- The future of trucking is both electric and autonomous, Bosch predicted last week as it unveiled a series of new products meant to support the two emerging transportation technologies during the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2018 conference.
- By 2030, the company predicted one-quarter of commercial vehicles worldwide will be "electrically driven." Bosch also said the U.S. and Europe showed the greatest potential for hub-to-hub automation, or "driverless trucks shuttling between depots."
- To reach this future, Bosch is investing to develop products that embrace "electrification, automation and connectivity." It committed to hiring 5,000 more R&D associates by the end of the year.
"Nobody who wants to give heavy trucks a secure future can afford to rule out the option of producing alternative fuels using electricity from renewables," Rolf Bulander, chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector at Bosch, said in a statement.
Bosch seeks to bring a wave of electric hardware, and connected or autonomous software, to the market ahead of this shift. At the conference, it announced a set of product updates:
- A partnership with U.S.-based Nikola Motor Company to develop fuel-cell powertrains for long-haul trucks.
- A partnership with China-based Weichai Power to promote "the uptake of fuel cells."
- A retrofit for semitrailers to adopt an electrified axle.
Not all technology is ready for a full roll-out, however. Bosch's vision of trucks driving themselves between logistics depots, or "hub-to-hub automation," remains far from reality. The company said legislation, technology and infrastructure obstacles are still in the way, but it is engaged in "major EU research projects."
Auto suppliers like Bosch have a key role to play in the adoption of electric vehicles and technology. Companies like UPS and FedEx may commit to reducing emissions, but such goals are hard to reach without all the components — like axles and powertrains — contributing to those goals.
The logistics industry seems eager to adopt this new technology. When Tesla announced it would build an electric truck, Fortigo Freight, Walmart and J.B. Hunt all placed orders. The trend spans beyond the category of long-haul trucking, too: UPS and Workhorse Group, an electric delivery vehicle manufacturer, are working together to build a more sustainable fleet for the logistics provider. Volvo said it would fully roll-out electric trucks in Europe by 2019, and Daimler, Volkswagen and Cummins have all said they are at least developing electric vehicles, as well.