Electric medium-duty trucks a good fit for some applications: NACFE

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A new Confidence Report on the viability of electric-powered medium-duty trucks found they are a “real solution, for some specific applications.”

Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) said during a webinar to discuss the findings that more miles are required to answer certain unknowns about electric medium-duty trucks. However, he also said “they’re not a fad.”

The report debunked the belief that medium-duty electric trucks will cost significantly more than diesel equivalents.

“You hear people saying, ‘The batteries are way too expensive,’” Roeth said. “But in some shorter, mild duty cycles, they’re telling us they are very near cost parity now.”

NACFE focused on electric trucks available today, or soon to be available.

“We tried to avoid thinking about what could be out there in the future, and focused on what is really being put on the streets today – what is the performance of those?” Roeth explained.

The report concluded that medium-duty trucks with one shift per day operations offered the best opportunity for electrification, as those trucks sit for long periods when they can be recharged. “The operational complexity increases as the number of duty shifts increases,” NACFE concluded.

Most medium-duty trucks cube out before grossing out, so weight tends not to be an issue for customers. The following make medium-duty trucks ideal for electrification: low daily average speeds; low average daily drive time; predictable daily distances; stop-and-go driving patterns; and fixed start and return locations, often near urban areas.

But NACFE acknowledged struggling to develop a cost model, since there are limited medium-duty electric trucks in the field.

“There are a large number of knowns and unknowns that influence the total cost of ownership for medium-duty commercial battery electric vehicles,” NACFE reported. “More miles of fleet use are needed to predict performance, maintenance costs, residual markets, and other key factors with confidence.”

The organization, however, was still able to develop a cost calculator fleets can use to see if medium-duty electric trucks make sense in their application.

Roeth said fleets that are early adopters “will be ahead of the curve” in understanding the technology. The full report can be purchased for US$1,500, however a summary report is downloadable for free from www.NACFE.org.

Electric medium-duty trucks like Freightliner’s M2 will be a viable solution in some applications, NACFE concluded.
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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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