HP syncs new electric drayage truck trial to autonomous pilot
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Autonomous Vehicles
Sep 16, 2021
Emma Jarratt

HP, an early member of the EV100 initiative, is now making one of its first moves on the electric trucking front, incorporating electric truck drayage operations into its autonomous haulage pilot

HP, an early member of the EV100 initiative, is now making one of its first moves on the electric trucking front, incorporating electric truck drayage operations into its autonomous haulage pilot with Embark Trucks

Building on last May’s launch of an autonomous driving pilot with Embark Trucks, information technology giant HP Inc. now says it will begin testing electric trucks in its drayage operations — as an extension of its AV pilot with Embark — in a bid to further reduce the environmental impact of its trucking operations.

The two California-based companies this week revealed plans for HP to “create a more sustainable distribution network” by using BYD 8TT electric trucks, operated by human drivers, to conduct drayage runs between the HP distribution facility in San Bernardino and Embark’s highway-side Los Angeles transfer station. From there, the loads will be transferred onto diesel trucks, operated by autonomous driving software, to be hauled to Embark’s Phoenix transfer station.

The new EV/AV route for HP Inc. freight. Image: Embark Trucks

“HP’s goal is to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain by 2040,” said Jessica Kipp, global head of WW Logistics at HP in a press release. “We’re driving innovative solutions with the support of partners like Embark and BYD to reduce the environmental impact of traditional trucks within our supply chain while increasing speed and efficiency for customers.”

Zero-emission commitment

In 2017, HP was one of the first companies to join the EV100 — a global initiative that encourages business to transition their fleets to zero emission (specifically battery electric) by 2030. At the time, HP committed to “transition its fleet of 4,700 vehicles to EV and install charging at over 85 office locations for its staff by 2030,” according to the EV100 pledge tracker.

To this point, however, HP has not publicly announced any EV purchases for its fleet since its EV100 pledge. The drayage trucks used in this pilot are being operated by regional drayage provider 4 Gen Logistics.

This week’s news follows the May announcement that HP had joined Embark’s larger Partnership Development Program (PDP). Since then, the companies have been driving bi-weekly, 450-kilometre (280-mile) freight hauls using diesel trucks between Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Bottom-line savings

Embark’s business case for why all shipping and transport companies should be incorporating autonomous technology into their fleets is simple: dollars and cents.

Electric Autonomy Canada previously reported that Embark claims its agnostic self-driving platform could slash operational costs by up to 58 per cent — taking the average non-autonomous, diesel driving cost of US$1.76 per mile and knocking it down with their autonomous technology to US$0.96 per mile.

For a major shipping company like HP, that kind of an efficiency can start to add a lot of zeros to their bottom-line savings.

And in addition to the savings from autonomous operation, Embark says data shows electric trucks have a driving range best suited to drayage operations and the cost savings from reduced EV maintenance and fuelling can be upwards of 50 per cent.

“We’re combining the best of both worlds with this partnership, pairing the middle-mile strengths of autonomous trucks with the sustainability benefits of electric trucks in urban road settings,” said Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark. “Autonomous and electric trucks represent a powerful tool for companies like HP to help the trucking industry reduce harmful diesel emissions while continuing deliver goods to the businesses and consumers who need them.”

If HP adopts both autonomous technology for haulage and then EVs for its drayage operations, the company could remove up to 50,000 tonnes of carbon and other emissions over the next 10 years, according to Embark research.

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