More than 75 per cent of worldwide fleets surveyed who’ve vowed to electrify their vehicles in the next nine years have yet to find suitable product – the time is ripe for manufacturers to fill this lucrative gap.
Three Canadian companies leading the way in fleet electrification are proving the market for heavy electric vehicle manufacturers is growing and financially viable.
In 2019 ADM Aéroports de Montréal, Taxelco and Ontario Power Generation signed onto the EV100 pledge, spearheaded by The Climate Group, setting ambitious goals for fleet electrification – over 2,100 vehicles between the three companies – by 2030.
“We are going to lead by example and do everything we can to optimize our greenhouse emissions. [Electrifying] fleet vehicles is a big opportunity,” Philippe Stas, director of strategic sourcing for ADM, tells Electric Autonomy.
“It’s a commitment from our upper management that we need to reduce greenhouse gases so there is a will to pay a reasonable premium to convert from tradition combustion type vehicles to electric vehicles.”
Transit emissions high
Transit accounts for nearly a quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to government data.
For an enterprising Canadian OEM this growing commercial appetite for electric fleet solutions presents a lucrative opportunity in a market with very few players.
ADM’s fleet encompasses 79 vehicles that range from four-seater hatchbacks to heavy equipment trucks servicing planes and runways.
ADM already has 12 Nissan Leafs, pluggable hybrids and electric pickup trucks equalling 15 per cent fleet electrification.
The electric pickups are courtesy of Ecotuned, a company that specializes in converting diesel Ford F150s to battery powered. Ecotuned is planning on expanding its conversion operations to include Ford 250 and 350 series and, eventually, will branch into other makes.
The range of electric infrastructure needs for ADM presents unique challenges, but also a great opportunity in the manufacturing world.
“EV100 recognizes the challenge and what they are asking us to do is electrify 100 per cent of our light vehicle fleet by 2030. For heavy vehicles they are asking us to electrify 50 per cent of the fleet because they recognize there is a bigger challenge there and some products are being developed but are not available,” says Stas.
A lion’s share
One company that is nearly singlehandedly shouldering the demand for electric heavy machinery is a near neighbour to ADM: Quebec-based Lion Electric Co., Canada’s only 100 per cent purpose-built medium to heavy electric vehicle OEM.
Being first out of the gate landed Lion partnership opportunities, which have yielded invaluable product feedback and unique technological advances. It’s also allowing them to grab the largest market share for the heavy electric vehicle industry in Canada – virtually unchallenged.
“We have a head start. Our biggest competition right now comes from China. [Other major OEMs] will have to invest millions of dollars to get where we are at,” Patrick Gervais, vice president of marketing and communications, tells Electric Autonomy.
Lion already boasts an all electric bus, mini bus, shuttle – including a customized version for ADM that includes screens to show flight information to riders – and a Class 8 truck.
They are planning on adding five additional models in the near-term, including: a bucket truck, a roll off, a garbage truck, a firetruck and a reformation truck.
“When we get into commercial trucks the return on investment is way faster because you do a lot of mileage. The more you roll the more you save,” says Gervais.
Canadian National, the country’s only transcontinental rail company, has already ordered eight Lion trucks for their fleet. Those will “remove 100 tons of GHG from the road annually,” according to the company, which expects the trucks to deploy in Summer, 2020.
Getting off the ground
For companies like ADM, electric trucks will be an important component of an airport fleet. Dozens of retail partners rely on them to transport goods in and out and smaller specialized work trucks service airport infrastructures and planes. ADM says they are committed to working with all their partners to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles, creating a ripple effect through the airport community.
But transitioning the machinery used to keep planes taking off and landing safely is a more complex undertaking.
“The heavy machinery is difficult to transition. It takes a lot of battery power to run a thousand horsepower snowblower,” says Claude Hurtubise, business partner with strategic procurement at ADM, tells Electric Autonomy.
“In terms of heavy machinery we are not there yet, but we are working with manufacturers in their product development roadmap.”
ADM, like many other electric-transitioning companies, has employed some work arounds ranging from buying hybrid in lieu of all-electric, purchasing vehicles with more efficient engines to retrofitting existing diesel vehicles to electric where they can. Vehicles being replaced in ADM’s fleet in 2020 will produce 51% fewer greenhouse emissions than their predecessors.
But the commercial demand for an all-electric runway sweeper, for instance, remains small meaning supply is scarce and costs are high.
On the manufacturing side, Lion is confident they will be able to deliver hyper specialized machinery as part of their product lineup and that, with the right policy and legislative supports, the costs could be reigned in and achieving a truly zero emissions fleet for a partner like ADM would be realistic.
“We think if there is a high volume of purchases and engagement from the government and private companies in the next five years that electric heavy duty transportation will be the same price as diesel,” says Gervais.
“One of the problems we face is that people think electric vehicles are in five years. It’s happening now. It’s not the project of the future.”