With the advent of the newest generation of lithium ion batteries, growing demand for electric vehicles (EVs), and the changing political landscape have come together in a way that is creating a huge demand for E-vehicles. One of the areas expected to become a major area of vehicle electrification is that of companies with vehicle fleets and PCTI is ready with multi-vehicle charging stations!
Fleet vehicles are a perfect application for electrification. They typically have short routes close to their main hub, so range is much less of an issue. They also don’t suffer from one of the main reasons the public has been slow to purchase EVs: “Where will I charge it?” With fleet vehicles, their hub can be built or retrofitted to be dedicated charging stations. Charging times continue to be reduced and most fleet vehicles operate during the day, allowing technicians the time to “top off” the fleet overnight.
Electric trucks are also infinitely easier to maintain. Yes, they do cost more initially. However, this is likely to change soon. According to Car and Driver magazine, the cost of electric passenger cars fell 13.4% between 2018 and 2019 even though new car costs, in general, increased 2% in the same year. However, without spark plugs, belts, filters, and motor oil to change, their maintenance costs are dramatically lower. Consumer Reports has found that electric cars save about $4,600 in repair and maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle when compared with a gasoline-powered car. The same is even more true for trucks. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) estimates that electric trucks save 4.7 cents/mile in maintenance costs when compared to similar diesel trucks.
Diesel fuel is one of the largest expenses of truck operation. According to Mission Financial Services, fuel represents 39% of the total operating cost of a diesel truck. In general, the cost of the electricity to power an EV is about half the cost of the fuel for an internal-combustion vehicle. EVs are more “fuel efficient,” meaning more of the energy they consume is converted to motion. These two factors, the lower cost of electricity and reduced waste, combine to make e-trucks cheaper to run. E-trucks also have the advantage of recapturing most of the energy required for braking. This means that much of the battery-stored energy used to get the truck moving is replaced when it stops.
Getting back to purchase price, parity with conventional trucks is on the horizon. UPS has announced plans to introduce an electric delivery truck whose cost will rival fossil-fuel trucks without any government subsidies or tax incentives. The company is working with Workhorse Group, Inc. to design the vehicles from the tires up, with zero tailpipe emissions.
Last Mile Delivery
A sector that has become very active lately is what is known as “last mile delivery.” This refers to the final step of getting shipped products from the main hub to the customer. You’re probably familiar with Fed-Ex, UPS, and DHL. These types of businesses literally have thousands of trucks. For instance, in 2017, Fed-Ex had 95,000 trucks. However, there are also countless local companies with several delivery trucks and added together, they represent a major market for e-trucks.
Amazon is eyeing to grow its fleet of 30,000 delivery vans and doing it with EVs. They have recently teamed up with the e-vehicle manufacturer, Rivian, to build a fleet of e-trucks. The online commerce giant says it expects to have 10,000 vans on the road making deliveries next year with a total fleet of 100,000 vehicles expected by 2030. FedEx, not to be outdone, is purchasing 100 EVs from Chanje Energy Inc and leasing 900 from Ryder System, Inc. And as mentioned above, UPS is clearly not to be left in the e-dust. They have plans to deploy 20,000 electric delivery trucks in the near future.
Many vehicle manufacturers are jumping on the e-wagon, so to speak. Bollinger Motors is designing an EV, the Deliver-E, specifically as a medium-duty delivery truck. It has a lot of competition! General Motors will unveil its electric delivery van, the BV1, in late 2021. Mercedes-Benz already has multiple models on the road, saying it will be carbon neutral by 2040. Ford Motor Company says it is “leading the charge” (har!) in e-trucks, including an all-electric version of its popular Transit van. And startups like UK-based Arrival (which received investments from UPS and Hyundai) and Chanje (which claims FedEx as a customer) are working on electric delivery trucks as well.
Buses, taxis, ambulances, street-sweepers, garbage trucks, police cars, tow-trucks, mail delivery trucks, snowplows, and utility maintenance trucks are some of the many vehicles in a town’s stable that are ripe for electrification. As mentioned above, they are easier and cheaper to maintain and are normally not far from a charging station.
