Quiet launch: Daimler builds first electric heavy-duty semis for fleet test

Tesla might have been the first to generate a lot of fanfare over an all-electric Semi, but it’s not the first to actually place an electric Semi with customers for full-time use.

That nod would go to Daimler Trucks North America. The initial two Freightliner eCascadia semis were built this week for its Electric Innovation Fleet—funded by a $16 million California grant—and they’ll be placed into duty later this month by the Southern California operations of two companies: Penske Truck Leasing and NFI.

The company’s intent is to test how the trucks fare in large-scale fleet conditions, and the innovation fleet “will inform the final production versions” of its two upcoming electric trucks, the eCascadia, and the medium-duty Freightliner eM2. Daimler also has an Electric Vehicle Council of 38 customers “to identify and address all potential hurdles to large-scale deployment of commercial battery electric vehicles.”