Electrification of fleets in the trucking industry is coming quickly and is proven to be effective by living real-world examples through ‘Run on Less – Electric’ – providing daily data of thirteen different-sized electric trucks operating in North America for three weeks. The ‘Finale Event’ was presented by North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) and RMI (formerly Rocky Mountain Institute).
The virtual webinar was part of Climate Week NYC. Hosted by NACFE’s Executive Director Mike Roeth, a panel of experts agreed that electric trucks are working now and offer future possibilities for decarbonization.
“It is an exciting moment for us, we are going to share the results of the three weeks in this ‘Run on Less – Electric’ Finale,” says Roeth, who sold his house so he could live in a solar-powered camper. “Trucks account for 25% of the emissions but are only 4% of the population of the fleet.
“It took a year of preparation. There will probably be another year of looking at the data and learning from it. We originally wanted ten participants but wound up with thirteen participants. They shared their learnings,” says Roeth.
Electric Truck Bootcamp was offered during the spring and summer. NACFE employees visited electric truck sites interviewing ninety-one people. ‘Run on Less – Electric’ was launched at the ACT Expo, in Long Beach, California.
The operations of Class 3 to Class 8 trucks from vans on up to medium-duty box trucks, terminal and regional hauling trucks in the U.S. and Canada were chronicled.
From September 2nd through the 19th, 2021, ‘Run on Less – Electric’ showed metrics of truck operations supplied by GeoTab technology for each truck. Data included weather, miles driven, completed deliveries, state of battery charges and regenerative braking. Every day new stories and videos were posted.
“They ran normal routes with normal issues. We did not see a single event that was powertrain related. All trucks operated very well,” explains Roeth.
“We think it highlights what electrification can do for our industry. It takes some of the nervousness out of it for fleets when they see these trucks are running out there today. It is not something that you see on a trade show floor,” says Amanda Phillips, General Manager, OEM Sales at Meritor in a video.
Panellists were independent and unbiased authorities in the trucking industry from the Environmental Defense Fund, U.S. Department of Energy and the trucking company Schneider who commented on the achievements of ‘Run on Less – Electric’.
Electric Trucks Reduce Carbon and Nitrous Oxides
“We are supporters of zero-emission vehicles in the heavy-duty space because heavy-duty is still a significant source of carbon emissions and a significant contributor of ozone-forming nitrous oxide emissions. Moving to zero-emissions vehicles helps to address that and has sizable economic and health benefits,” says Jason Mathers, director, Vehicle & Freight Strategy for the Environmental Defense Fund.
Some of the things that stood out for Mathers from ‘Run on Less – Electric’ are the work in the bootcamp and the interviews creating a knowledge base that is going to be critical for the fleets in the game but also critical for the fleets who are also observing at this point.
“I think it is great to demonstrate what is available today that is astounding,” says Mathers.
He later warned that in the future, “We need a lot of planning to get the infrastructure and flexibility to build an ecosystem.”
“As the battery technology gets better over the next five years, we are going to start growing the number of electric trucks.”
“This is a great event and a great day. We have been working on electric vehicles for a long time. We have shown today some parts of the trucking market are ready for electrification,” says Michael Berube, deputy assistant secretary for Sustainable Transportation at the U.S. Department of Energy.
He commented that there are trucking segments that make economic sense to switch over to zero-emissions vehicles–because they have lower fuel costs and lower maintenance costs. He says that the lighter use vehicles that come back during the day have lower charging costs because they can charge slower overnight.
“I think we are going to see that electric population grow,” says Berube, “I am always amazed that 50% of all freight movement is a hundred miles or less and 75% of freight is 50 miles or less.”
“As the battery technology gets better over the next five years, we are going to start growing the number of electric trucks, says Berube. There are also bills in Congress that will provide significant incentives and tax credits to the industry.
Longer Hauling Trucks Not Stopping Until Green
Schneider has 90,000 trucks on the road. Schneider will be launching fifty electric battery Class 8 trucks in California.
“We have set some aggressive sustainability goals for ourselves with one of the key elements to achieve that goal is through zero-emission vehicles,” says Rob Reich, EVP, Chief Administrative Officer, Schneider.
“Run on Less – Electric shows real-world applications in a variety of medium and heavy-duty situations. What we take away from ‘Run on Less-Electric’ is, yes absolutely there are ways to electrify today. The opportunity to move faster and more aggressively is What ‘Run on Less’ presents to us.”
He recommends that other trucking companies understand their network operations, characteristics and the range required for the length of hauls in assessing electric trucks.
To increase electrification, he further suggests that trucking companies work with customers and communities that are interested in sustainability, plus share with them the Run on Less data and information.
“These trucks are coming. Some planning and collaboration are needed to identify and elaborate to create more opportunities for battery-electric vehicles,” adds Reich.
Lessons Learned From ‘Run on Less – Electric’
Roeth says that more data will be revealed. Initial information showed a difference in where the charging ports are located. Truck drivers like the fuelling/charging experience because they plugin in a few seconds then go home and do not have to wait.
Truck drivers found that they were less tired because electric trucks are easier to drive. Because electric trucks are easier to drive and improve air quality, they attract younger and more diverse talent into the industry.
Operators like electric vehicles because of the reduced maintenance. The operators are currently tending to put the battery-electric trucks on their shorter routes due to range anxiety, says Roeth.
“In the past twelve years at Climate Week, there was a lot of talk and less action. This year we are seeing action. What Anheuser-Busch is doing is taking action and that is very impressive.”
Anheuser-Busch, highlighted in a ‘Run on Less-Electric’ video, operates eight electric heavy-duty Class 8 tractors delivering beer and other beverages in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Driver Rene Solis commented that electric trucks are quiet and great for curfew deliveries and do not disturb the neighbours at markets.
“It is a big transition. It is not going to be easy. What we have learned is that there are specific cases for electric trucks that make sense,” says Roeth, who predicts, “In the coming months, the market will explode. The trials show electric trucks are ready now.”