Top 5 reasons why Columbus, Indiana is the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Electric Trucks

Indiana Road Sign

Conventional wisdom holds that most innovation comes out of Silicon Valley. Or does it? When it comes to the future of electrified power in trucks, look no further than Columbus, Indiana.

Here’s the top five reasons why a city in the heart of the Midwest is becoming a hotbed for a cleaner, greener future of transport:

  1. People – Cummins’ people are intrinsic to all that the company does. With access to a pool of sparky entrepreneurs internally, and with Purdue University, Notre Dame and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology nearby, Cummins has access to some of the nation’s smartest engineers, primed to develop the electric solutions of tomorrow. 
  2. Technology – The Cummins Technical Center is the company’s hub for research and development and the place where the Electrified Power business got started. The company’s strengths in understanding catalysis for the Emission Solutions business kickstarted research into battery cell chemistries. The company has found that when you invest in curiosity, new solutions blossom.
  3. Location – Fourteen Interstate highways begin in, end at, or pass through Indiana, earning the state the nickname “Crossroads of America.” Highways a plenty mean great access to customers (in fact, the state is within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population), an abundance of land for off-highway vehicle testing and Lake Michigan for pushing electrified solutions to the next level.
  4. Service – Scaling up to produce product repeatedly and reliably is no simple task. Rest assured, Cummins has brought the same great minds together to develop its Electrified Power operations as they have done for the rest of the company’s businesses. And once Cummins products are out the door, they are supported by a network of 7,200 dealerships globally, all connected to the company’s headquarters in Indiana. 
  5. Culture – Columbus, Indiana has adopted the motto: “Everywhere art and unexpected architecture.” Columbus is celebrated as one of the best small cities in the world for architecture lovers and where there’s art, there’s inspiration for bright ideas that lead to future innovation. Be sure to check out the Chaos sculpture, the gateway project bridge and AEOS, the company’s electric truck when you visit.

The world is changing fast. Cummins has the people, knowhow and facilities to drive innovation. After 100 years in business, the company knows its customers and what they need.  As the world's largest independent manufacturer of diesel engines, building over a million engines a year, no one knows commercial vehicles like Cummins. Keep a watchful eye on Columbus Indiana, the ‘Silicon Valley’ of electric trucks. 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Bloomberg NEF Summit - The future of powertrain and the adoption of electric

The ever-increasing interest in alternative fuels continues to prompt questions as to what the future of transport will look like and how this will shape our world. Speaking at the 2019 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York, New York, Julie Furber, Vice President - Electrified Power at Cummins, shared her thoughts on the impact electrification has had in industrial and commercial vehicle markets. Although Furber can’t see into the future, she can share how Cummins is preparing itself for the changes ahead:

“We [Cummins] want to partner with our customers to get the right solution for them and we’d like to partner with the regulators to ensure that regulations are consistent, clear and leave flexibility around technology.”

Photo of Julie Furber at BNEF conference
Julie Furber at the BNEF Summit.

Furber makes it clear that Cummins’ strategy will be to develop the most efficient powertrain solutions that comply and push regulations forward, so Cummins can fulfill its customers’ requirements and minimize the impact to the environment. Offering alternatives to its customers will be key to Cummins’ success as the path to a fully electric-powered world is not a straight one; it’s filled with twists and turns and there are multiple challenges that need to be overcome. As an example, Furber mentions some of the challenges faced by natural gas, where the slow adoption of this alternative fuel source in North America has sparked a chicken or the egg debate as to whether refueling infrastructure comes first and sales of natural gas vehicles follow or vice versa. 

Speaking of eggs, Cummins can’t put them all in one basket. The adoption of electrification is reliant on multiple factors: battery prices, the development of charging infrastructure, subsidies and financing options and, above all, regulations, which could circumvent these challenges and force adoption quickly. As Furber explains, electrification is one of many fuel sources and a one-size- fits-all approach is not the right strategy to take, since the choice of power will be “dependent on the application and on the region the vehicle or equipment is operating in.” 

