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Battery electric vehicles in medium-duty applications are no longer an ‘if”

Oct. 23, 2018
The near future includes a mix of powertrain options with fleet owners choosing the combination that works best in their operation: diesel, gas, as well as electric and maybe other alternative fuels.

A fair amount of money and effort are being leveraged in battery electric vehicle development, moving products from the design and prototype phase into actual production. At the same time, we’ve seen more stringent emissions regulations and a growing interest in zero-emissions zones. As a result, we are getting closer to the reality of more widespread use of battery power in commercial vehicles. We’ve gone from “Batteries moving freight, you’ve got to be kidding!”, to yes, it is happening.

However, this does not mean that diesel-powered vehicles are going away anytime soon. What we will see for many years to come is a mix of powertrain options with fleet owners choosing the combination that works best in their operation and years of them operating both diesel, gas, as well as electric and maybe other alternative fuels.

One place where battery electric vehicles will likely see gains is in medium-duty applications. More specifically in daily return-to-base urban applications of fewer than 100 miles per day.

Our recent NACFE Guidance Report, Medium-Duty Electric Trucks: Cost of Ownership, took an in-depth look at the viability of battery electric vehicles in medium-duty applications.

The purpose of the report is to help fleets determine the total cost of ownership of these vehicles. Unfortunately, a lack of field history means we had to make some projections, estimates and guesses when putting together our TCO calculator. In the process of developing the calculator, we uncovered 20 generally unknown factors revolving around commercial battery electric vehicles (CBEVs) in medium-duty applications.

The unknowns fall into four groups: market issues, battery issues, regulatory issues and power issues. And while there are these uncertainties surrounding medium-duty battery electric vehicles, we believe there is the potential for significant savings from CBEVs in medium-duty applications.

Like it or not, CBEVs are no longer an “if” in trucking applications. Both existing OEMs and companies new to the trucking industry are rapidly bringing products to market.

If you have not already started to look at CBEVs for your medium-duty truck needs, now is a good time to begin exploring whether they make sense for you. Our TCO calculator is a tool that allows you to compare your investment in diesel or gasoline powered baseline trucks against an equivalent battery electric alternative — allowing you to see the business case for or against CBEVs in your specific application.  If you’re a manufacturer the tool should be equally helpful in your product development efforts.

At NACFE we are invested in making all fleets more efficient regardless of what fuel is powering your vehicles. That’s why I am happy to help answer any questions you have about our report or assist you in working through the TCO calculator. Just give me a shout at [email protected].

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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