The U.S. transportation industry is rapidly evolving to meet the demand for clean energy. And for design engineers working at the forefront of truck electrification, this represents an opportunity to create a level of technology and performance that will move the country closer to decarbonization and a more sustainable future. But what are the barriers, motivators and strategies for accelerating the electric transition? What can engineers who are challenged with developing commercial battery electric vehicles do now to help?
For detailed survey and research study reports as well as additional strategies design engineers can take to address challenges, download the full white paper, "The Evolving Landscape of Commercial Battery Powered Trucks".
A recent poll shows that Americans' concerns about climate change have surged to record levels1. The latest release of the 4th National Climate Assessment (NCA4) report2 further confirms their fears:
"Without substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will hurt people, economies, and resources across the U.S."
— 4th National Climate Assessment (NCA4)
This message is resonating with OEMs and fleet owners. In fact, a 2018 UPS/GreenBiz study of over 3,800 truck and related transportation leaders found that 83 percent of large organizations and government agencies are motivated to electrify their fleets. Moreover, tightening emissions targets along with increasing mandates to ban fossil fuel use by 2030 are pressuring the global transportation industry to move away from diesel engines3.
Technology advancements like commitments by vehicle manufacturers to develop e-trucks and improvements in batteries as well as charging infrastructure are key components to the successful proliferation of commercial vehicle electrification.
According to a McKinsey study, it will take time before the industry will offer a large portfolio of e-Trucks. However, both new and legacy automakers are now taking orders and in some cases delivering purpose-built eTrucks4.
Electric vehicle batteries are continuously improving from both a technology and cost standpoint, according to the 2018 UPS/GreenBiz research study. Additionally, the 2018 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Electric Vehicle Outlook reports that the average lithium-ion battery price dropped by 79 percent from 2010 to 2017, and battery average energy density improved at 5-7 percent per year during that time5.
Charging infrastructure is one of the largest unknowns and sources of anxiety for fleets considering near-term adoption of battery electric vehicles, as stated in a report by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE)6.
McKinsey reports that while the light- and medium-duty truck segments may leverage the growing passenger car-charging infrastructure, major technology upgrades will be needed to charge heavy-duty, long-haul trucks efficiently.
The UPS / GreenBiz report cites a comment by Mike Whitlatch, vice president of global energy and procurement at UPS, who notes that:
"A significant increase in the demand for charging electric vehicles could require increased electrical capacity five to ten times greater than what’s existing at a given site. A growing number of utilities — particularly in California — are offering make-ready programs to ensure facilities have the needed electrical distribution infrastructure. They're providing incentives and prioritizing infrastructure upgrades according to customer requirements. Such collaboration is a win-win for both parties. Many utilities believe that a fleet of electric vehicles can act as battery storage assets to help balance the power-grid, important in a largely renewable, energy-powered future."
— Mike Whitlach, vice president of global energy and procurement at UPS, UPS/GreenBiz Report.
Fleet owners are examining TCO as a major factor in determining whether to invest in electric trucks. According to one assessment by GTG Technology Group, the total cost of owning an electric truck will be less than that of a diesel truck. They estimate the difference to be approximately $0.15-$0.25 per mile. That said, operating an electric truck will be more cost-effective over time, even with larger initial vehicle investment, primarily due to fuel savings7.
Additionally, the GreenBiz web survey showed that 64 percent of respondents saw the potential for a lower TCO based on reduced fuel costs as well as reduced maintenance and supply costs. Electric vehicles have fewer and less complex parts compared to their diesel counterparts.
Below are insights, resources and considerations to help engineers tackle the challenges of electrification.
Over the next decade and beyond, continued advancement in vehicle range and cost will drive the adoption of electric vehicles, while innovations in battery technology and alternative energies will help address infrastructure challenges. The further adoption of tightening emissions regulations, combined with increased governmental incentives and heightened consumer awareness of the negative impact of greenhouse gases, will provide additional impetus for the widespread adoption of e-Trucks. Design engineers who are willing to think differently and collaborate with all stakeholders in the e-Truck ecosystem have an opportunity to help move the country toward a more sustainable future.
This post was adapted from a white paper "The Evolving Landscape of Commercial Battery Powered Trucks". For detailed survey and research study reports as well as additional strategies design engineers can take to address challenges, download the full white paper.
This article was contributed by:
Brian Kostenbauer, field sales unit manager, Parker Hannifin
Eric McCarthy, business development manager, Parker Hannifin
James Hazlett, account manager, Parker Hannifin
Robert Marotta, global account manager, Parker Hannifin
Ronald Mesker, field sales unit manager, Parker Hannifin