Freightliner talks electric walk-in van details, last-mile market roll out
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Medium-duty

Freightliner Custom Chassis talks electric walk-in van details, last-mile market roll out

Jason Morgan is the content director of Fleet Equipment.

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Art by Tammy House

What makes the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) battery electric walk-in MT50e van launch interesting is that it’s a next generation EV that can leverage the lessons learned by its beefier Freightliner eM2 and eCascadia brethren. Not only that, but Mike Stark, electric vehicle program manager, FCCC, noted that the truck chassis manufacturer works with many of the same customers that employ the medium- and heavy-duty Freightliner trucks.

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“At the start of DTNA’s electric powertrain development path, the initial formation of the eMobility Group included individuals from all corporate brands like Thomas Built Buses and FCCC, which help to collectively align strategies and understand the best technology for the various vocations in which the trucks and buses will operate,” Stark said. “This collaboration helps everyone to provide information as to duty cycles, applications, etc. when designing the electric mobility ecosystem. In addition, we standardized our charging strategy configuration to include DC charging.”

We peppered Stark with a handful of other questions about the MT50e’s launch. Before we get to that, here’s a quick refresher on the MT50e’s specs:

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  • Range of 170 miles on a single charge and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 19,000 pounds.
  • Engine power of up to 226 kWh (303 HP).
  • A full battery charge in three hour.
  • A single-piece steel frame to maximize heavy-duty load capacity.
  • Designed and built to the same body dimensions as the gas and diesel MT, which allows existing bodies to be utilized with little change and easy integration into existing fleets.
  • Fifty-state EPA and CARB certified

Onto the questions!

Fleet Equipment (FE): The last-mile delivery application these trucks service seems like a natural for electrification—what are the customer apprehensions you need to overcome to get these into the market?

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Stark: The questions, apprehensions and concerns we encountered from customers were very similar to the ones we’ve all heard regarding electric: operating range, battery life, battery replacement costs, charging infrastructure, and real cost of ownership. Thanks to our partnership with DTNA and the shared expertise and experience across the full DTNA electric portfolio, we have a great message and detailed answers to each of those apprehensions.

FE: What other medium-duty applications would these chassis be suited for?

Stark: We see the MT50e generating interest across a wide range of medium-duty and last-mile applications, including linen, bakery, utility and municipality.

FE: What training and/or collaboration goes into the body builder network as you start to deliver these chassis? Any special needs with electrified powertrains that bodybuilders need to take into account?

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Stark: The design of the MT50e chassis was intended to have minimal impact on the body builder. The mechanical body-mounting strategy remains the same, with FCCC providing the body-mounting structures with the exception of floor inspection panels that may need to be provided for easier access to the e-Axle and other electrical components.

With the introduction of our OptiView and safety systems, the dash area cameras need to be installed. Our extensive partnership with body builders helps to ensure systems are operating as intended. The completion of the builds of our engineering test fleet and customer demonstration trucks has further validated and helped both FCCC and the bodybuilders to overcome any issues with the integration of the body to the chassis to be ready for production.

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FE: The original announcement referenced DriveTech, what is that?

Stark: Initially developed for the RV market, DriveTech is poised to become the most advanced display and control system in the walk-in van industry. It’s the first walk-in van driving system to prioritize safety by putting every command in one easy-to-reach location, with all-new ergonomic steering wheel and column-mounted controls paired with OptiView’s all-digital gauge display to create a more automotive-like feel. Put it all together, and it will set the industry standard for driver comfort and safety.

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