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Dreamstime Electric Truck Welcomia 125415111

Of electric vehicles and parity

March 30, 2022
If the trucking industry is going to get to parity, fleets need to start their electrification journeys now.

In case you missed it, the U.S. Department of Energy recently released a report containing a vehicle cost analysis of decarbonized medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The SparkNotes takeaway—for those of you who are a little older think CliffNotes—is that “with continued improvements in vehicle and fuel technologies, zero-emission vehicles can reach total-cost-of-driving parity with conventional diesel vehicles by 2035 for all medium- and heavy-duty vehicle classes (without incentives).”

The DOE is not the first entity to come up with predictions about when parity will occur. Lately there have been lots of other unbiased sources looking into parity between battery-electric vehicles and diesel-powered ones. I am inclined to believe we are rapidly moving to a decarbonized future for trucking.

See also: DOE projects heavy-duty electric trucks will be cheaper than diesel by 2035

I have a couple of thoughts on all this.

First, 2035 is a bit off in the future but parity does not happen overnight. And if we are going to get to parity, fleets need to start their electrification journeys now.

That brings me to my second point. Right now, today there are certain applications where commercial battery-electric vehicles make sense. Those include terminal tractors, vans and step vans, medium-duty box trucks and even some heavy-duty applications like beverage delivery. While today EVs are not at cost parity with many fleets are taking advantage of available incentives the TCO equation is getting closer to making sense.

When you are performing your TCO calculations on these battery-electric vehicles make sure to factor in things like driver attraction and retention and achieving sustainability goals. I know those “soft” costs can be harder to quantify but they do help make the case for EV deployments. One of the big takeaways from last fall’s Run on Less – Electric is that drivers love EVs for a host of reasons and given the current (and likely continuing) driver shortage anything a fleet can do to attract and retain drivers has a dollar value.

See also: It’s time to add BEVs. Or is it?

In addition, as more and more shippers are developing sustainability policies and goals, fleet managers are being asked about the “greenness” of their trucks. Business can be won or lost depending on the fuel efficiency of the fleet. That too has a dollar value associated with it.

Given that trucking is not a homogeneous market, certain segments are primed to switch to battery electric vehicles sooner. In fact, the DOE report says that smaller diesel trucks will be cost competitive with diesel trucks by 2030—just eight years away.

Trucking companies focus on TCO, and it is starting to look like the TCO on battery-electric vehicles is on the near-term horizon. Every fleet needs to analyze its operations to see where battery-electric vehicles fit and then begin their journey to electrification of those duty cycles where it makes sense today and prepare for those where EVs will make sense tomorrow. 

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. 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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