5.2 million North American trucks prime for electrification, says new NACFE report
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EV Fleets
Jan 13, 2022
Mehanaz Yakub

A three-week, real-world demonstration has proven electric trucks are “a viable option” for commercial fleets, offering electric benefits without impacting performance

With findings released from the 2021 Run on Less – Electric demonstrations, NACFE suggests fleet electrification better done earlier than later.

A three-week, real-world demonstration has proven electric trucks are “a viable option” for commercial fleets, offering electric benefits without impacting performance

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) says in a new report that last year’s Run on Less — Electric (RoL-E) event — which tracked 13 medium- and heavy-duty commercial electric trucks for three weeks as they operated on real-world commercial routes — proved that commercial electric vehicle (EV) technology is mature enough for fleet investment.

The trucks were operated in the United States by companies such as Frito-Lay and DHL, as well as Purolator in Vancouver and Day & Ross in Montreal, and were monitored by Geotab telematic devices to provide daily performance metrics. These included range, charge status, and braking energy recovery; along with other factors such as the number of deliveries and the weather.

Across North America the four segments of trucks tested — vans and step vans, medium-duty box trucks, terminal tractors, and heavy-duty regional haul tractors — make up 5.2 million diesel trucks, around 60 per cent of all commercial vehicles. And, according to NACFE, vehicles in these sectors can be electrified without performance impacts, which would offset more than 100 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

Converting all North American trucks in those four market segments would require around 169 thousand gigawatt-hours of electricity each year — which is less than 5 per cent of all U.S. annual electricity usage today, the report says.

Mike Roeth, NACFE’s executive director, said at the conclusion of the demonstration, “it’s clear from the data collected during the Run that it is time for fleets to go electric in certain market segments.”

Positive findings

NACFE teased the early findings of its report in the fall, but the report elaborates on more nuanced aspects of the demonstration results.

Transportation is the largest single greenhouse gas emitting sector, making up 29 per cent of total North American carbon emissions. Commercial and heavy trucking accounts for around a quarter of these emissions, so the environmental impact of moving to EVs in these markets is “significant”, the report found.

And while North America’s electric trucking ecosystem is still in its early stages, NACFE said there is a “huge demand” for data on real-world electric trucking performance, signalling a strong fleet market interest.

In addition to access to information both for performance and purchasing, the report encourages the industry to “develop standards in the areas of charging, repair, maintenance and training,” as well as pay attention to the early adopters in the four market segments that are, “validating an acceptable total cost of ownership.”

The electric trucks also offered a better driving experience than diesel, according to drivers who participated in the event. Drivers reporting enjoying the EVs lower noise levels and better acceleration and found the vehicles simple and less fatiguing to drive. They also reported it was easier to plug and charge vehicles overnight than to drive to a gas station.

Overall, says the report, more attention needs to be given to the best approach to gather and manage the data needed by fleets and manufacturers to assess and monitor their commercial fleets, but already there is a mix of startup companies, traditional truck OEMs, and component manufacturers helping to accelerate the development of innovative and viable electric fleet adoption solutions.

Next steps

While the RoL-E event marked an important and valuable first step in understanding the real-world applications and performance of electric trucks, lifecycle challenges remain. Charging times, charging infrastructure, and vehicle range were some of the key issues that NACFE identified as barriers to commercial EV adoption.

The report also found that industry needs to “develop standards in the areas of charging, repair, maintenance and training” and to consider the importance of measurement parameters, utility complexities, and the fleet operational factors required for smooth EV deployment.  

Additionally, the RoL-E event took place over 18 days, not allowing detailed maintenance information. However, according to the report, “there is long-term reliability data on electric automobiles and buses showing that once vehicles are in production, their maintenance costs and failure rates trend downward versus internal combustion vehicles.”

In the Canadian context a three week period is also insufficient to measure the full impact of extreme weather on vehicle performance, though the report noted that information about diverse environmental conditions was a core part of data analysis in the demonstration.

RoL-E fleets have operated in Minnesota and New York City through the winter without performance issues.

Later in this year, NACFE plans to publish four additional reports on market segment specific analyses of the RoL-E data.

The full RoL-E report can be viewed here.

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