Up to this point, most electric semis have been given cushy assignments in warm climates like California. But one company said it will test its electric trucks in some of the harshest conditions imaginable: Michigan.
Meijer is a Michigan-based retailer with nearly 500 grocery stores throughout the Midwest. It also operates one of the largest fleets of semi trucks in its home state and this winter, it will add two fully electric Freightliner eCascade vehicles to its convoy thanks in part to a grant from the Department of Energy.
Meijer has upgraded its Lansing distribution center with charging infrastructure so its two EVs can make multiple deliveries per day to stores within a roughly 200 mile radius. Per the terms of the DoE grant, the company will observe how its battery electric commercial trucks perform in colder conditions while reviewing data daily for temperature impact on mileage, charge times, battery life optimization and driver comfort.
The eCascadia trucks that Meijer will be using have gone through lots of development, testing and prototypes at Freightliner. The company said the semis feature multiple battery and drive axle options, and provide a typical range of 230 miles, depending on the configurations. The eCascadia has a maximum battery capacity of almost 440 kWh and can recharge 80 percent of the truck in approximately 90 minutes, which should minimize the amount of time drivers spend charging instead of, you know, driving.
The trucks will also be equipped with some interesting features to hopefully make the short-haul operations, particularly in urban areas, run more safely and smoothly. This is especially important since the Class 8 eCascadia weighs 82,000 pounds. To help ensure that all that tonnage doesn’t become a problem, the trucks will come standard with Detroit Assurance with Active Brake Assist 5, which uses always-on, fused radar and camera technology to monitor the road ahead.
The trucks will also debut a feature called Active Side Guard Assist, which engages at speeds of 12 mph or less to stop the truck from making a right turn when a moving cyclist or pedestrian is detected on the passenger side of the truck.
Meijer’s tests will be key for determining the future of fleet vehicle electrification across the country. Here’s hoping it goes well and that the drivers stay warm.