Truck driving is one of the highest polluting industry sectors in the United States, so the industry is making big changes to meet climate change goals.
With e-commerce spending up significantly during COVID-19, the trucking industry has played a crucial role in ensuring everyday items arrive on time. Now the question is, when will these vehicles travel through communities on greener fuels?
With pressure from policy regulators to reduce emissions from one of the highest polluting industry sectors and meet climate change goals, companies that own trucking fleets are publicly committing to electrify their vehicles. Medium-duty delivery vans and trucks have been the first to transition.
FedEx ordered 1,000 electric delivery vans from Chanje, while waste-removal company Republic Services ordered 2,500 electric refuse trucks from upstart manufacturer Nikola. UPS ordered 10,000 electric vans from Arrival, while Amazon ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian and another 1,800 from Mercedes-Benz in order to go carbon neutral by 2040.
It is projected that 50 percent of the medium-duty segment will electrify by 2040, according to BloombergNEF, while long-haul trucks will transition in the coming years and include hydrogen-fueled technology.
As the cost of batteries decrease, driving ranges increase, and the total cost of ownership comes into parity with their diesel counterparts, electric trucks will become viable options for all size fleets. With 169 zero-emission commercial models available by the end of 2020, according to the National Zero-Emission Truck Coalition, there will be an increasing variety of vehicle sizes and price points for fleet owners and operators to choose from.
Electric utility and government funding for electric vehicles (EV) has surpassed $4 billion, with a majority now being spent on programs to help fleet owners and operators reduce the cost of medium and heavy-duty vehicle electrification and its supporting charging infrastructure.
In preparation to charge these vehicles, utilities are assessing their infrastructure to plan for this electric load at truck stops and along main thoroughfares. The West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative was created by utilities along Interstate-5 from the Canadian to Mexican border to determine the charging infrastructure needed to support electric medium-duty trucks by 2025. It was determined that charging could be placed at every 50 miles over the 1,200-mile stretch and to expand the number of chargers at 14 of these 27 sites to accommodate heavy-duty electric vehicles by 2030.
Battery technology is often the most expensive part of the vehicle and their costs have decreased 87 percent over the last decade. They will continue to drop in the coming years and further reduce the total cost of ownership of electric fleet vehicles in comparison to their diesel counterparts.
Even with this momentum, many fleet owners see challenges ahead on the road to electrification. In a study by Deloitte of more than 300 U.S. organizations, 63 percent said they have transportation fleet electrification plans in place, while the balance noted the reasons for not having such plans were due to high EV purchase and charging infrastructure installation costs, as well as a lack of financing and incentives.
Online tools help fleet owners and operators better understand their possible savings over time. Southern California Edison helps customers calculate the cost savings of electric fuel. It asks for the type and number of vehicles, as well as daily miles driven and provides vehicle fuel cost savings over 10 years. The Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero inventory tool helps fleets know which regions zero-emission fleet brands are available for purchase and the timeline that additional models will become available. Such a timeline is important to align the installation of charging infrastructure.
Regional planning is also key. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency recently released a report that states the highest success rate of electric truck deployments will be in regions that represent the strongest competitive advantage over diesel trucks. These regions will have the greatest need for the transportation electrification like regions with air quality requirements. They will also be the most favorable to the vehicles by providing incentives and low electricity rates.
With states from coast-to-coast implementing air quality improvement policies on the transportation sector and more programs becoming available to fleet owners, you may soon be receiving your next Amazon delivery by a quiet, green electric truck.