Fuel Smarts

TransPower's Totally Electric Class 8 Tractor [Video]

October 2015, TruckingInfo.com - WebXclusive

by Jim Park, Equipment Editor - Also by this author

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 True zero-emissions freight transportation is closer to reality than you might think. A California-based technology company called TransPower USA has five Class 8 tractors in service now working out of the Port of Long Beach. The company also has several yard shunt tractors and school buses in real-world service.

These trucks are not cobbled together McGiver jobs, either. They are highly engineered and look just like factory installations. These trucks could be the long sought-after solution to diesel emissions in areas with real air quality issues.

We recently had an opportunity to test drive one of these electric Class 8 trucks and found it to be a very functional alternative to a diesel tractor. We had the truck without a trailer, so we can't report on its pulling power, but the company says the truck is powered by two 200-hp electric motors. That's 400 horsepower, plus you get the benefit of the very high torque output of the electric motors.

Joshua Goldman, the vice president of Business Development at Transpower says the trucks are a work in progress, still undergoing refinement and incorporating newer technologies as they emerge. For example, Goldman says the current design has a range of 80 to 100 miles at nearly full output – as he says, "pulling 80,000 pounds at 65 mph" – but he said they are currently working to extend that range to 120-150 miles while cutting the weight of the truck by about 2,000 pounds.

This control module is the heart of Transpower's all-electric, zero-emissions Class 8 drive system. Photo by Jim Park
This control module is the heart of Transpower's all-electric, zero-emissions Class 8 drive system. Photo by Jim Park

Trucks like this are obviously not a viable alternative for longhaul operations, but they certainly will work in local, regional, pickup and delivery and probably some vocational applications. 

The trucks we feature in the video are working, licensed vehicles that see daily service in the Long Beach area. Check out the video and imagine the possibilities.

And by the way, this truck is NOT an International branded product. The company behind the electric powertrain, TransPower USA, bought the cab and chassis from International, removed the diesel engine, fuel tanks, cooling system and a few other parts before installing the electric drive system and batteries. It's basically a glider kit. Transpower USA says it will soon be buying glider kits from other OEs as well.

More information on the company is available here.


  1. 1. Stanley B. Sanders [ October 26, 2015 @ 05:33AM ]

    There is not a zero emissions vehicle made unless it recharges on solar power. More political nonsense.

  2. 2. TM Nielsen [ October 26, 2015 @ 03:40PM ]

    True, zero emissions, I believe some qualifying and quantifying are in order. What is in the differentials, transmission and steer hubs, petroleum? How do we "Re-charge" this beauty, does it charge while in operation? It appears to have a small, small limited use at this time. Are we charging with fossil fuel produced power, or is it solar, hydro, yet we are removing dams are we not? Nice advertisment, hope it works well for them to gain funding investments. I'm sure, someday the concepts will be viable, understandably technology gains through testing and trying, yet now, really? Sadly, I personaly believe the article is miss titled, more hype.

  3. 3. Jerry W. Segers [ October 30, 2015 @ 06:29PM ]

    While the current production is clearly more hype than progress. It is also clear that until there is some reason to build alternate fueled power systems they will never be constructed. In this chicken-egg problem, having vehicles like these on the road will help justify the construction of alternately fueled charging systems which in my estimation will be easier to construct than alternately fueled vehicles since the construction will not have to be concerned with weight.

  4. 4. Michael Leonard [ November 02, 2015 @ 02:39AM ]

    I just don't understand why they don't start with a hybrid truck. The torque you get from an electric engine is superior to diesel. If you would mount a small diesel engine to generate the electricity you might be able to boost output to 30 - 50 MPG @ 600hp. Can you even imagine the long term benefits of this type of truck?

  5. 5. Jim Park [ November 02, 2015 @ 11:11PM ]

    I think you naysayers are missing the point here. This is a proof of concept vehicle, and the truck itself is truly zero-emissions. It produces nothing but a soft whining noise. Sure, there's a power plant somewhere upstream generating electricity to power the thing, but when the truck comes rumbling through a neighborhood, there are no diesel emissions. From an air quality perspective, this truck is the holy grail. In the so-called non-attainment areas, this truck could write its own ticket. The truck's builders have proved it could be done, now the design needs to be refined and its range extended. It can only get better from here, and I'm quite sure it will.


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