Electrification is the natural next step for Cummins, a company that pioneered the use of diesel engines and has since transformed itself into a powertrain supplier of choice. With an eye to the future, Furber makes it clear that Cummins will leverage its 100-year tradition of innovation to continue excelling and to partner with original equipment manufacturers, customers and regulators to offer the best solution in the market and to advocate for consistent, technology-neutral regulations worldwide.

No matter the power source, Cummins will be in the driver’s seat of the powertrain evolution.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

My Diversity Story: Funky Shoes, Innovation and Blazing a Trail

funky shoes

I am a woman, a British citizen working in the United States, a mathematician by training and a former finance employee who now leads an engineering business. My name is Julie Furber, and I lead the Electrified Power business at Cummins. We are a startup within the walls of a 100-year-old company, uniquely positioned to push the boundaries of innovation.

The variety that I bring with my background gives me unique perspectives in a role requiring me to think differently as we embrace a new frontier of diverse power options at Cummins. I know that everyone brings unique perspectives and that diversity in ideas is critical to creatively solving problems and building a culture of innovation.

I’ve always enjoyed standing out – I like funky shoes and brightly colored cars. However, in my current field, I often stand out as the only woman in the room. I walk away from those situations thinking, “How do I get other qualified women in that room?” I do this because I believe that when you blaze a trail, you have a responsibility to bring others along. My efforts in this regard extend far beyond women.

I’m intentional about seeking out the best people for the job, regardless of where they’re from or what they look like. I strive to foster a culture wherein those with different backgrounds, career journeys, home lives and points of view are not overlooked from having a seat at the table, but instead are engaged, celebrated and valued. I feel fortunate to work at Cummins where diversity and inclusion are critical parts of our DNA.

Every day, we must actively foster an environment where people feel comfortable and thrive in sharing their unique voice. I know what it’s like to feel excluded because you’re different from the group. We must ensure everyone feels welcome by unifying around shared purpose and inviting in different perspectives. No one should ever think, “They have a plan and it doesn’t feel like it includes me.”

I encourage you to promote a desirable work environment for everyone and be bold, speaking up with your own view points, even when you might be in the minority. Show up with passion, do your best work and embrace the things that make you and others different – that is what it takes to create a culture of innovation at Cummins and beyond.

Photo of Julie Furber, Vice President - Electrified Power

Julie Furber

Julie Furber is Vice President - Electrified Power at Cummins. A disruptor at heart, she is responsible for overseeing the development and acceleration of Cummins knowledge and capability in electrification, positioning the company to be the leading provider of electrified power in commercial markets. 

Are off-highway markets ready to take on the electrification challenge?

downtown city construction scene

Energy diversity, connectivity and automation are key trends transforming commercial industries across the globe. For off-highway markets, tough working conditions, long shift hours and high vehicle utilization are some challenges they face every day. As our industries evolve to mitigate these challenges, the Cummins portfolio is also evolving. Cummins continues to innovate its diesel and natural gas solutions, while also investing in electrified power options.

As the world looks for breakthroughs that will solve the problems of today and tomorrow, here are three ways in which electrification solutions for off-highway markets are challenging the impossible:

  1. Creating improved working environments – Equipment that runs for long hours in contained zones can contribute to high emission concentration. Areas such as ports, airports and distribution centers can suffer from reduced air quality. Electrifying the equipment found in these zones creates an improved, more pleasant working environment by reducing the exposure of vehicle operators to emissions. Earlier this year, Cummins announced that it will supply electric powertrains for Kalmar terminal tractors in Europe. The batteries on board are designed to take advantage of opportunity charging between multi-shift operations common in these settings and offer the benefit of reduced emissions.
  2. Facilitating new technologies –  Electric applications are leading the way in automation and development of anti-collision technology. Large numbers of sensors and sophisticated control systems contribute to benefits in reliability, performance as well as reductions in operating costs. Over the next decade, population growth in urban areas is expected to rise dramatically. Automating a city’s tube line will improve services and reduce downtime. In the dark, confined environment of the underground, anti-collision technology will promote safer operation of vehicles when expanding lines to cope with additional passengers commuting into the city center. 
  3. Building construction sites with reduced noise – Construction sites are inherently noisy. The clanking of steel, the beeps on equipment for safety, and often, the hum of the engines from the equipment contribute to very noisy environments. The recently unveiled electric mini excavator prototype powered by Cummins runs purely on battery power, not only reducing noise pollution but providing the possibility of longer working hours, due to reduced noise restrictions, meaning jobs can be completed faster.

