Amidst the recent flurry of news on the electrification of trucks, XL, makers of electrification systems for commercial vehicles, shares its perspective on the electric vehicle market and its strategy moving forward.
XL has served fleets exclusively since its inception in 2009. However, it’s the consumer side that has driven much of the excitement in vehicle electrification to date, says Eric Foellmer, XL’s director of marketing.
“Tesla has done a great job of getting the mainstream talking about and accepting electric vehicles, not just as a science experiment, but as a luxurious and exciting car to drive,” Foellmer says. “And (Tesla has) really helped to drive charging infrastructure, incentive programs, and tax rebates.”
When it comes to electric trucks, near-term developments are also focused on the consumer space, particularly the luxury market. “The Rivian (R1T electric pickup) and Tesla pickup may be stylish and versatile, but they won’t necessarily be designed with the needs of fleets in mind,” Foellmer says. “Fleets will continue to gravitate toward the tried and true models they’ve always relied on, and those are the units we focus on electrifying.”
The PHEV system isn’t designed to take over full propulsion of the truck; rather, it works in tandem with the standard engine to increase MPG by 50% and reduce CO2 emissions by 33% over the standard models, while the factory performance and warranty remain intact.
Earlier this year, Ford announced plans for a hybrid F-150, purportedly arriving in late 2020, and recently released a video tease of a fully electric F-150. Considering this news, what are XL’s plans?
“Our plan has always been to supplement the electrification strategy of the OEMs,” Foellmer says. “(Ford’s plans are) a big part of why we came out specifically with a plug-in hybrid version of the F-150, because we knew there was going to continue to be a gap, a niche that (Ford) is not intending to fill immediately.”
“It’s been our model to progress from a hybrid system to a plug-in hybrid system, and then, eventually, to an all-electric system. It’s in our product roadmap to release all-electric versions of our products.”
As of now, XL isn’t releasing a timeline or further details for a full electrification system.
Some tipping points likely need to be reached in terms of battery technology to reduce size, weight, and cost, Foellmer says. And he isn’t counting on a cross-country rollout of EV charging stations to adequately handle fleet needs anytime soon: “The research that I'm seeing suggests that a fully mature charging infrastructure could be over a decade away, not single-digit years away. But progress is certainly being made.”
Electrification — particularly when it comes to commercial trucks and charging them — figures to be a longer development process than the passenger car side. With that, Foellmer sees unmet electrification needs of fleets that can be filled today and well into the future with hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
“As we continue to move into the full EV space, it's an exciting time to be part of the industry while all these changes are happening,” he says. “There have been a great many developments made over the past decade, but that pales in comparison to what’s in store for the decade to come.”