It’s been a massive year for trucks, especially electric trucks from SUVs and pickups to mid-range and long-haul vehicles. Let’s look at some of the news of 2021 and what it means for the year ahead:
Notable truck investments in 2021
You couldn’t move in 2021 for news of truck investments. Well, they’re so many that we’re gonna focus on the most notable:
- Trucking app company Fluid Truck raised $63 million in Series A.
- Fleet management developers KeepTruckin raised $200 million in Series E.
- Autonomous trucking company Gatik raised $85 million in Series B.
Rivian raised a massive $11.9 billion in its initial public offering (IPO). This was the biggest in 2021 and the sixth-largest ever on a US exchange. It trumps Uber, which raised $8.1 billion in 2019. However, Rivian’s November trading experiences were less than stellar, and the issue of getting trucks manufactured and to customers remains a pain point.
Also in November:
- CloudTrucks raised $115 million in Series B funding.
- Kodiak Robotics raised $125 million in Series B funding.
- Independent trucking platform provider TrueNorth raised $50 million in Series B funding.
- Driving software company AI Fleet raised $21 million in Series A funding.
- Cross-border transport company Nuvocargo raised $20.5 million in funding.
Trucks go green, but we need to power them
Trucks and range anxiety is a real thing. We not only need a truckload (excuse the pun) of battery innovation but adequate access to trucking chargers as well.
We also need the evolution/transformation of transport infrastructure. According to Aaron Gillmore, CEO of WAVE:
Unprecedented port volume and congestion, combined with growing social and environmental pressure for clean air around ports and goods movement corridors will spur new solutions for heavy-duty EV trucks such as wireless charging in virtual port entry queues for drayage trucks.
He further noted that the challenges of increasing range with additional costly, heavy, and progressively supply-constrained batteries will lead to new innovative approaches to range extension.
These include high power wireless charging — placed strategically for creating EV fleets that can run at a virtual perpetual state of charge, and support 24/7 continuous operations.
Solar and hydrogen show their green cred
Companies are also investing in solar and hydrogen fuel cells.
Worksport has created a solar-charging truck bed cover (or tonneau), called TerraVis. The company is partnering with EV truck companies Hercules and Atlis to configure the TerraVis system for their pickup trucks.
The company is also engaged in innovating and designing high-efficiency, affordable hydrogen fuel cells to fast charge battery electric vehicles. Steven Rossi, CEO of Worksport shared:
Worksport is convinced that both solar and hydrogen technologies are the future of automotive and will play key roles in how sustainability will shift to a greener tomorrow.
We are focused on helping to evolve and transition the industry towards a carbon-neutral and emissions-free future.
In September, Hyundai announced its Hydrogen Vision 2040 at an online event called Hydrogen Wave. The company aims to become the first automaker to apply fuel cell systems to all commercial vehicle models by 2028.
Two months later, California announced a three-year $1.4 billion hydrogen fueling and electric truck charging infrastructure investment.
And in December, Volvo Group, Daimler Truck, and the TRATON GROUP signed a binding agreement to create a joint venture to install and operate a high-performance public charging network for battery electric, heavy-duty long-haul trucks, and coaches across Europe.
The same month, WattEV unveiled America’s first publicly available solar-powered electrical truck stop for heavy-duty electric trucks in California.
Autonomous trucks are the future
Expect to see plenty of noise in 2022 about autonomous trucks. This includes interest in automation in response to driver shortages. In December, Embark announced its expansion into Texas and the launch of a new autonomous trucking lane between Houston and San Antonio.
My list of companies to watch in 2022 include:
- Enride (self-driving and remote-controlled trucks)
- Gatik (autonomous trucks for middle-mile driving)
- Nuro (autonomous delivery vehicles)
- TuSimple (autonomous trucks)
- Outrider (autonomous yard operation)
Labor challenges and shortages persist
In the US, driver age laws are changing to allow 18-year-olds to drive trucks across states with an apprenticeship program for young drivers starting in early 2022.
According to Timothy J. Henry, CEO, and Co-Founder of Haul:
2022 will continue to see a massive demand surge that far outweighs the market’s capacity.
Before COVID, freight and products just seemed to automatically show up before, but that is no longer the case, as manufacturers and retailers will have to level set expectations with their customers.
Labor will remain a bottleneck for each part of the supply chain, from manufacturers to port operators to warehousing and distributors to retail operators. We will continue to see a shortage of labor continue in 2022.
The elephant in the room is Nikola
It’s hard to know what to say about Nikola. The fraud allegations plaguing the electric hydrogen truck company range from amusing to appalling.
In December, Nikola agreed to pay $125 million over two years to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint over fraud claims against disgraced founder Trevor Milton.
Milton ‘did a Theranos’ and misled investors, but is free on $100 million bail at the time of writing. His trial is set for April 4, 2022, in New York. His actions included pushing a truck down a hill to pretend it was “fully operational.”
The Tesla Cybertruck is slated for a 2022 release but Elon Musk said on Twitter in November:
Oh man, this year has been such a supply chain nightmare & it’s not over!
I will provide an updated product roadmap on next earnings call.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 29, 2021
But, if all things go to plan we’ll see Tesla’s cybertruck, the Ford F-150 Lightning, and GM’s Chevy Silverado shipping to customers in 2022. Watch this space, things are going to get interesting.
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