Fleet tracking firm’s research shows that early adopters — like the City of Richmond, which recently bought four Ford F-150 Lightnings — are making a prudent choice, with electric pickups currently able to do the job of combustion engine pickups in 76 per cent of use cases studied
There’s more good news for fleet owners with gasoline-powered pickup trucks considering a switch to electric — not only are more zero-emission models available now or soon coming your way, but now a new study finds most current electric models are more than up for the job.
Specifically, research by Geotab, the Oakville, Ont.-based provider of fleet tracking and management services, shows that zero-emission pickups available today could replace 76 per cent of combustion-driven pickups currently in use and not run out of charge during the average duty cycle.
In a new EV sustainability assessment, the team examined data from 404,652 light-duty pickup trucks operating across 24 different industry sectors in Canada and the U.S. The fleets studied include municipal, major corporate and small local fleets.
Its analysis of fleet duty cycles showed that, over the course of a year, almost half of the light-duty combustion trucks studied did not go over 450 kilometres in a day and operated within the range limits of the majority of new electric trucks sold or available for pre-order on the market.
With the Ford F-150 Lightning now arriving, and other pickups like the Chevy Silverado EV, GMC Sierra EV and Tesla Cybertruck expected to reach Canadian customers soon, Geotab sought data that might offset remaining buyer apprehension about the range capabilities of currently electric models in the context of real-world fleet applications. At the same time, it also compared their economic viability to combustion counterparts.
“What this study can help alleviate is that these vehicles — for a lot of the use cases out there today — have well over more than enough battery capacity and range to suit most needs,” says Charlotte Argue, senior manager of fleet electrification at Geotab and the study author, in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.
No doubt, Geotab’s findings will resonate with the City of Richmond in British Columbia. Last December, it took the plunge and approved the purchase of four fully electric F-150 Lightning crew cab pickup trucks, along with three hybrid F-150s to replace the gas-powered trucks in its municipal fleet.
“Going forward, we believe these units could be a game changer,” says Clay Adams, a spokesperson for the city of Richmond in an email statement to Electric Autonomy. “Not only do they align with our green fleet strategy and commitment to be a leader in EV adoption, but they bring the functionality and practicality required for the workplace.”
Argue says that municipalities specifically can be well-suited to electrify their working trucks because they tend to operate in a dedicated region and rarely have to do long-haul journeys.
“There’s going to be a combination of trucks…[that are] going to be hauling cargo or potentially towing trailers. Now, because the total distance that they need to drive in any given day is going to be typically low, even by adding cargo capacity or adding auxiliary load, they should be in a really good position where that’s not going to impede their ability to meet their daily rate,” says Argue.
Business case adds impetus
The study’s examination of the business case for converting to electric pickups adds further impetus for fleet owners to consider switching now.
It points out, for example, that the total costs of ownership (TCO) for an electric truck are lower due to reduced maintenance and no fuel costs. The extent to which this benefit will offset the premium of buying an electric pickup, which is currently more expensive than its combustion counterpart, will depend on how often the vehicle is used.
“There’s a “sweet-spot” for vehicles that both drive short enough distances to be range-capable and high enough annual mileage to provide a lower TCO compared to a gas-powered pickup,” reads the Geotab assessment.
The more the truck is used, the more cost savings will increase. Argue says it’s vital for each fleet to do an asset assessment to determine whether they are purchasing the right vehicle for the right job in order to see these savings.
“We know that a lot of the pickups in use today are essentially being used just to move around people. This is where a fleet operator or a fleet manager has the opportunity to look at all of the vehicles and assets within their fleet today and do a survey of what the true capability needs are for each vehicle,” she says.
“Maybe [fleets] are never going off paved roads and they’re never really carrying anything larger that could otherwise be put in the back of a sedan or a small SUV and this is an opportunity to downsize.”
If a fleet does decide that an electric pickup truck is the right choice for them though, Geotab found that 45 per cent of fleet vehicles could save $4,000 per vehicle over a seven-year lifespan, or up to $6,500 if government incentives are added.
Of note, that incentives picture is also looking more attractive with the federal government’s announcement earlier this week that full-size pickup trucks are now eligible for a $10,000 rebate through its new Incentives for Medium- Heavy-duty Zero-Emission Vehicles (iMHZEV) Program. In April, some categories of light-duty pickups were also incorporated into the government’s revamped iZEV EV rebate program.
Start where you’ll save money
“Ideally, fleets will expand their thinking around their electrification transition and include all vehicle classes in their EV strategies,” says Argue.
“The best place to start is where they’re going to save money. By seeing this assessment and recognizing that in our modelling we’ve seen that 45 per cent of all fleet pickups out there would be saving money if they were actually electric rather than a gas; that should give [companies] the confidence to pursue an EV strategy and do their own EV suitability assessment for their vehicles.”
For the City of Richmond, Adams says that the advantages of having the electric pickup trucks also include “increased tow capacity” and the “ability to tow trailers and equipment that previously would require higher rated capacity units.”
“Crews can also use them for onsite power through their built-in inverter, reducing the need for gas-powered generators. Along with reduced maintenance and fuel costs, the electric trucks can be readily supported through the City’s existing charging infrastructure,” he adds.
Richmond initially expected to see deliveries of the Lightning trucks during Q2 2022, but that timeline has been extended to the beginning of 2023 due to limited marketplace availability of the Lighting pickups.
The four fully electric F-150 Lightning crew cab trucks will cost the city about $325,000, with the hybrid trucks accounting for almost $155,000. The total cost for the seven trucks will be over $540,000.
“Richmond continues to seek innovative ways to create a greener, more sustainable environment and we believe these trucks could play a key role in that,” says Adams.