Leaders of North America’s largest truck manufacturers talk EV growth strategies

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Updated Jun 7, 2024
OEM truck executives sit for a panel discussion at 2024 ACT Expo
Leading executives from Volvo Trucks, Peterbilt, Mack Trucks, Daimler, and Navistar talk scaling vehicle electrification during a panel discussion at the 2024 ACT Expo.
Clean Trucking

A gathering of CEOs from the biggest truck manufacturers gathered for a panel discussion Tuesday at this year’s ACT Expo where they discussed their respective EV growth strategies. Despite some business approach differences, they all concurred that the technology is proceeding fast and it cannot be forced onto customers.

Panel speakers included:

  • Peter Voorhoeve, President, Volvo Trucks North America
  • Mathias Carlbaum, President and Chief Executive Officer, Navistar
  • John O'Leary, President and Chief Executive Officer, Daimler Truck North America
  • Jonathan Randall, President, Mack Trucks North America
  • Jason Skoog, General Manager, Peterbilt and PACCAR Vice President

The panel was moderated by Art Vallely, President of Penske Truck Leasing.

Fleet operators simply cannot afford not to do anything towards achieving zero emissions, a topic that regularly came up. These executives are keenly aware of this. 

“The technology is advancing fast, especially since 2019,” said Voorhoeve. “We’re working with local utilities. There is the challenge of helping clients understand the safety aspects, such as high voltage. People understand [battery electric] is different from diesel. Going into zero emissions vehicles is a project in itself.”

Striking the right balance between investing in new sustainable technologies versus delivering what consumers currently want is tricky. Despite this, advancement towards zero emissions needs to get underway as soon as possible. 

“When it comes to new technology, we’re always thinking ahead. You can’t wait,” explained Skoog. “Zero emissions technology, whether it’s BEV, fuel cell. If you’re not trying what’s available today, you’ll be behind the adoption curve. At least try one.” 

Fortunately, panel participants agreed that their customers are expressing a lot of interest in zero emissions technologies. While some operators are rightly concerned about regulatory issues, scaling these new technologies to reduce the price tag remains front and center.

"Hydrogen ICE lacks the infrastructure right now. We need competence towards battery technology. There’s a lot of learning going on. We need to see the value of carbon reduction. It’s my opinion, not just regulations," said Volvo's Voorhoeve. 

Customers are showing interest but their primary concern remains risk, an issue these gentlemen are fully aware of. 

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“We’re trying to remove customer risk to adopt the technology,” said Randall, who also expressed another concern: infrastructure. “There’s a lot behind what that word actually is. A lot needs to happen with it. You learn lessons from early deployment to adapt the technology to new customers, [in our case] light duty trucks. We didn’t have all of that in our purview four or five years ago. It’s just learning how you engage and interact with your customers moving forward.” 

The discussion also briefly turned to hydrogen ICE, a technology all of the panel participants acknowledged lacks the necessary infrastructure at present. But, it it's not something that should be ruled out in the years ahead. Along with battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and, for now, compressed natural gas and biodiesel and renewable diesel, operators already have a variety of options to help them shift away from petroleum diesel. 

"One technology won't push out another technology. They will co-exist together," Voorhoeve concluded.

Jay Traugott has covered the automotive and transportation sector for over a decade and now serves as Senior Editor for Clean Trucking. He holds a drifting license and has driven on some of the world's best race tracks, including the Nurburgring and Spa. He lives near Boulder, Colorado, and spends his free time snowboarding, climbing, and hiking. He can be reached at [email protected].