For some working environments, electrified power solutions can present opportunities to improve the ways we work and even how we tackle new jobs, allowing operation in ways we didn’t once imagine. In preparing for tomorrow, we must invest today in diverse powers, like electrification and diesel, and technologies, like automation and connectivity, to meet the ever-evolving needs of our world.

This journey is only just beginning. Understanding, embracing and enabling these trends are how Cummins is shaping our strategy. Follow along as Cummins develops the next generation of electrified systems for off-highway applications. 

Cummins electric excavator
Cummins featured this electric prototype mini excavator at its stand this week at the BAUMA show in Munich, Germany. Powered by Cummins BM4.4E flexible battery modules (4.4 kWh each), the 3.5-ton excavator prototype is designed to support a full work shift and charge in under three hours. The machine eliminates all gaseous emissions and substantially reduces noise, making it ideal for use in urban and sub-urban construction.


Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Researching clean power solutions at the Port of Los Angeles

Port of los angeles

Calling the Port of Los Angeles "busy" is an understatement...

Its 43 miles of waterfront is described as the leading gateway for international trade in North America. In 2018, 9.5 million containers – the highest container volume at a port in the Western Hemisphere ever – moved through the port. 

Cummins has helped its customers focus on improving air quality at the ports by providing the latest diesel and natural gas technologies that have dramatically reduced emissions. And engineers at Cummins are researching how electric powertrains may play a significant role in achieving these goals in the future. 

One of the challenges with implementing electric technology at ports is charging infrastructure. An innovative U.S. Department of Energy funded project, led by Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification (WAVE), is focused on developing and deploying high-power extreme fast charging.

WAVE will partner with Cummins Inc., Schneider Electric, Utah State University and Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) to develop, deploy and demonstrate a first-of-its-kind 500kW “XMEG” wireless inductive charger to support battery electric drayage trucks. The solution leverages Utah State University technology for a direct medium voltage grid connection to greatly reduce the cost, size and complexity of installed XMEG systems.

WAVE technology transfers power through the air, from an embedded charging pad placed in the pavement to a receiving pad mounted on the vehicle's undercarriage, reducing the amount of on-board storage needed to operate. The innovative WAVE extreme fast charger will allow TTSI’s drayage trucks to charge during normal cargo loading and unloading stops. Combined with the groundbreaking improvements enabling extreme fast charge, this “top-off” charge capability will significantly extend the uptime of the trucks, eliminating battery range concerns and enabling them to complete the rigorous duty cycles associated with around-the-clock freight operations. 

 “This is a critical technology because battery electric commercial vehicles will play an important role in improving air quality in cities and ports, but charging infrastructure can be a barrier to their adoption,” said Michael Masquelier, WAVE’s Chief Executive Officer. “WAVE looks forward to a fruitful partnership with DOE and we are proud to help make zero-emission freight truck operations a reality.” 

Utah-based WAVE will deploy and field test the system this year and next. The new system will be installed at TTSI at the Port of Los Angeles. 

This project will showcase the technologies enabling the goals for continued improvement of air quality for ports. Cummins is integrating an electric powertrain that will successfully meet the operational needs of this demanding application at the Port of Los Angeles.

“We are pleased to work with these partners and develop our experience with extreme wireless fast charging, a key technology to enable broader adoption of electric powertrains,” said Wayne Eckerle, Vice President of Research and Technology at Cummins. “Our goal is to bring multiple clean power solutions to markets to help improve the environment while powering our customers’ success.” 

katie zarich author bio photo

Katie Zarich

Katie Zarich is Manager of External Communications for Cummins Inc. She joined the Company in 2015 after more than a decade working in government and the nonprofit sector.

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