It was a good week for electrified commercial vehicles as several companies joined forces or announced new products in parallel efforts to accelerate production of electric commercial trucks and vans.
The moves indicate these companies are serious about getting into the lucrative and vast market for all-electric local and regional transport — following the trend of other companies moving into that space, like Ford with the E-Transit, Stellantis with its Fiat model and General Motors’ BrightDrop subsidiary.
Electric commercial vans may be the vehicles most ideally suited to be battery powered. According to research by Daimler Truck North America, most urban-area delivery trucks and vans work from a central warehouse and make deliveries to retail locations within a given metropolitan region.
Daimler’s research indicates that most trucks working in this method travel fewer than 100 miles per day, making electric trucks and vans well-suited to the needs of operators.
The world market for commercial vehicles was estimated at 21.6 million units per year in 2020, and is projected to reach 27.9 million units by 2026. About half of that market is in the United States. Around the world and within the United States, nations and states are putting an end date on sales of new internal combustion vehicles. Against that backdrop, EV manufacturers are racing to bring products to market.
Mercedes-Benz Vans and Rivian launch joint venture
Mercedes-Benz Vans and Rivian signed a memorandum of understanding to create a strategic partnership and launch joint production of large electric vans in Europe under both brands’ badges.
The two companies plan to use shared investments to reduce costs, and plan to rapidly scale electric van production. Mercedes-Benz Vans is already a full-range provider of electric private and commercial vans, while EV truck and SUV manufacturer Rivian is new to the commercial market.
“Rivian was created to encourage the world to transition away from fossil fuel consumption by creating compelling products and services,” said R.J. Scaringe, founder and CEO of Rivian. “We’re delighted to be partnering with Mercedes-Benz on this project. We believe that together we will produce truly remarkable electric vans which will not only benefit our customers, but the planet.”
Anticipating regulatory approval, the companies intend to establish a new joint venture manufacturing company with the purpose building and operating a factory in Europe, with production starting “in a few years” according to the press release. The target is to build the electric-only production facility at an existing Mercedes-Benz site in Central/Eastern Europe.
“As a pioneer in the field of locally emission-free transportation, Mercedes-Benz Vans has gained broad experience in producing and launching eVans since 2010,” said Mathias Geisen, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “Now we are accelerating the transformation to a fully electric product portfolio. From 2025 onwards, all vans based on our new architecture VAN.EA will be electric-only.”
Initially, the companies plan to produce two large vans, one based on VAN.EA (MB Vans Electric Architecture), the electric-only platform of Mercedes-Benz Vans, and the other based on the second generation electric-van, Rivian Light Van (RLV) platform.
Mullen Automotive acquires Bollinger Motors
Niche EV manufacturer Mullen Automotive Inc. announced that it acquired a controlling interest in EV truck maker Bollinger Motors. The acquisition is a strategic move to propel Mullen into the medium-duty truck market in classes 3-6, along with rights to the Bollinger B1 and B2 sport-utility trucks. The purchase price for Bollinger was reported at $148.2 million in cash and stock to obtain a 60% controlling interest. From Bollinger’s side, the merger may help the sport truck manufacturer to revitalize its efforts in the electric sport utility markets.
Bollinger revealed a new Class 4 architecture Sept. 1. The B4 electric chassis cabs will be the first of the company’s commercial line-up. The B4 is a cab-forward truck, designed to offer maximum cargo volume, accommodate adaptation, and prioritize safety. Bollinger will be testing B4 chassis cab trucks this fall with numerous fleet customers, upfitters and charging companies to gather feedback.
“The strong interest shown by major customers in all the high-volume segments like delivery, telecom, municipal services, and utilities is a clear indication of the market’s desire for Bollinger’s vehicles,” said David Michery, CEO and chairman of Mullen Automotive.
“Combining Bollinger’s vehicles with our existing class 1 and class 2 EV cargo van programs gives us the chance to dominate the entire class 1-6 commercial light and medium duty truck segments.”
Harbinger announces new commercial EV platform
Finally, Harbinger, a Los Angeles-based automotive manufacturer, announced the official launch of its new commercial EV platform in the medium-duty category. Harbinger’s initial product line will include electric stripped chassis and cab chassis designed around the performance, durability, and lifespan characteristics required in Class 4 to Class 7.
“Medium-duty vehicles serve as the backbone of the commercial transportation industry and are responsible for delivering tens of millions of packages and critical services every day,” said John Harris, CEO of Harbinger.
Harbinger plans to ramp up manufacturing over the next five years, with first vehicles expected in customers’ hands in late 2023, followed by the launch of volume production in 2024.
Harbinger’s scalable chassis is designed for the predominant medium-duty body types, including commercial walk-in vans, RVs, box trucks, and other medium-duty vehicles. Harbinger touted the specs of their platform, including an 800V liquid-cooled battery pack scalable in 35kWh increments, floor height under 28 inches, 20-year or 450,000-mile service life, advanced driving and safety technology, and one-hour DC fast charging capability. Harbinger expects to bring the truck chassis to market at the same price point as existing internal combustion options.
“Better technology often comes with outrageous price tags, and we’re seeing today’s medium-duty EVs performing for half the life of today’s ICE vehicles at triple the cost,” said Harris. “Our technology was developed from scratch in order to control top level chassis cost.”