• Daimler unveiled two new Mercedes electric semi trucks this week, with up to a 1,000-kilometer range. 
  • Like many others in the crowded space, the automaker is betting on a shared platform for its electric trucks.
  • With Tesla's semi-truck delayed and Nikola's involved in a high-profile legal spat, Daimler's manufacturing prowess could be a big advantage. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Mercedes-Benz's parent company, Daimler, announced this week plans to enter the red-hot electric truck market with two new Mercedes semis that could theoretically compete with Nikola, Tesla, and a whole host of others.

The German automaker says its "GenH2" truck will have a 1,000 kilometer (about 621 miles) range on a single tank of hydrogen, and will begin customer trials in 2023 in Europe. A battery-powered long-haul version of its existing "eActros" will have a 500 km range and be available the next year, the company said.

All three products are the result of a strategy many competitors in the crowded electric truck race are taking: a common platform that can support multiple trucks on top of a shared powertrain.

"In the coming years, truck customers will face the challenge of choosing the drive technology that is best for them – depending on the industry, segment, and specific application," the company said in a press release. "The goal of Daimler Trucks' consultants is to meet this gradually increasing complexity with tailored offers at the right time."

Before finding itself in the middle of a high-profile spat with a short-seller, Nikola garnered a high-flying market valuation with plans to collaborate on a shared platform with Europe's Bosch. That's an approach not unlike many on the consumer side, including Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors, and plenty of others.

And with Tesla's semi-truck delayed, Daimler could find an advantage, especially given its experience in manufacturing already. But it won't be a simple market to disrupt.

"Given the importance of economics to operations, cost is likely a bigger factor than in consumer applications," UBS analysts said last year. They estimate 90% of commercial vehicles are diesel in the US and Europe, with just five manufacturers making up three-quarters of the market.

"Fuel-cell power will tend to be the preferred option for heavier loads and longer distances," Martin Daum, chairman of Daimler Trucks' board, said. He's calling on governments to facilitate the rollout of infrastructure that will help it and other companies switch to greener technologies.

"It is now up to policymakers, other players, and society as a whole to provide the right framework conditions," Daum continued. "To make CO2-neutral all-electric vehicles competitive, regulatory and government action is needed, including the necessary infrastructure for charging with green electricity and for the production, storage and transport of green liquid hydrogen."

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