Electric cars have already gained a strong toehold in the consumer vehicle market, with electrics now accounting for roughly 2 percent of sales. Many analysts project electric auto sales to rise. But the most monumental shift in electric vehicles may come from the commercial sector, with semi-trucks, in particular, offering strong potential for growth. Freightliner, a subsidiary of Daimler, is rolling out a 40-strong fleet of electric heavy-duty long-distance trucks, and other players, including Tesla, are looking to make big moves in the commercial vehicle industry.
The biggest impediment to medium and large medium-sized electric trucks has arguably been the cost of ownership. Fuel is a major cost for trucking companies, and electrics may eventually help reduce fuel costs. Still, electric semis also come with a high cost of ownership. The charging infrastructure in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere is still evolving. For a long time, the batteries needed to make electric cars have been prohibitively expensive, but prices are going down even as batteries last longer and charge more quickly.
A Look at the Value Proposition of Electric Commercial Vehicles
The COVID-19 pandemic likely delayed the adoption of electric commercial vehicles. However, electric semis and other vehicles now seem all but inevitable, especially as ownership costs continue to decline. In the long run, electric trucks may require less maintenance, partly because electric powertrains have fewer moving parts.
In the near term, light and medium-sized electric trucks may offer the strongest growth. These vehicles often tread local and regional routes, requiring smaller batteries and time spent charging those batteries. As far as long-haul trucks are concerned, current projections suggest that they will achieve Total Cost Parity at some point around 2030.
The current eCascadia, a heavy-duty long-distance truck offered by Diamler, currently has a range of 250 miles. Compared to a decade ago, this range certainly is an improvement but may not yet be high enough for long-haul deliveries. Often long-haul semis need to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. While combustion engines can be refueled in minutes, charging the large batteries used in semi-trucks typically takes much longer.
Impediments to Electric Semi-Trucks
For truckers and trucking companies, time is literally money. As such, time spent charging electric semis may eat into profits and raise costs. Still, as charging and battery technologies improve, truck drivers may ultimately enjoy savings from electric vehicles. Fleet managers, in particular, can benefit as multiple trucks will amplify the savings. Electric vehicles are also easier to maintain, which may cut down the time fleet trucks spend in the shop.
For now, at least, electric trunks may in some cases remain prohibitively expensive, often costing two to three times as much as a similar combustion truck. Yet, the long-term potential of electric vehicles remains promising. A decade ago, light electric vehicles were very expensive and offered short range. Now, electric light vehicles offer a great value proposition, and in many cases, may perform better, especially as costs are concerned, than their combustion counterparts. The same will likely prove true for electric semi-trucks.
Categorised in: Fleet Maintenance
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