HDT editors got behind the wheel of everything from last-mile electric delivery trucks to classic-style Peterbilts.  -  HDT graphic

HDT editors got behind the wheel of everything from last-mile electric delivery trucks to classic-style Peterbilts.

HDT graphic

Getting out and behind the wheel of new trucks is one of the coolest parts of the job for HDT editors. Our 2023 test drives were an interesting mix of classic and coming-soon. We drove everything from the new Peterbilt Model 589 conventional tractor to highly advanced battery-electric, alternative fuel and hydrogen fuel cell tractors at a top-secret development site in the Swedish woods.

So, let’s ring out 2023 with a look back at HDT’s year in test drives and see what they can tell us about where truck design and powertrain technology are headed as we prepare for a whole new round of emissions regulations set to hit just three short years from now.

Behind the Wheel of the Nikola Tre BEV Cabover Truck

Jim Park gave the Nikola Tre BEV tractor high marks across the board for performance and driver comfort.   -  Photo: Jim Park

Jim Park gave the Nikola Tre BEV tractor high marks across the board for performance and driver comfort. 

Photo: Jim Park

Equipment Editor Jim Park must be getting old. Used to be he didn’t mind climbing up into a cabover truck. But at the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council meeting in Orlando, Jim found it well worth the climb once he was settled behind the wheel of the Nikola Tre BEV.

This is Nikola’s battery-electric Class 8 truck, as opposed to the hydrogen fuel cell variant it's now focusing much of its attention on. There has been a lot of curiosity about Nikola trucks, and Jim was not disappointed when he got this one out on the road, giving it high marks for its smooth, quiet ride and exceptional handling.

Peterbilt’s Model 589: A Modern Take on a Classic Design

Peterbilt was meticulous about the design of the new Model 589 tractor and its on-highway performance showed it.  -  Photo: Jack Roberts

Peterbilt was meticulous about the design of the new Model 589 tractor and its on-highway performance showed it.

Photo: Jack Roberts

Diesel ain’t dead yet, as a visit to the Texas Motor Speedway in May demonstrated. This time I landed the assignment, to see the launch of the new Peterbilt Model 589.

Replacing the venerated Peterbilt Model 379 was a tricky proposition that took a lot of time, thought and conversations with the Model 379’s passionate fan base to make sure that Peterbilt got it right. But a new, modern cab and the latest in convenience and safety features managed to update this classic design in a way that was winning Peterbilt purists over from the minute the curtain rose on the brand-new truck.

On the Track at Continental Tire’s Proving Grounds

Jim Park was able to take trucks around the punishing Continental Proving Grounds in Uvalde, Texas, to see how the OE validates its new tires.   -  Photo: JIm Park

Jim Park was able to take trucks around the punishing Continental Proving Grounds in Uvalde, Texas, to see how the OE validates its new tires. 

Photo: JIm Park

The torture tests truck tires undergo as part of their validation process is something to see. And that’s exactly what Jim Park did in June when he traveled to the Continental Tire Proving Grounds in Uvalde, Texas.

Jim was there to see for himself the extremes Continental goes to when it comes to testing tire designs. That included test drives around the various courses at Uvalde simulating all kinds of the extreme driving conditions truckers encounter out on — and off — North American roads.

The No-Frills, Tough and Capable Mullen Three

The Mullen Three is a sprightly urban delivery truck perfect for last mile applications.   -  Photo: Jack Roberts

The Mullen Three is a sprightly urban delivery truck perfect for last mile applications. 

Photo: Jack Roberts

The Mullen Three is designed for electric van deliveries in busy urban settings. Its solid, no-frills design reflects the needs of that market.

In a short drive, I found the van features an impressively tight turning radius and advanced fleet telematics to help with route planning and scheduled deliveries.

Volvo’s New-Generation Zero-Emissions Trucks

Volvo had wide range of European models available for test drives, showcasing the Swedish OEM's zero-emissions powertrain technologies.   -  Photo: Jack Roberts

Volvo had wide range of European models available for test drives, showcasing the Swedish OEM's zero-emissions powertrain technologies. 

Photo: Jack Roberts

Jim and I both were guests of Volvo for an intimate overview of the OEM’s zero-emissions powertrain technologies. The trip, to Volvo headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, marked our first time back to Europe since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Volvo didn’t disappoint with test drives in a wide range of battery-electric trucks, as well as sneak-peeks of CNG and hydrogen fuel cell models, as well. We were able to drive many of these new trucks, and both of us came away impressed with their performance and smart design features.

Mack's Medium-Duty Electric Truck

The MD Electric draws on tradtional Mack styling with green powertrain performance.   -  Photo: Jim Park

The MD Electric draws on tradtional Mack styling with green powertrain performance. 

Photo: Jim Park

Mack’s stylish MD medium-duty truck is only three years old. But the new MD Electric is, as you might expect, an all-electric version of Mack’s medium-duty workhorse.

Jim Park took the MD Electric out for a drive to evaluate its performance. He also reported on an innovative “electric trucks as a service” program Mack is instituting to help fleets transition to battery-electric trucks.

A Low-Roof Sneak-Peek from Peterbilt

The Model 589 Low-Rise Sleeper won't be officially unveiled until sometime in 2024.   -  Photo: Jack Roberts

The Model 589 Low-Rise Sleeper won't be officially unveiled until sometime in 2024. 

Photo: Jack Roberts

As 2023 was winding down, Peterbilt invited me back to the Texas Motor Speedway. I was there for a customer event which was primarily focused on its new electric truck models. But, as Jake White, director of product marketing told me, Peterbilt just couldn’t resist showing off something a little special at the event.

That “something special” turned out to be a sneak-peek of the Model 589 72-Inch Low-Roof sleeper, which will officially debut next year. I was lucky enough to get a few laps behind the wheel of this new head-turner.

Back on the Texas Motor Speedway with the Peterbilt Model 579EV

Peterbilt's Model 579EV is smooth, powerful and strikingly quiet on the road.   -  Photo: Jack Roberts

Peterbilt's Model 579EV is smooth, powerful and strikingly quiet on the road. 

Photo: Jack Roberts

As I was just saying, a low-roof sleeper version of the Model 589 aside, Peterbilt used its November customer event in Texas to educate fleets on its electric truck models. The star of the show was the Model 579EV, which proved to be a sure-footed, powerful and quiet performer out on the track.

A New Era Dawns with International’s eMV Electric Truck

At an Atlanta test drive, the International eMV provided to be a well-designed truck with a cutting-edge thermal management system.  -  Photo: Jack Roberts

At an Atlanta test drive, the International eMV provided to be a well-designed truck with a cutting-edge thermal management system.

Photo: Jack Roberts

On a cold, crisp, morning in Atlanta, Idealease held a customer event to introduce electric truck technology to the Deep South. For many of the fleet executives at the event, this was their first time to see an electric truck up close and have an opportunity to drive one.

Out in busy Atlanta traffic, I found the eMV to be a solid performer with a lot of well-thought-out features to help fleets begin to deploy them in medium-duty applications around the country.

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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