- Allen Czermak
Electric Trucking & The Future Of Logistics
It used to be a novelty when you saw an electric car on the road but now it has become quite common to see a Tesla driving next to you on the highway. I actually remember when my uncle had purchased his first Tesla and everyone in the family was excited to get a ride in it or perhaps even drive it. But today no one even pays attention to who has an electric car as so many of them are on the road due to the many incentives there are when purchasing one.
Looks like the electric car and SUV market has evolved quite nicely but what about the market for electric trucks? I am not talking about the electric pickup trucks manufactured by Rivan, GMC, Ford, and Tesla. I am talking about big rig electric trucks that can haul freight from sea to shining sea across the United States. What electric freight liners are already on the road and will they have a negative or positive impact in the trucking and logistics industry?
Electric Freight Liners In 2022
There are numerous electric box trucks already on the market that are on the road in many European countries used for short haul deliveries or better known as LTL freight (less-than-truckload). The Swedish manufacturer Scania, produces a variety of these truck types that come in both fully electric, and hybrid powered engines. These trucks stick to local deliveries that will allow them to recharge as needed. In addition, with a lighter payload, these box trucks will be able to stay on the road longer to complete their local deliveries.
Below we will focus only on electric trucks that have the capabilities of hauling ship containers that can be used for intermodal transport. These trucks are referred to as semi tractor trailers and haul a maximum payload of up to 80,000 pounds. In order for a freight liner to be electric powered, it will require an engine that can handle such a load (or at least somewhat comparable) without having to recharge often. Keep in mind that in the United States of America, truck drivers like to max out their straight driving allowance of 8 hours. The last thing any truck operator would want is to have to stop sooner than that to recharge their rig.
XOS Electric Truck
Formerly known as Thor Trucks, XOS is a California based company that began to develop electric trucks back in 2017. This truck is a class 8 truck, meaning that its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) surpasses 33,000 pounds. It has a towing capacity of 36 tons or 80,000 pounds that would equate it to carry a similar payload as that of the typical semi diesel powered rig. The XOS electric truck comes with a battery that will insure up to 200 miles of straight driving. According to ZipRecruiter, truck drivers will clock anywhere from 605 to 650 miles daily and with the XOS electric truck would need to recharge at least three times per a driving day. After their most recent merger with NextGen Acquisition Corp, they have begun testing the truck modules with delivery services like UPS and FedEx. In more recent news, FedEx has already ordered 120 of the XOS box trucks that should begin rolling into service in Texas, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California. As per being used to deliver large shipping containers or payloads for a semi, none have been reported to be in service yet.
Mercedes-Benz GenH2 Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Electric Truck
The Mercedes-Benz company is mostly known in the United States for its wide variety of luxury vehicles. However, overseas it’s quite common to see Mercedes-Benz trucks, buses, and delivery vans. Since Mercedes-Benz is in the long-haul delivery business they are very much interested in fuel free trucks and have developed the GenH2 Fuel-Cell Electric Truck. This truck uses hydrogen fuel cell technology for its two electric power motors that give it 950 horsepower. The GenH2 truck relies on 2 hydrogen fuel tanks that weigh 88 pounds each, and a 70 kilowatt battery pack to power this semi. It has a towing capacity of 36 tons or 80,000 pounds that would equate it to carry a similar payload as that of the typical semi diesel powered rig. The GenH2 Fuel-Cell Electric Truck can ride up to 620 miles of straight driving that can more than meet typical truck drivers daily mile allowance. Though the GenH2 is not fully electric and relies on 2 hydrogen tanks, Mercedes-Benz has seen that it is a zero emission vehicle as they are committed to protecting the environment.
Freightliner eCascadia Battery Electric Truck
The Freightliner eCascadia electric truck is equipped with a battery pack that is 550 kilowatt that powers a 750 horsepower engine. Though the truck is fully electric its appearance is more comparable to the typical semi that hosts a long hood at the front of the vehicle. It has a driving range of up to 250 miles and would require a driver to stop for at least one recharging to meet the daily driver mileage allowance. The manufacturer, Freightliner claims that the battery pack can recharge to 80% in about 90 minutes assuming there is a good electric connection. The eCascadia is a class 8 truck and can handle up to (GVWR) 80,000 pounds for its payload. The challenge with this truck is more for long haul drivers that are looking to max out their daily straight driving allowance. Such a truck like the eCascadia might be more of a burden to them as per the recharge after 250 miles of driving.
Kenworth T680 Fuel Cell Electric Truck (FCEV)
In collaboration with Toyota Motor Corporation, Kenworth has developed the T680 Fuel Cell Electric Truck. Similar to the Freightliner eCascadia, the T680 appearance is like that of a typical semi tractor trailer and has a long hood at its front. It has a driving range of 300 miles and its engine is powered by both a hydrogen fuel cell tank and an electric battery pack. This provides the Kenworth T680 with 560 horsepower which makes it more than capable of carrying heavy shipping containers on long haul routes. This rig is a class 8 truck and it can carry up to 80,000 pounds. Kenworth is currently in collaboration with UPS and will offer its direction on commercial feasibility and driver acceptance of technologies. The idea is for each of the companies to complement one another and have a set of electric trucks that can ultimately meet UPS needs.
Tesla Motors Semi Electric Truck
When someone hears of the company they think of electric cars and SUVs. But the company has also manufactured an electric powered semi tractor trailer that is currently hauling loads in its home state of California. The cost for the vehicle ranges around $200,000 and has a driving range from 300 to 500 miles. Tesla Motors Semi Electric Truck is a class 8 cargo truck which means that it can haul up to 80,000 pounds just like any other semi rig. The engine has 360 to 525 horsepower with a battery capacity of 475 kilowatt. In comparison with the other manufacturers, Tesla has once again knocked it out of the park. From just looking at the mileage range, carrying capacity, and price point it appears that they are ready to claim victory on the semi tractor trailer market as well.
Pros & Cons of Electric Semi Trucks
The pros of introducing electric trucks into the logistics industry is eliminating the cost of fuel. This would bring down shipping rates and help ease the burden on a logistics industry that has seen rates go through the roof on ship containers. There are other benefits of not emanating carbon emissions that help our environment but don’t have a direct impact on a hard working driver wallet.
The cons are quite a few to say the least. Though I am not a truck driver myself I know that operators are looking to max out their daily mileage allowance to make the most money per day as possible. Having to stop every 200 miles to do a recharge is simply not going to work. The Tesla Semi seems to be tackling this issue and will be offering its vehicles in a few options with a mileage capacity of 300 to 500 miles before a recharge. In addition, other electric truck manufacturers seem to need to rely on the carbon fuel cell engine which does not really make it a fully electric vehicle. To me it sounds like these are more hybrid semi tractor trailer trucks.
It appears like we will see electric trucks on the road but they will be the Tesla Semi riding along the highway with their little kid brothers and sisters, the Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model Y, Model X. All I can say is hats off to Elon Musk as he has figured this out as Tesla is way ahead of the other electric truck manufacturers. It appears that until the other companies can develop similar technology they will be on the outside looking in. Good luck and smooth riding in those quiet electric trucks.