Cummins, a company best known for producing diesel engines has told the market it wants it known that its capabilities extend beyond diesel.

Julie Furber, executive director of electrification fgor Cummins  said the company intends to be in the diesel business for a long time yet but it also thinks hybrids have a part to play and believes fully-electric has a part to play.

Ms. Furber made the remarks during a keynote address in Canada last month.

“We think the diesel market has a long way to go, and Cummins has committed to spending $AUD390 million into electric power research and development over the next three years,” Furber said.

“But the trucking industry is still in the early stages of adoption and how fast it will happen is another story,” she added.

“At this point in time we are thinking around the next 20-25 years,” Furber said.

“The industry is currently in Phase 1 of adoption and this is driven by social requirements for cleaner air, but challenges such as charging time and range remain,” she said.

“The energy density of batteries today doesn’t allow sufficient range without compromising payload,” she explained.

Furber said Phase 2 will see the adoption of improved technologies, and lower-cost batteries that are smaller and regulations will be required to promote the use of electric power.

The Cummins executive said government subsidies will be needed to promote electrification and during this phase, lots of municipal return-to-base trucks will adopt electric power, as well as smaller pickup-and-delivery vehicles.

Furber said that Phase 3 will see the economics work in a broader range of applications with trucks needing to deliver a payback within a five-year initial life-cycle.

“Further breakthroughs will be required to provide 800 kms of driving range per day and questions about resale value will need to be answered,” said Furber.

“Battery recycling programs will be necessary, and a more expansive charging infrastructure is needed, to the pioint that right now, we wouldn’t advocate an electric linehaul truck,” Furber admitted.

“Currently Cummins believes diesel remains the best fit for longhaul, natural gas is ideal for regional haul and refuse, while hybrid is an ideal solution for utility fleets,” Furber said.

“Full electric power is best suited to urban transit bus applications, but in the future, customers will choose between internal combustion engines, hybrids, battery electric power and fuel cell electric,” she added.

“Many fleets will end up with a mixture of these vehicles,” she said.

“We are moving from being an engine company, to being a power delivery company – to delivering the right power to customers at the right time.”

Furber was quite dismissive of new arrivals into the industry such as Tesla.

“We can all build one truck, anybody can build a truck and make an electric truck. The difficulty is the next piece – getting it on the road, doing it reliably, repeatedly and robustly is much more difficult,”  she said.

“Cummins has a global network of 3,000 distributors to supports its engines and Cummins won’t disappear before electric power becomes mainstream,” Furber said.

“Others, who are fully invested in an electric-driven future, will be in a hurry to see the technology succeed.”

“There will be a lot of consolidation and a lot of companies that run out of cash,” she predicted.

“A lot of them care about how fast electrification adopts, if it doesn’t adopt fast enough, they will not have the cash to stay in business.”

Furber said Cummins is already working with OEMs today to integrate an electric powertrain. It plans to have fully electric buses in production by the end of next year, and trucks should come soon after – initially as prototypes.