Electric buses have already caught on internationally. There are approximately 400,000 e-buses world-wide, with the vast majority being in China. However, Europe has over 4,000 e-buses operating currently and India is adding some 70,000 e-buses annually to its fleet. But we don’t need to only look overseas to see that e-buses are popular here. In Seattle, there are 185 zero-emission buses, New York City has ordered 500 e-buses, Philadelphia added 25 battery-electric buses in 2019, and Chicago recently purchased two e-buses. By 2029, the California Air Resources Board, CARB, expects all new buses purchased in the state to be electric. By 2021, that effort is expected to increase the number of electric buses on state roads from 153 today to more than 1,000.
The garbage truck is a municipal vehicle that is an especially attractive candidate for electrification. They generally start and stop often which is when a diesel engine is at its least efficient. They idle a lot, consuming fuel while the trash is being loaded and compacted. Also, they often operate in residential neighborhoods early in the morning making quieter EV operation highly desirable. Seattle recently purchased two electric garbage trucks. And in early 2020, the world’s largest sanitation department, New York City’s, began testing all-electric garbage trucks on five routes.
One advantage of the electric drive-train is that they have very high torque, an area in which the diesel engine has reigned supreme. An EV drive-train can get a heavy vehicle moving faster than its diesel equivalent and pull or push more weight as well. Which brings us to an interesting niche – construction equipment. It’s difficult to imagine a construction site without the rumble and smell of diesel engines, but the day is coming. Caterpillar, along with Pon Equipment, has unveiled an all-electric 26-ton excavator with a giant 300 kWh battery pack. This single machine will reduce CO2 emissions by 52 tons/year. Volvo CE, the Volvo Group’s construction equipment subsidiary, announced that it will stop the development of diesel wheel-loaders and excavators in order to sell all-electric versions instead. And in case any doubt remains about the applicability of all-electric vehicles, Kuhn Komatsu has fielded the world’s largest all-electric land-vehicle, a behemoth dump-truck. Despite the amount of energy required to move this 110-ton beast, it turns out that it can be done with an electric powertrain!
Cold Weather Hardiness
There are more than a handful of American cities that experience extremely cold winters. Chicago, New York, Boston, not to mention the upper-tier states of Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, and the Dakotas (“God’s Frozen People” as they refer to themselves!), experience punishing winter weather that hampers the operation of diesel engines. Internal combustion engines take time to warm up and then they are only about a third as efficient. On average, only about a third of the diesel one puts in the truck moves the wheels. The rest is lost in heat and friction. In winter, more of that fuel is burned to keep the engine warm. The same is true for EVs, “burning” more of their battery power in winter, but they are still dramatically more efficient than diesel vehicles in cold weather overall. Plus, the cabs of e-trucks can be pre-warmed by garage technicians while the e-trucks are still plugged in. A colleague recently relayed the experience of living in Montana and driving a diesel pick-up truck. He said that a run to the grocery store required two people in cold weather: one to go inside and shop, and another to sit in the truck while it idled. Turning off the truck and locking the doors risked the truck not restarting. Leaving it running and unattended was also not a good choice! Hence, the need for a “wing-man” in cold weather.
The E-Fleet Garage
The municipal or commercial garage of the near-future is going to look very different. No longer a place of hazardous waste, it will be a quiet, clean, and fresh-smelling place. No barrels of used oil and antifreeze to dispose of; no spark plugs, belts, or oil-filters filling trash cans; no deafening noise from engines firing up or from huge ventilation systems; and no lingering smell of diesel fumes.
And at the center of it all, the beating heart of the e-garage, is the charging station. PCTI and our partners are perfectly suited to tap into this burgeoning sector. We specialize in high-current battery chargers and can provide any town or company with the multi-vehicle charging stations it needs to keep its e-fleet going. With three decades of experience custom building the power electronics for charging military vehicles like submarines, providing shore-power to cargo ships, and third-rail applications for subways, we’ve got the know-how to build safe, efficient, and reliable e-fleet charging solutions.
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