July 17, 2023

Electric truck recall numbers begin to mount


The number of affected vehicles is barely noticeable — until you count the number of recall campaigns. Electric trucks are having early life quality problems.

The latest of 10 electric truck recalls in the past three months was reported on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website Monday. It involves the loss of power to 82 Freightliner eCascadia Class 8 trucks. The electronic axles may have insufficiently welded planetary gear sets.

E-axles and planetary gear sets are components in battery-powered electrics, which typically have fewer total parts than diesel trucks.

New products and platforms

“This is an issue of a totally new product and platform, not so much about whether it is electric or not,” Mike Ramsey, Gartner Inc. mobility analyst, told FreightWaves. In most cases, these vehicles are breaking in new electrical architecture, new ways of developing and deploying software, and new sets of components.”

The production version of the eCascadia fits that description. The e-axle was manufactured by Mercedes-Benz in Germany while the first-generation pilot trucks had an e-axle from ZF. Daimler Truck North America first noticed the weld issue during extreme off-road testing. Customers later began complaining of a lack of power.

“There are new suppliers and new testing methods,” Ramsey said, speaking generally about battery-electric trucks. 

Since April 18, there have been 221 safety recalls for passenger and commercial vehicles reported by NHTSA. Nineteen involve battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) including fully electric and hybrid models. Nikola and Volvo had recalls for electric trucks earlier.

No injuries or crashes were reported in any of the recalls.

Volvo and Mack Truck electric models recalled twice

Among the recalls in the three-month period, Volvo Group had two each on the Volvo Truck North America  Class 8 VNR Electric and the Mack LR Electric. They are built on the same platform with different use cases. The VNR Electric is used mostly in drayage and regional haul. The Mack LR Electric is typically used in refuse hauling. 

In the biggest recall — 243 VNR Electric trucks — power cables connecting to the windscreen heater relay may have a loose connection and cause the relay to fail. Only 1% of the recalled trucks were expected to experience the issue. Mack had a similar recall covering 47 vehicles.

Volvo in April recalled 125 VNR Electrics and four Mack LR Electric trucks in separate recalls because the coolant line in the high-voltage battery pack may not have been fully seated and locked, which can result in the loss of coolant and an electrical short circuit.

In May, SEA Electric recalled 82 of its battery-electric drivetrain conversion kits for Hino model 195 vehicles because vibration could cause the traction motor mount to crack, destabilizing it.

Tesla has had two small recalls for its Semi electric truck. Canada-based Lion Electric has recalled electric school buses and 170 Lion6 and Lion8 electric trucks because hardware inside the high-voltage distribution unit or direct current junction box can contact electrical terminals, causing a short circuit.

An upside to early recalls

Gartner’s Ramsey sees an upside to the recalls coming so early for BEVs.

“It is likely that these newer vehicles are giving manufacturers information about issues much faster than older vehicles did, allowing them to make fixes really soon after they notice problems,” he said. “It’s sort of counterintuitive, but it’s a good thing ultimately.”

Safety recalls hit Volvo, Nikola electric trucks

Tesla issues recall for Semi truck over roll-away risk

Nikola recalls all the electric trucks it has built so far

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


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