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Daimler to make all-electric Freightliner trucks at converted Portland factory

Daimler will convert its existing factory in Portland to manufacture the company’s all-electric Freightliner trucks, Daimler Trucks North America CEO Roger Nielsen said today.

Nielsen made his remarks at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California today. The Portland plant will be renovated next year, with production of all-electric trucks to start in 2021.

DTNA said it decided to make the electric vehicles in Portland based on “multiple factors,” but specifically cited the Oregon city’s proximity to California, where EV demand is high. The facility will also be home to a battery storage facility and “an electric vehicle co-creation center, where the e-consulting team will collaborate with customers.” DTNA said the renovated plant will run on 100% renewable energy.

DTNA also announced that its school bus division, Thomas Built Buses (TBB), will soon start producing Proterra-powered Saf-T-Liner eC2s. Those buses will be assembled at TBB’s school bus manufacturing plant in High Point, N.C.

Nielsen made a number of other remarks at the event, and he was all-in on the potential of electric vehicles:

“The road to emissions-free transportation is going to be driven with battery-electric vehicles. I believe the future is electric.”

DTNA says it will put 50 electric trucks on US roads for testing by the end of 2019, including a test fleet and the Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet, which is shared between Penske and NFI. Including affiliated brands Fuso and Mercedes-Benz — with their electric eCanter and Actros, respectively — Daimler expects to deploy almost 200 fully electric vehicles worldwide by year’s end for “testing, co-creation and collaboration.”

Plug-in hybrids will not be a part of DTNA’s plans, and natural gas Freightliner vehicles are seen as “an interim solution” until the battery electric Freightliner eM2 and eCascadia are ready for full commercialization.

DTNA believes hydrogen fuel cells might be able to extend the range of its electric vehicles in the future, but does not see them as viable at the moment. “I can see glimpse [sic] of it over the horizon, but it will not be this generation of engineers who will be delivering it,” Nielsen said.

Head of Daimler Trucks & Buses Martin Daum said earlier this year that Tesla will “learn the hard way” as it enters the trucking industry.

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