Autonomous electric truck company Einride rides into Germany

Autonomous and electric truck maker Einride is rolling into Germany, representing its first new market in Europe outside its native Sweden.

Founded out of Stockholm in 2016, Einride has raised some $150 million in funding to commercialize a cab-less autonomous cargo truck, one that can be controlled remotely, if required, by human operators. It's a notable departure from the slew of rival autonomous trucking companies out there, which are essentially retrofitting existing trucks for an autonomous world -- Einride's trucks are custom built for autonomy, with no physical space for a human driver to even sit.

While these so-called "pods" have been fully piloted with commercial clients, regulatory hurdles have meant that Einride has had to offer human-driven electric trucks as part of the transition to full-autonomy, which are available to shippers and carriers in Sweden and in the U.S., where it launched last year, alongside its software-based Saga platform for running and optimizing fleets.

It's also worth noting that Einride is gearing up to deploy its fully autonomous pods on U.S. public roads in partnership with GE Appliances, with imminent plans to start operating on a mile-long stretch of road between GE Appliance's factory and a warehouse in Selmer, Tennessee.

Einride in action. Image Credits: Einride

Einride has attracted a fairly high-profile roster of early customers in addition to GEA, including Oatly, Beyond Meat, Bridgestone and Maersk, the latter representing Einride's largest order for electric transportation globally, with the Danish shipping company set to roll out some 300 trucks across Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

Gearing up

With its German launch, Einride is launching a regional office in Berlin, with plans to create logistics hubs in other key metropolitan areas. This will also require a purpose-built charging grid, which Einride said it will create along Germany's most important commercial routes and neighboring trade regions.

Einride is teaming up with home appliance manufacturing giant Electrolux for its German launch, which will work with Einride toward building the charging infrastructure at its warehousing facilities.

"Beyond this first partnership, we will focus on metropolitan areas such as the Ruhr area, Hamburg, Berlin, where we are planning on building our own charging network along major trade routes to support further potential partners with their fleet transformation," Einride CEO Robert Falck explained to TechCrunch. "In the beginning, our focus is on three main operational areas: the distribution of partial loads, shuttles between distribution centers and plants, and the electrification of the first and last mile of intermodal transports."

But while the initial focus will be squarely on its electric trucks, automation via its self-driving pods will be next on the agenda.

"As we expand our presence and customer list in German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), we are also looking forward to finding local partners who are ready to implement initial pilot projects with the Einride Pod, as we have already done in Sweden and the USA," Falck added.

As one of Europe's biggest economies and with freight and logistics powerhouses spanning road and sea, Germany represents an obvious expansion for Einride in the European market. On top of that, today's announcement comes a year after Germany essentially greenlighted driverless vehicles on public roads, though the final legislation is still winding its way through the relevant regulatory processes.

"Germany is in the driving seat of Europe -- where it goes, others follow suit," Falck said. "We have the opportunity and technology to bring the biggest change to the freight industry since the invention of the internal combustion engine, and are ready to join forces with local partners to make transportation history."