Testing electric trucks today so we’re ready for tomorrow

By the end of this year, there are expected to be 20 fast-charging (DCFC) and Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations installed across Southern Alberta. The project, called Peaks to Prairies, is aimed at increasing what is being called “electric vehicle tourism,” and I’m wondering how an effort like this could possibly accelerate the use of electric heavy-duty trucking in the province, or at least testing of the new technology.

Alberta is not the first province that would pop into mind when it comes to an electric vehicle initiative – it may even be the last. Despite the fact that the province gets about half of its electricity from coal and only around 13% from renewable clean energy sources, like wind, moving forward with the installation of these electric charging stations shows a lot of consideration for the future of vehicle travel.

There are several hurdles electric vehicles must overcome in an Alberta climate to achieve success, and trucking would require even more.

Cold weather, reliability, and the logistics around charging time (though recent news makes the claim of a battery from Echion Technologies that charges in six minutes) would be a few obvious examples.

But once these 20 stations are up and running, one key challenge would seem to disappear – the lack of infrastructure for electric vehicle charging.

One of the biggest issues blocking the reality of employing the use of electric trucks has been the absence of an adequate number of electric vehicle charging stations, especially in Western Canada.

A map depicting the location of the DCFC and Level 2 charging stations shows several in Southern Alberta, with the longest stretch between stations being from Calgary’s east end to Medicine Hat – approximately 280 km. Even the Cummins AEOS, which is classified as a short-haul truck, has a range of 160 km.

If we are to believe that the Tesla Semi could reach its claimed range of 480 km, it would appear Southern Alberta would be an ideal location for electric truck testing once these charging stations are all operational.

In addition to four being in Calgary, DCFC stations will be set up in Claresholm, Nanton, Crowsnest Pass, Fort Macleod, and Taber, to name just a few. Atco is setting up and maintaining the electric corridor, and have completed charging stations in Canmore and Lethbridge thus far, with the rest expected to be up and running by the end of 2019.

The province is slated to begin its zero-emissions, heavy-duty hydrogen project, which is testing trucks running on electricity powered by hydrogen, hauling between Calgary and Edmonton. The project is to continue until 2022.

Perhaps it’s a good time to think about testing fully electric trucks using this new charging network.

A lot has been said about the reliability of the batteries used to power electric vehicles in cold-weather climates. If these trucks work in Alberta, I’d venture to say they’d work almost anywhere.

At the very least, trucks doing regional routes in Southern Alberta – even between Calgary and Edmonton, where there is a lot of truck activity – could tap into the electric movement.

The day we see more electric vehicles – especially trucks – on the roads in North America is still a long way away, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be testing and improving this new technology now for when that time comes.

After all, if 11% of drivers in Norway (including 49% of 2018 car sales) can use electric vehicles with an average annual temperature of 5 degrees Celsius, it should work in Canada.

Avatar photo

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.