With all the distractions going on, you can’t blame yourself if you’ve missed the signs that future-focused technologies are progressing. In freight trucking, one of the most significant technologies being developed, tested and put on the road today is the heavy-duty electric truck.
As you can well imagine, developing the technology that goes into making an electric version of a tractor trailer is a little more challenging than it is for a Toyota Prius or any other electric or hybrid passenger car. But here are 7 signs that the future of freight trucking is electric.
7. Most Freight Trucking Tonnage Is Shipped on Short Hauls
One of the main concerns about relying on electricity for the future of freight trucking has been the limited range of electric trucks and lack of a recharging infrastructure. In 2019 the North American Council on Freight Efficiency (NACFE) issued a guidance report calling for a “return to base” strategy for electric trucks. In other words, fleets using electric trucks should charge them at their home locations only, and not expect them to recharge on the road.
This won’t be a problem for most trucks. The US Department of Transportation reported that in 2018, more than two-thirds (7.3 billion tons) of the 11.1 tons of freight shipped by trucks in the United States were shipped less than 100 miles. Another 1.8 billion tons were shipped 100-249 miles.
So, limited range won’t be a factor for most trucks, and electric powertrains are being developed that will allow trucks to travel 400 mile or more.
6. Daimler AG and Volvo Group Have Formed A Fuel Cell Joint Venture
In April of 2020, two major trucking manufacturing competitors, Daimler AG and Volvo Group, joined forces to accelerate the development and use of fuel cells for use in electric trucks and other applications. To date, most attention regarding how to power electric heavy-duty trucks has been on batteries. Fuel cells offer a more sophisticated and greener way to generate the power.
The level of cooperation between competitive industry giants is unprecedented.
5. Honda and Isuzu Join Forces on Fuel Cells
Three months prior to the announcement that Daimler AG and Volvo Group are working together on fuel cell technology, Japanese commercial vehicle manufacturers Honda and Isuzu announced they will conduct joint research on fuel-cell-powered heavy-duty trucks. This marks the first time that Honda will make its fuel cell expertise available to another company.
As stated in a joint release, “Isuzu has been striving to promote the utilization of low-carbon and sustainable energy. To that end, Isuzu has been researching and developing various powertrains including clean diesel engine, engines for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and electric vehicle (EV) powertrains, which accommodate a broad range of customer needs and how vehicles are used. In parallel, Honda has been working toward the realization of a carbon-free society and, to this end, in addition to hybrid and battery electric vehicles, Honda has been researching and developing fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), the ultimate environmental technology, for more than 30 years.”
4. Volkswagen AG Truck Division Commits $2.2 Billion to Electric Vehicles
“The reduction of CO2 emissions is probably the biggest challenge for mankind, our industry, for our customers — for every one of us,” Traton chief Andreas Renschler said, according to FleetOwner. “It affects a huge, complex ecosystem, and transport is a core element of that.”
3 Volvo to Roll Out Heavy-Duty Electric Battery Trucks
Volvo Trucks North America is slated to roll out its new VNR Electric line of battery-electric Class 8 trucks in 2020 and 2021. Class 8 trucks are heavy trucks that weigh upwards of 33,000 pounds. The line will be rolled out regionally to enable Volvo to prepare for a service network. California will be the first region to receive the new trucks.
2. Canada’s Largest Grocery Chain Commits to Electric Trucks
Loblaw, Canada’s largest grocer, has set a corporate goal to make their 2030 greenhouse gas emissions at least 30 percent lower than they were in 2011. To ensure that they do that, Loblaw has jumped deep into the electric truck market, preordering Tesla Semis before production dates were announced. They’re also exploring the possibility of making preproduction orders with Freightliner and BYD.
1. Navistar Is in Electric Trucks for the Long Haul
While many question what kind of incentives might be available for electric trucks, Navistar is not waiting to find out. Their goal is to build electric trucks that are priced competitively with a diesel truck. Navistar representatives say they don’t want to find themselves in a tough spot when the incentives go away, because that’s when investment typically stops.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” Jason Gies, director of Navistar’s eMobility business development told FreightWaves. “We’re not just chasing grant money in the short-term. Our goal is to electrify everything that makes sense.”
Imagine a World Served by Electric Trucks
These seven are just some of the signs of the new future of freight trucking. The days of diesel smell and loud engine noises will soon be a thing of the past, as industry leaders are working towards goals of making freight trucking electric to remedy environmental and economic challenges.