Daimler E-Trucks Heats Up Tesla Smart Truck Rivalry

German automotive company Daimler AG has second-guessed Tesla Inc.’s ability to deliver electric heavy trucks by next year, saying a more modest proposal to start selling battery-powered big rigs by 2021 is more likely to happen, reports Industry Week.

The German manufacturer, best known for luxury cars and being the world’s biggest truckmaker, meaning should Elon Musk make his plan to produce a semi-truck with a 500-mile range happen, they would stand the most to lose.

Daimler would have made an unimaginably large miscalculation should Musk pull it off, head of trucks Martin Daum said at an event in Stuttgart, reported Industry Week. He announced plans to produce a Mercedes-Benz electric truck for trial this year, followed by mass production as of 2021, though the intended range is smaller than the once Musk wants. Daum said battery life is a limitation for distance.

“If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks — one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by,” Daum said in IW. “But for now, the same laws of physics apply,” in Germany and in California, where Tesla is based, he added.

Daum said the Mercedes-Benz based electric truck Actros, starting with 10 vehicles will drop off loads on routes with a max range of 200 kilometers, or 124 miles.

Early testers of these vehicles include Edeka, a German supermarket chain, and parcel delivery service. They will receive trucks to test for about two years over the coming weeks. Daum said the company intends to spend 500 million euros, $616 million, in 2018.

Volvo AB is working on new tech to push commercial vehicles forward too. Battery life and costs have put trucks behind development for cars in this space.

The e-Actros will feature two versions as part of the pilot with total weights of 18 tons and 26 tons, Daum said. Broad demand, the company expects, won’t take hold for some time. The trucks will take 11 hours to charge.

“Trucks have to run for 1.5 million miles and then there’s a used-truck buyer too after that,” Daum said. “We don’t know for sure how batteries for trucks will react after being in use for four to five years — it’s very complex.”