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Daimler launches new electric trucks as it seeks to fend off competition

Key Points
  • Daimler has unveiled two new all-electric trucks.
  • The German firm wants the battery-powered models on the market by 2021.
  • A fleet of 30 will undergo testing later this year.
Daimler's new electric trucks: the Freightliner eCascadia (L) and Freightliner eM2 (R).

The world's biggest truck-maker has unveiled two new battery-powered models, as it looks to protect its market dominance.

Daimler, the German firm best known for its Mercedes brand, said Wednesday that it wanted to have an all-electric big rig called Freightliner eCascadia ready for commercial sale by 2021. A smaller medium-duty Freightliner eM2 106 is also planned by the same date.

The trucks were revealed Wednesday at Daimler's North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

The eCascadia is designed to travel on major highways with a range of about 250 miles between charges. The eM2 has a range almost as long, at around 230 miles, but is designed for local delivery and final mile use.

Daimler said in a statement that a fleet of 30 vehicles would be delivered to customers later this year for testing.

The German company's leading position in the truck market has been put under pressure by Elon Musk's all-electric battery-powered Tesla Semi, revealed in November. That vehicle is set to have a range of 500 miles and is scheduled to hit the market in 2019.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shows off the Tesla Semi as he unveils the company's new electric semi truck during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, U.S., November 16, 2017.
Alexandria Sage | Reuters

Daimler Trucks North America CEO Martin Daum said Wednesday that he was confident Daimler would rise to the challenge.

"We are the undisputed global leader of the trucking industry and we intend to remain in that position with electric trucks and buses," he said.

Daimler's challengers include fellow German firm Volkswagen, which has announced huge investment in developing electric drivetrains for trucks, and from the Warren Buffett–backed BYD, which has plans to manufacture short-range electric delivery trucks in Canada.

Daimler also announced Wednesday that it would set up a new research and development center for autonomous driving in Portland.