Service networks will determine who wins with electric trucks

New entrants will battle it out with established manufacturers, but success may come down to reputation and scale. By Freddie Holmes

The initial move to electric powertrains opened a sizeable gap in the passenger car market, upon which the likes of Tesla and a handful of other start-ups have capitalised. The industry’s household OEMs, which have been selling cars for a century, have been playing catch up.

Although the switch to zero emissions powertrains has not moved as quickly in the commercial vehicle (CV) sector, a similar trend can be seen with electric trucks. Judging from announcements over the last couple of years alone, new entrants are set to flood the truck market. Thor Trucks, Volta, Nikola, Tesla, Hyzon Motors, Hyliion and Lion Electric have all put their hat in the ring. Big names like Traton, DAF, Volvo Trucks, Daimler, Paccar and BYD are some of the household brands to go big on electrification.

JB Hunt Freightliner eCascadia electric truck
Big fleets are likely to place orders with names they know well
Special report: Truck of the future

But will these new players shake up the status quo, or will the established truckmakers retain their market share? There are arguments to suggest that either could happen, and the impact that start-ups might make on the market remains unclear. “The jury is still out,” observes Bernd Heid, a Partner at McKinsey and head of the consultancy’s commercial vehicle (CV) division.

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