Municipal buses will drive the advancement of electrification for powertrains.
During a news teleconference from Cummins distribution headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, the company’s chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger explained demand is guiding which markets will see electrification first.
With a social demand for reduced emissions and noise, transit buses will be the first vehicles to hit the road with electrified powertrains within the company’s commercial and industrial scope.
Linebarger added the opportunity for electrification also exists within material handling and underground mining, due to enclosed spaces where zero emissions are an added benefit.
“That’s where we’ll see the first moves on electrification, where people will be willing to pay more, or there will be subsidies available first,” Linebarger said. “Those will be the ones to drive volume and improvement on technology and development, which will drive costs for the rest of our applications.”
For transit, Cummins plans to release a full-electric powertrain by the end of 2019, and a range-extended electric vehicle will hit the road in 2020.
“Longer term, we believe electrified power will come to all our markets, in one way shape or form, but it may not be tomorrow or next year, despite all the chatter you may be hearing,” said Julie Furber, Cummins’ Executive Director of Electrification Business Development. “Later, we see trucks, off-highway, mining and forklifts turning to electrification.”
The cost of batteries, and other electronic components used in electric vehicle has fallen rapidly in recent years, helping make electric vehicles a reality outside of passenger cars.
“What this means for some of our markets, with the right duty cycles and operational characteristics, is that electrified power trains are already becoming economically viable,” Furber said.
However, some of the electrification technology Cummins is developing won’t be economically accessible for about 20 years. This year, Cummins launched its Electrification Business Group, to spur development of new electric powertrains. While the company traditionally spends about three to four per cent of its total sales on research and development, that number will climb.
R&D outside of electrification
“We are certainly stepping up our level of R&D spending,” Linebarger said.
Electrification won’t consume the entire R&D budget. Cummins continues to develop new technology for diesel, natural gas and hybrid vehicles. Chief Technical Officer Jennifer Rumsey explained the size and weight of a battery for long-haul trucking would be counterproductive, encouraging development of other options.
“We are looking at hybridization as a way to achieve efficiency advantages,” Rumsey said. “We think that may have some attractiveness in the near term. But full electric for a long-haul vehicle, we think that is quite a way into the future.”
Linebarger noted emerging technology that may be used within Cummins customer base has created a ‘critical juncture’ for the company.
“We are really excited about the technology changes that are going on in our industry, and what we think we can do with those technologies to serve our customers better,” he said.