- Kodiak Robotics is incorporating autonomous driving capabilities into an electric tractor for its fleet in 2024, the tech company announced Tuesday.
- The Peterbilt Model 579EV has a range of up to 150 miles and can be recharged in as little as three hours, Kodiak noted. It’s designed for short-haul and drayage uses.
- “Customers have been long asking for an autonomous electric vehicle and we are delivering on that need,” Don Burnette, co-founder and CEO of Kodiak, said in the release.
The combination of AV and EV technology is marking a first for the industry for a Class 8 truck, Kodiak said.
“We want to show them with this vehicle that the two go together,” Chief Technology Officer Andreas Wendel said in an interview. “It just inspires people’s imagination, and we believe that is very beneficial.”
Drivers have already had the chance to test out Kodiak’s electric tractor, Wendel said.
The company is developing what other benefits can be further exploited, so its software stack is being adapted to for a vehicle that’s more agile and what could be easier to maintain than diesel trucks, he said.
In contrast, diesel trucks with autonomous technology need to be modeled with a certain degree of uncertainty over gear shifting timing.
Kodiak started equipping its Peterbilt electric truck with autonomous technology a few weeks ago, though driving on the road has been in non-autonomous mode, Wendel said.
While developments still continue, there’s already a certain amount of infrastructure in place for the new technology. Charging for the tractor requires a level 2 alternating current charger, which are widely available in public settings, or a direct current fast charger. Level 1 charging is associated with a residential 120-volt AC outlet.
“I thought you’d need quite a massive charger for it, but it’s actually pretty simple,” Wendel said. “We believe that this will be the future of trucking eventually.”
The Peterbilt truck could meet sustainability initiatives of companies, and Kodiak envisions battery technology improving to extend the range of its capabilities in the future.
Meanwhile, competition in the AV space continues to grow and shift. Solo Advanced Technologies, which renamed itself in January to Terraline, is developing an autonomous electric Class 8 truck called the SD1. The company started in 2021 and last year showed off its technology on a racetrack. In 2018 and 2019, Volvo Trucks shared details on its vision for an electric autonomous cabless vehicle for ports and other facilities.
“We do see Vera as a potential future solution as the technology continues to mature and evolve," Volvo Trucks spokesperson Kyle Zimmerman said in a statement Monday. "For the time being though, we will offer autonomous transport solutions in the ports and logistics segment based on Volvo’s premium truck range."