The Latest on Heavy-Duty Fleet Electrification (Part 1)

In a recent blog post we talked about the five electric commercial truck companies we are watching in 2021. Today we will go deeper into the latest trends we are seeing in the heavy-duty fleet category. Although this segment of the commercial vehicle market is still young, the world’s largest manufacturers have made it clear that they see electrification as an increasingly important piece of the freight transportation industry.


Just in the past few years, we have started to see an increase in market share of electric trucks (eTrucks) and electric buses (eBuses). Most of the major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and several start-ups are preparing to launch their respective battery electric or fuel-cell/battery models in 2021/22, and the electric bus market is already well established in the U.S. With the early adoption of EVs, fleet and sustainability managers can get ahead of stringent emission regulations, which will make it inevitable that transit agencies, school districts and logistics companies deploy cleaner fleets.


Barriers (and Benefits) to Electrification in the Heavy-duty Sector

With such new technology, naturally there will be challenges to adoption. We note the most obvious ones below. We also highlight some of the benefits to adopting electrification in the heavy-duty sector as these certainly will offset the barriers through further technological advances and challenges being addressed.

Range

One of the greatest challenges facing heavy-duty electric vehicles is range. Trucks are intended to haul heavy trailers and loads, which are demanding tasks that contribute to quick battery drain. Load weight is another consideration in the heavy-duty sector. The benefits of eTrucks will certainly depend on load weight as a factor, as it can potentially result in higher electricity consumption and shorter range capability. Load capacity claims from OEMs suggest that they will be capable of matching today’s load standards, but they will require real-world data to prove this out.


Charging times

In order to counter the issue of range, manufacturers currently have to use larger, or more, batteries. The larger the battery capacity, the longer it takes to charge. Most eTrucks will take well over two hours to fully recharge on the fastest available charging systems, and some vehicles will have to plug in overnight to fully recharge a drained battery.


Carrying capacity

For a given GCWR (gross combined weight rating), electric trucks can’t carry as large a payload as their diesel counterparts, because their tractor weighs significantly more. This can leave the trucks with a several thousand pound shortfall in carrying capacity. This results in logistics companies needing more eTrucks to do the same amount of work as their conventional alternatives.


Now let’s look at the benefits of an electrified heavy-duty sector:


Improved torque

A feature that’s unique to eTrucks is instant torque, or the ability to deliver peak torque at zero RPM. This enables electric trucks to tow and haul a large payload at much lower speeds than their conventional counterparts.

Reduced maintenance requirements

Although pure electric vehicles require some scheduled maintenance for their electrical systems, this is minimal compared to that required for their ICE counterparts. This is because a pure electric vehicle has far fewer moving parts than a combustion engine, and no oil or transmission fluids to replace. Brake systems also last longer than for conventional vehicles, thanks to their regenerative braking systems.


Environmental noise reduction

While rolling noise remains a constant when comparing electric heavy-duty vehicles with their ICE counterparts, the propulsion noise is considerably lower without a combustion engine. This makes the biggest impact when vehicles operate at low speeds, as they most frequently do in urban areas, where noise pollution is the greatest concern.


Reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

In the U.S. long haul market, McKinsey predicts that medium- and heavy-duty trucks will reach TCO parity with diesel in the early 2030s. In urban operations, light-duty trucks and eBuses will have achieved parity by 2025, and medium-duty trucks pre 2030.


In our next blog post, we will cover the implications of adding more electric models to heavy diesel industries and the importance of EV model supports for successful fleet management transitions.

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