Heavy-duty electrified trucks are starting to roll like quiet thunder on U.S. highway and byways, and the truckers behind the wheel can count on less stress and fatigue when compared with the noise and vibration of traditional combustion engine big rigs. More to the point, the rising tide of interest in fleet electrification is banked on the financial benefits companies expect to accrue, including lower fuel and maintenance costs.
During 2019 there were just over 2,000 electric U.S. trucks, but that figure is expected to increase to more than 54,000 by 2025, according to a forecast by Wood Mackenzie, a commodities research firm.
That prediction got off to a flying start when Republic Services, the big trash collection company, inked an agreement to buy 2,500 electric collection vehicles from Nikola Corp., the Phoenix-based manufacturer of electric vehicles, with an option to boost that order to 5,000 trucks. Media reports have described the deal as the biggest-ever truck order from Republic Services, which has a fleet of about 16,000 garbage trucks. Initial testing is expected to begin in Arizona and California, with wider-scale testing in 2022 and full deployment by 2023. The vehicles are expected to have a 150-mile range and the ability to collect 1,200 cans of trash on a single charge.
Trevor Milton, founder and executive chairman of Nikola, told The Wall Street Journal each truck will cost “less than” $500,000 — as if a half-million-dollar price tag is a deal.
“Compared to passenger electric vehicle and electric bus penetration levels, the electric truck market is still in its infancy,” said Kelly McCoy, Wood Mackenzie research analyst and report author. “Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are the second-largest contributors to U.S. transportation emissions, but much of the emissions reduction efforts thus far have centered on new diesel technologies and hybrids rather than pure electrification.”
Electric truck fleets still face impediments to mass adoption, such as a paucity of charging stations. The industry is looking to shore up its shortage of infrastructure, and so is Volvo, another maker of electric trucks, and the state of California, which has collaborated on a program called The Volvo Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions. The so-called LIGHTS project, which is being funded to the tune of $45 million by the California state government, is a collaboration between the California Air Resources Board, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Volvo Trucks and about a dozen other organizations to pioneer a range of vehicle and charging innovations that participants deem critical for the commercial success of electric trucks. The three-year Volvo LIGHTS project, backed by a total investment of $90 million, has set a goal of demonstrating that heavy-duty electric trucks and equipment can reliably move freight between Southern California’s major ports and warehouses throughout the region with less noise and zero emissions.
Mike Consol (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.