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Time to leave the valley of inertia

Aug. 24, 2022
Electrification can be a massive undertaking. But once adopted, the effort can gain massive momentum. Fleets sitting on the fence can take the leap to see how to incorporate electric vehicles into their operations.

I learned a new phrase the other day—"the valley of inertia.” I was interviewing Jigar Shah, director of the loan program office at the U.S. Department of Energy, for my podcast, Trucking Efficiency With Mike Roeth & Friends.

I mentioned the valley of death—the place where many good ideas and technologies end up for one reason or another—abandoned after seemingly strong initial adoption. Jigar said that with electric vehicles, he thought it was more a valley of inertia. I asked him what he meant by that, and he explained that when it comes to electric vehicles, a lot of fleets are stuck in the middle. They know the technology works, having read about other fleets’ success or from following Run on Less–Electric. But they come up with reasons why it won’t work for them. These include having to retrain workers, having to work with commercial banking partners that may not understand the EV space, and other reasons.

See also: Solar helps with battery life

Fleets convince themselves that those are good reasons to maintain things just the way they are and to avoid doing the work it takes to move away from what they have always done.

Jigar said it's time to leave the valley of inertia and start the process of determining how EVs fit into your fleet. The good news is that this is not a journey you have to take by yourself. Many of the stakeholders in the EV space, including OEMs, technology companies, utility companies, the Department of Energy, and groups like NACFE, are here to help.

No one is saying that EVs are going to work in every duty cycle today. Clearly, there are some use cases where they do make sense, and those tend to be return-to-base operations like vans and step vans, medium-duty box trucks, heavy-duty regional haul tractors and terminal tractors. However, there are others where the capability of the technology does not meet the needs of the fleet. Not yet.

Inertia is an interesting concept. In physics, it's a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or motion. So, inertia can keep you right where you are. Or if you make a change, inertia can keep you going along the new path. The electric truck path is waiting for you. Jump on.

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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