and NRR Gas engines will be built from a Vortec V8 block that has been customized to Isuzu specifications. The power plant will produce 311 horsepower and generate 353 pound-feet of torque at 4,150 rpm, while the engine will be mated to a six-speed Allison 1000 RDS transmission with power takeoff.
This will be the first time Isuzu has offered PTO in a gas-powered truck, which will be especially useful for vocations that require that kind of capability. As with Isuzu’s new Class 3 and 4 gas trucks, both the NQR and NRR will offer a 38.6-gallon stainless-steel fuel tank. In addition, customers can choose between a Standard Cab with seating for three or the Crew Cab with seating for up to seven, and wheelbases ranging from 132.5 to 176 inches.
The zero-emission Kenworth K270E Class 6 and K370E Class 7 battery-electric vehicles now are available for order from Kenworth dealers in the United States and Canada. The electric powertrain is available with high-density battery packs of 141 kilowatt hours (kWh) and 282 kWh that deliver up to a 100- and 200-mile range, respectively, with zero emissions.
The Kenworth electric vehicles use a DC fast-charging system capable of fast recharge in as little as one hour, which makes the Kenworth K270E and K370E cabovers ideal for local pickup and delivery, as well as for short regional haul operations. End-of-shift and overnight AC charging also are available.
Depending on the application, Kenworth battery-electric vehicles offer two direct-drive motors rated at 355 horsepower and 469 horsepower. The efficient design provides enough torque to start the load from a stop on a 20 percent grade and enough power to maintain 40 mph on a 6 percent grade while fully loaded. Regenerative braking in stop-and-go city conditions recharges the batteries and extends brake life. The wheelbases are available in three sizes: 206 inches, 24-foot box bodies; 218 inches, 26-foot box bodies; and 274 inches, 30-foot box bodies.
The Kenworth K270E Class 6 and K370E Class 7 battery-electric vehicles qualify for a $95,000 voucher incentive to qualifying California purchasers from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The financial incentive is offered through the CARB Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). HVIP is part of California climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. The opening for new voucher incentive requests is anticipated to begin in early 2021.
In other news, PACCAR announced in September that it is collaborating with Faith Technologies and Schneider Electric to provide charging infrastructure solutions for customers who purchase battery electric Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks in the United States and Canada. As a result, customers will be able to order electric chargers from PACCAR Parts, and PACCAR Financial will provide flexible financing options for infrastructure and charging systems. PacLease will bundle the cost of charging systems within full-service lease offerings to customers.
Since we’re on the subject of battery electric cars, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), recently announced the launch of the Freightliner Customer Experience (CX) fleet for its electric truck offerings. The fleet of all-electric pre-series trucks includes six heavy-duty Freightliner eCascadias and two medium-duty eM2 106 trucks. At least 14 different customers who collectively represent more than 150,000 of all Class 6-8 trucks currently on the road in the U.S. will help test the new Freightliner CX Fleet.
Freightliner CX Fleet participants, members of the Freightliner Electric Vehicle Council, are working with Freightliner to identify and address all potential hurdles to large-scale deployment of commercial battery electric vehicles. DTNA will collect and analyze data and feedback from the CX Fleet to continue to improve upon future vehicle design and assist customers navigating a transition to electric fleets.
Since late 2018, the Freightliner CX Fleet brings the number of the Freightliner Electric Innovation Feet to 30. The goal is to provide feedback and real-world use data on the integration of battery electric trucks in large-scale fleet operations. The Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet recently hit a milestone, surpassing 100,000 cumulative miles of operation. The eCascadia is a Class 8 tractor designed for local and regional distribution; the eM2 is a Class 6/7 truck designed for local distribution, pickup and delivery, food and beverage delivery, and last-mile logistics applications.
Just as every business was impacted by COVID-19, DTNA had to suspend some of its operations in March. But by June, the company had reopened all nine of its manufacturing locations in North America. DTNA implemented universal safety protocols along with measures tailored for each facility in its network to make workspaces as safe as possible and fully complies with all federal, state and provincial, and local regulations. Additionally, at all of its facilities across the U.S. and Mexico, DTNA also established localized task forces comprised of plant leadership and labor union representatives to routinely assess and fine-tune its protocols.These safety measures include standardized cleaning regimens, redesigned workflows in observance of social distancing, redesigned layouts of common spaces, employee and visitor temperature screening with health questionnaires, and frequent employee communications.
Daimler announced the rollout of the Mercedes-Benz eSprinter, which is intended to cover the broadest possible range within urban delivery applications. Initially available as a panel van, the eSprinter features an electric drive that powers the front wheels with an output of 85 kW. The integrated quick-charge function enables the battery to charge from 10 percent to 80 percent in about 25 minutes.
The company offers its eCost Calculator, which allows drivers and fleet managers to use recordings of all journeys during a particular timeframe to determine whether or not an electrical vehicle is suitable for their area of use and how much energy and money they’ll be able to save. Additionally, the web-based eCharging Planner carries out an analysis tailor-made for the customer’s fleet, providing insight on the conversion from conventional to battery-powered electric vehicles. Additionally, Mercedes-Benz offers hardware solutions for charging infrastructure.
In other related news, Sprinter celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020.
