Engine maker Cummins is going to build electric motors for use in buses in cities across the world.

The company will start building these electric powertrains for buses in 2019. It said it sees more commercial and industrial opportunities in the future, especially as battery ranges improve.

Cummins has long been known for making diesel engines. The company is based in Columbus, Ind., which is located between Indianapolis and Louisville.

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“We will be in the market with electrified products in 2019,” Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger said Wednesday, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. “That is a really exciting new area for the company.”

The company says buses and local delivery fleets will be among the first to use EV powertrains, while trucks, forklifts and other machines will adapt them later. Trucks, in particular, will have to wait until battery ranges improve.

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Cummins has already produced diesel/electric hybrids, but no all-electric powertrains to date. With interest in electrification growing, the engine maker is trying to stay abreast of current trends.

“We understand the world’s changing,” Linebarger said. “We think that means opportunity.”

Cummins will still produce diesel engines, and company execs said they believe diesel will be a part of the fuel mix for several more decades.

“We see a trend away from diesel, and we will continue to evolve,” Cummins chief technical officer Jennifer Rumsey said. “It’s not the only answer when you consider the diversity of our markets and customer needs.”

This news also means that Tesla, which has teased plans to unveil an all-electric semi-truck in September, may not have the market to itself. While EV adoption in trucks may be a long way off – there are key questions about weight and cost that need to be answered, in addition to the question of battery range – this news shows that Cummins doesn’t want to be caught off-guard should there be a market shift.

It also means that Tesla is going to have to compete against a player that has extensive experience in the space, much as it does now as it competes against legacy automakers.

Indianapolis Business Journal