Daimler's first large electric semi trucks are ready to roll

The Freightliner eCascadia brings EVs to the heavy-duty world.

Daimler has spent ages talking about electrifying its trucks, and now it's ready to deliver in a very literal way. The automaker has completed the first two units of its heavy-duty Freightliner eCascadia semis destined for customers. They're not final production models -- they're still part of Freightliner's testing-oriented Innovation Fleet -- but they should see real-world use by Penske and NFI later in August. More deliveries are due in 2019.

The eCascadia is an electrified version of the familiar big rig design. Its range isn't phenomenal at about 250 miles, but that could more than do the job for intercity (and in some cases interstate) cargo runs. The longevity of their batteries is still an unknown, but that's part of what the Innovation Fleet is for. Daimler is gauging whether or not these trucks can thrive in realistic scenarios, and lessons learned from these early models should inform the eventual finished designs.

As it is, this is a symbolic milestone for the company. It's putting large electric trucks into honest-to-goodness service well before Tesla's Semi is expected to enter production by the end of 2020, even if they're not strictly polished. That could get its foot in the door with customers who want to see electric trucks perform in real life before adding them to the company armada.