Journey Man

The boss of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, Karl Deppen, has worked in key markets and across a range of international territories as a long-time leader and respected executive for the Daimler Group.

Karl Deppen joined the Daimler Group in 1990. Having held various management positions mostly with a focus on commercial vehicles, he has worked in the USA, Turkey, Japan, Brazil and China.

Since December 2021, Karl has been a Member of the Board of Daimler Trucks and President and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation.

Prime Mover: The Fuso eCanter is now in its second generation. Are there plans to do something about electrifying Medium Duty trucks such as the Fuso Fighter?

Karl Deppen: That is a discussion we are currently having. We see a very clear need to extend the line-up in Medium Duty and Heavy Duty segments for zero emission transportation. However, the technical path is more difficult to determine in the Medium Duty segment, which is smaller in scale and highly competitive, so we are currently assessing whether we go electric or hydrogen as solutions. It depends also on the infrastructure development in the various markets so that’s currently under assessment. So, bear with us, it’s too early to make any specific announcement but rest assured we are certainly watching how we proceed in the Medium Duty segment.

PM: Currently, all eCanter production is done at Tramagal in Portugal. Will manufacture be moving to the Asian region?
KD: That will be one of the changes we intend to make. We are designating the European plant mainly to the European market and we also see that the demand is justifying that. We want to also designate other markets with deliveries from Japan.

PM: How critical is the infrastructure for electric vehicles?
KD: The infrastructure is really part of the overall equation and no matter which market we look at we always need three ingredients to be in place. One is the product availability, second is the infrastructure and the third is to make it an appealing business case for the customer in comparison to diesel. In many countries we still have vehicles with Euro II, III, IV or V standards with very different engine technologies and very different price points. We see in many countries there are some infrastructure challenges which is why, with the eCanter, we have a very appealing offer because it is capable of utilising a nation’s existing network which makes it much easier to charge it, maybe with some sacrifice on the timing, but usually the vehicle is in the depot overnight.

Usually the AC charging is sufficient to get to a usable range for the next day, which is different from Medium Duty or Heavy Duty trucks where much more charging energy is needed and the demand on the grid is much higher. With the push for electric mobility around the world, infrastructure development will proceed and move forward. The eCanter can at least operate with the existing infrastructure. This is why we put a lot of emphasis on the consulting part in the e-mobility solution package because we know that customers have a hard time to organise the charging infrastructure. We want to share our experience with our customers because if everyone has to learn it by themselves it’s a long trail, but we can add value there by consulting on the grid as well.

PM: One third of eCanter sales is in Japan. With respect to this next generation model how much of that share will be in Japan?
KD: This is actually something we are quite excited about. When we did the world premiere in September in Japan, we received very positive feedback from our customers. So we expect the time is right now to make the switch to electromobility in Japan. We also see a big pick-up in Europe and also from other markets around the world. I think the overall structure could be quite similar because we see the market picking up in Japan, but we also see the market picking up elsewhere. There is a lot of interest in emission-free urban transportation and this is why we should confirm the product is right, the timing is right and the maturity of the product is great. This is not a start-up. There is no trial and error. This is a solid truck ready for use for customers around the world. This drives our confidence that probably the same ratio will prevail.

PM: The eActros Long Haul has raised the bar for e-mobility with a range up to 500 kilometres. Is there a plan to extend the range of the latest eCanter?
KD: In Japan, from a technology point of view, it is not so clear whether it will be Battery Electric or Hydrogen based solutions which prevail. In Europe the tractor-trailer combination is the mainstream configuration of Heavy Duty trucks, whereas in Japan we have quite different production considerations with 8×4 and 6×4 rigid truck concepts which create some packaging and technology challenges. The other part is the charging infrastructure needed for a Heavy Duty truck for up to 1mW charging leaves some concerns in the short-term. Daimler has previously announced that in Europe, the USA and Japan we aim to have zero emissions by 2039. This is unwavering and unconditional. However, we see different things in the different markets and this is why we are now so excited about the eCanter to see what the reception will be for the product. Then based upon that we will determine the recommendations for the Medium and Heavy line up.

PM: In Australia the business model for the eCanter has been to lease the product as a package. Has that been the case in other markets and do you anticipate a change in the future?
KD: Basically, the method we have applied in all of the markets is to lease the first-generation vehicles. But in the new generation we go pretty much to the full range of different financing and leasing options the customers are used to. Additionally, we have catered for packages to combine things such as the charger, the vehicle, the maintenance and servicing support. In Japan we also offer energy contracts. It’s a bit market dependent, so for Australia what we are discussing is how are we going to open the flexibility for customers to find the package which works for them. The key is to be flexible and responsive. I think we have proven that in the past. The common denominator around the world has been countries committing to the Paris Accord and therefore setting out targets for CO2 emissions reductions. And this is what we are aiming to support, whether it be in battery electric or hydrogen, and we will be flexible in achieving that.

PM: What are the prerequisites to facilitate 1mW charging on highways such as in Australia?
KD: The key questions are who’s bringing the infrastructure? What are the typical routes and what are the typical places where on a main road charging would be necessary? And then what are the capabilities and the technical limitations of the grid? The eActros Long Haul is capable of 1mW charging but can also work with 300 to 400kW but even that is still not available in many countries. In Europe, Daimler Trucks engages with Volvo Group and Traton Group to build this infrastructure because we see there is not enough facilities in the industry and we had to be the driving force. Australia probably has some specific challenges given its sheer size and the long distances and the other thing is the heavy loads. It makes a big difference if you have 70 or 80 tonnes.

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