Founded 25 years ago, BYD was a pioneer in battery electric vehicle technology. Well-known for its electric buses, BYD has made significant moves in the delivery truck market. Its Class 8 Day Cab features a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 105,000 pounds, and it delivers 483 horsepower and 1,770 pound-feet of torque. Meanwhile, its Class 6 truck has a GVWR of 26,000 pounds, 335 horsepower and 1,328 pound-feet of torque. Globally, BYD has delivered more than 12,000 zero-emission electric trucks across all classes. Specific to the beverage delivery market, BYD delivered its 100th U.S. truck, a second-generation Class 8 Electric Semi that was part of a larger deployment for Anheuser-Busch’s Oakland-based distribution operations. BYD also has been a key player in the electric forklift space.
Also highlighting its electric trucks’ solution, Volvo Trucks has deployed its first pilot VNR Electric truck in Southern California as part of the Volvo Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions (LIGHTS) project. A collaboration with the South Coast Air Quality Management District and 13 other organizations, LIGHTS plans to bring battery electric vehicles to market at a viable commercial scale. Starting in 2021, fleet operations in Southern California will be able to lease the VNR Electric from its TEC Equipment Dealership. The dealership is equipped with two 50 kW chargers inside its truck maintenance bays and a 150 kW charger outside to enable fleets to fast charge at the dealership. To safely install the electric infrastructure, the Volvo LIGHTS team worked with the local utility company, as well as San Bernardino County.
Navistar announced its NEXT eMobility Solutions business unit has signed a master services agreement with In-Charge Energy, a Los Angeles-based energy solutions company to provide charging infrastructure and consulting services to Navistar and its electric vehicle customers.
Since its launch last year, NEXT has focused its eMobility development on a comprehensive four-Cs approach: consulting, construction, charging and connecting. The partnership further strengthens Navistar’s ability to provide customers with critical support in each of these categories.
In other news, the next frontier beyond all-electric trucks is, of course, autonomous vehicles. Navistar has made significant strides into that space through a partnership with self-driving technology company TuSimple. Partners for more than two years, Navistar and TuSimple will collaborate on a range of self-driving trucks that are expected to be produced in 2024. Navistar also announced a minority stake in TuSimple.
Navistar also unveiled its first International RH Series vehicles equipped with the new Allison 3414 Regional Haul Series transmission. An uprate variant of the Allison 3000 series, the Allison 3414 RHS transmission, is offered on international vehicles largely due to the trucker’s conversations with the food and beverage industry. Thus, the new Allison 3414 is designed to provide fleets with a lightweight vehicle that has optimal productivity and maneuverability. The lightest-weight option in this vehicle segment, the 3414 RHS offers as much as 410 horsepower and 1450 pound-feet of torque. It also delivers fleets a 25 percent faster acceleration 0-20 mph, as compared with competitive automated manual transmissions. The new transmission also offers fuel economy improvements of as much as 8 percent with Allison’s xFE technology and FuelSense 2.0 with DynActive Shifting, which is included with every 3414 RHS.
Hino Trucks and Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) have agreed to jointly develop a Class 8 fuel cell electric truck (FCET) for the North American market. The companies will leverage the newly developed Hino XL Series chassis with Toyota’s proven fuel cell technology to deliver greater capability without harmful emissions. This collaboration expands upon the existing effort to develop a 25-ton FCET for the Japanese market, which was announced earlier this year. The initial demonstration vehicle is expected to arrive in the first half of 2021.
This year, Ford Commercial Solutions officially launched Ford Telematics, a web-based software platform and subscription service designed to give fleet managers easy access to important connected vehicle data. Through Ford Telematics, commercial vehicle customers can monitor their fleets with GPS tracking and geofencing, get live vehicle health alerts to plan and limit downtime, set reminders for vehicle service, analyze driver behavior, and help manage fuel usage to potentially reduce costs. With Ford Telematics, fleet managers can help improve utilization by keeping track of fleet vehicles with GPS tracking and geofencing capabilities. Knowing exactly where vehicles are on the road helps to identify which driver is closest to the next call, as well as effectively plan and get the most out of each vehicle. Fleets also can optimize vehicle availability by receiving proactive notifications and vehicle health alerts to plan for and stay ahead of maintenance.
In addition, workflow tools help schedule services well in advance, avoid costly, unexpected repairs and reduce disruption to fleet operations. Fleet managers also can monitor the fuel consumption of their vehicles and identify areas of waste. Other safety precautions feature a range of notifications, such as advance service reminders or a warning if a driver isn’t wearing his/her seatbelt, helping managers quickly act and protect their staff, vehicles and operation. Ultimately, these valuable insights into driver behavior help beverage fleets manage and improve driving behavior, driver performance and productivity. As part of a Ford Telematics subscription, commercial customers also will have access to the Ford Telematics Drive mobile app, which offers a user-friendly way to associate drivers with vehicles and for drivers to report the condition of their vehicles.
Ford’s 2021 Transit vans also have undergone a few ergonomic design refinements now standard in the 2021 vans. These include improved access to the cargo compartment; the replacement of the manual parking brake on the floor by the driver’s seat with an electronic parking brake for Transit vans of as much as 9,500 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). This creates a 50 percent wider clear aisle between the front seats. An optional center console with a right-side shifter further improves walkthrough and offers more than 7 inches of additional driver legroom. The overhead shelf now is optional, providing more clearance when standing. The armrests also have been eliminated from the driver and passenger seats to further improve cargo access.