- Gatik is electrifying its autonomous box trucks, the company announced Wednesday. Meant for middle-mile operations, the truck has a 120-mile range and can fully charge in fewer than 1.5 hours, Gatik said.
- Gatik collaborated with Via Motors to make the vehicles. Gatik said the model provides "significant emissions reductions, and savings on fuel and powertrain maintenance costs."
- Gatik will deploy the model for customers in New Orleans this month, according to the announcement. It is also working with customers to set up charging stations at distribution hubs and vehicle depots.
Gatik is known for its partnership with Walmart, taking the retailer's multi-temperature box trucks on autonomous short runs. This is the first time Gatik will combine driverless technology with an electric vehicle, and CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang said it fits with the company's existing strategy.
"The B2B short-haul market is ideally suited to electric technology thanks to the route lengths involved. Trucks can charge while they’re being loaded, enabling continuous service during operational hours," Narang said in the announcement.
Several electric truck tests are occurring in Southern California around ports and for drayage operations, taking advantage of the short hauls.
Volvo Trucks North America plans to deploy 70 Class 8 VNR Electric trucks, which fleets will start receiving this year, in that area for regional freight distribution and drayage. The Class 8 hydrogen truck on which Cummins and Navistar are collaborating is set to head to Fontana, California, for a year-long field test with Werner, after a prototype is produced.
Cummins and Navistar said the ideal range for such a truck would be 300 miles or more. Current hydrogen technology is better suited for long hauls than battery-electric trucks, though each has its challenges to overcome. Tesla chief Elon Musk recently called hydrogen "just crazy," as his company struggles to scale battery manufacturing for its 500-mile range Semi.
The difference between charging a box truck and charging a Class 8 truck is significant. Kenworth said its battery-electric Class 8 T680E, set to enter production this year, can go an estimated 150 miles with a charge time of about 3.3 hours — more than double Gatik's charging time, though Gatik's truck has less range.
Charging infrastructure is one of the biggest hurdles the industry must overcome to achieve wide-spread adoption of EVs. Gatik's plan to partner with customers on the installation will help fleets address some of the uncertainties involved with where and how to set up the charging stations.
"If [customers] don’t have a partner to show them how to operate [an EV], charge it or take care of it in the long run, it likely won’t be a successful deployment," Jason Gies, director of business development at Navistar's Next eMobility solutions, said in a statement last August.
Navistar is partnering with In-Charge Energy, based in Los Angeles, to provide consulting services and internal charging infrastructure to the OEM and its customers.
Gatik's test in New Orleans won't be its first in that area. It announced in December it would start piloting Walmart's vehicles on a 20-mile route between a supercenter in the city and a pickup point in Metairie, Louisiana. At that point, the autonomous vehicles had been operating with a safety driver on board.