Global boss of Daimler Trucks, Martin Daum has laid out the company’s plan to move to zero emission and he is saying it will happen sooner rather than later.

Daum told analysts and the media  that the company is gradually turning away from internal combustion engines as it prepares for the changing future that will involve battery-electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and life as an independent business entity.

“We are going to refocus our R&D activities on zero-emission technology and the majority of our R&D spending will be focused on zero-emission trucks by 2025,” said Martin Daum.

Daimler is aiming to address struggles in European, Asian, and Brazilian markets, and to focus on targets for North America as well.

“Related to this, we are sundowning our internal combustion activities with partnering strategies. We’ve done that already in medium-duty engines with Cummins, and we are working on more solutions that will allow us to manage our exit from legacy activities.”

Daimler projects that 60 per cent of its global sales will be zero-emission vehicles by around 2030.

Daimler  also identified targets that will apply as it spins off  the truck and bus operation by the end of this year.

“We will follow a dual-track BEV and fuel cell strategy because we are convinced our customers will need both technologies,” Daum said.

Daimler projects several enhancements in range, payloads, refuelling times and costs for fuel-cell-electric vehicles.

While battery-electric trucks have been identified as a viable option for lighter loads and shorter ranges, fuel cells are seen as the best option for heavier weights and longer hauls, with Daimler raising questions about whether energy infrastructure could support a future that focused on batteries alone.

“There is no way that we can do it with just one energy source and we need two,” Daum said.

“Hydrogen offers the opportunity to transport the energy over a distance and the only way to transport it will be H2,” he added.

This philosophy has led Daimler to establish the Cell-centric joint venture with Volvo with the two companies looking to develop, produce and commercialise fuel cell systems, with a “gigafactory”  planned to commence operation in 2026.

The Volvo partnersip is just one of many that Daimler has forged to support its journey to  the future. The company is working with European industrial gas giant Linde Group to establish a hydrogen refuelling station by 2023, and the push for fuel cells across Europe will be supported through work with Volvo, Iveco, OMV and Shell.

The newly announced program with Shell company will see a 1,200-km hydrogen corridor created connecting Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Cologne.

“Hydrogen, along with electrification, can help to decarbonise the economy,” said Shell CEO Ben van Beurden, referring to the agreement as “a partnership of two industry titans”.

By 2027, Daimler projects it will have a hydrogen fuel cell truck with a 1,200-km range, capable of refuelling in 15 minutes.

Both technologies will be needed to address infrastructure limitations, Daimler officials say.

Plans for Daimler’s North American hydrogen rollout have yet to be announced, but DTNA president, John O’Leary said there is a history of technology migrating from Europe to North America, and when the time comes, they will have a product ready to go.

Daimler also says its focus on partnerships extends to battery-electric offerings as well having announced an expansion of its partnership with CATL is expanding with  the company set to deliver batteries for the Mercedes eActros prime mover  in Europe in 2024, with plans to produce batteries in North America and Europe under the partnership as well.

Daimler expects current battery-electric vehicle ranges of 500 km will increase to 800 km in the next generation of equipment, and are predicted to consume 25 per cent fewer kilowatt hours per kilometre, at a 40 per cent lower cost,  As well charging capabilities are likely to increase by 170 per cent to about 2 megawatts, up from the 700 kW as they are at the moment.

DTNA  currently has 40 battery-electric Freightliner eCascadia and eM2 trucks in a customer fleet testing program with production of both models scheduled to begin in late 2022. In additon Freightliner  has announced it will begin producing an all-electric van later this year.

Daimler says there will be significant changes in computing power in its trucks, with significant releases planned in 2023, 2025, and 2027 as it reduces the number of computers in trucks while increasing computing power.

Daum also broached the subject of autonomous vehicles, with the company exploiting another dual strategy through investments in both Waymo and Torc Robotics.

“Autonomous is one of the holy grails out there, and our dual-track strategy will accelerate deployment,” ,” Daum said.

Waymo’s autonomous tech will be applied to a unique version of the Freightliner Cascadia, while Daimler’s Torc subsidiary will use its virtual driver to support hub-to-hub trucking and this lays the foundation for a new profit pool offering services beyond traditional vehicle sales, the company says.

“The growth potential we see with services is significant with offerings such as dynamic insurance and fleet management services.,” said Daimler’s chief financial officer Jochen Goetz,

There’s a goal to increase Daimler’s service-related revenues from today’s 30 per cent share up to 50 per cent  by 2030.

As Daimler Trucks prepares for evolving vehicles, it’s also committing to improve business activities in Europe, Brazil, and Asia.

“We absolutely need to raise our financial performance and have the blueprint for how to do that  through Daimler Trucks North America,” ,” said Goetz.

While holding a 40 per cent market share of truck sales in North America, Daimler’s European shares dropped from 23per cent to 20 per cent between 2012 and 2019.

In one recent benchmarking survey of the seven truck brands available in Europe, Daimler products ranked fourth, sales fifth, and service sixth.

“To some extent we have lost touch with our customers, and secondly our cost base has increased but we weren’t able to increase our revenues,” said Karin Radstrom, the recently appointed head of Mercedes-Benz trucks in Europe and Latin America.

The OEM announced that it plans to reduce fixed costs, capex, and R&D spending by 15 per cent as early as 2025, when compared to 2019 totals.

Despite its ongoing success there, Daimler still  has ambitious  targets for growth in North America, with an increased focus on the vocational segment, building on its recent launch of the Western Star 49X as well as proposals for a $ US 2 trillion infrastructure spend.

“Our vocational focus  with a $US350-million investment in the 49X comes at the perfect time,” O’Leary said.

‘DTNA says there are opportunities to grow in the small fleet segment , because although it enjoysa 58 per cent market share among large fleets, DTNA’s share dips to 33 per cent across smaller fleets, and it sits second place in the vocational segment with a 28 per cent market share.

“We have a lot of uncertainty at the moment regarding the availability of chips or semiconductors, and it will have a “significant impact” on production during the second quarter of this year,” Goetz said.

Ola Kallenius, chairman of the board of management at Daimler AG  had the final word , making a bold statement that  the company aimed to be at the forefront of the next generation of truck technology.

“There’s a fundamental technology shift going on in this industry, and we intend to lead it,” said Kallenius.