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Cummins reveals plan to break into electric powertrain market

Cummins has announced it will launch a fully developed, all-electric powertrain as early as 2019, with a range-extended electric vehicle coming in 2020.

According to various US media outlets, the North American company made the surprise announcement during a conference call on Wednesday evening.

As part of the briefing, Cummins Chairman and CEO, Tom Linebarger, reportedly noted that the transport industry was at “critical juncture” as electric mobility is evolving from concept status to everyday applicability.

“We understand that electrification is coming and that the world is changing,” he explained – pointing out that despite its success in the diesel engine industry, Cummins was not limited to being a diesel company.

“Cummins is a power technology company…not just a diesel engine company,” he asserted.

“We will continue to innovate with new technology and look for ways to disrupt ourselves, instead of having our competitors disrupt us.”

Julie Furber, Executive Drector of Cummins’ electrification business, added the company will leverage its knowledge and capability to offer entirely new powertrain solutions in the future for commercial and industrial markets.

The initiative will begin next year with the introduction of a fully electric “transit powertrain”, closely followed by an extended-range electric vehicle in 2020.

According to Furber, city buses would likely be the first vehicles to have the new technology, but industrial and commercial uses are reportedly high on the agenda, too.

Michael Baudendistel, Vice President of the Stifel Transportation & Logistics Research Group, added in a research brief that the Cummins powertrain announcement was a “big deal” as it demonstrates the company is further along than was previously known in addressing the risk of electricity replacing the old diesel technology.

He noted there are still “many unanswered questions” about electric commercial vehicles, including cost, weight, and range. “But, no matter the timeline or eventuality, we believe Cummins has demonstrated that it intends to be a major player in that market when it develops and that it will not be caught flat-footed if the market moves away from its core diesel engine business.”

He also highlighted Cummins’ plans to increase research and development investment above its historical three to four per cent range in order to fund investment in electrification and other “digital” offerings, such as telematics. “In our view, money well spent.”

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