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Fleets of all sizes are leaning in to electric vehicles

April 5, 2023
Electrification is not solely the domain of large companies making large investments. Smaller fleets are experimenting with a handful of EVs to prepare for the future.

As we are working to secure the eight fleet depots that will be participating in Run on Less – Electric DEPOT, I’ve become more aware of what is happening in the electric vehicle space. It will probably not surprise anyone that there is a lot going on in California with fleets and electric trucks. Of course, there have been some big developments like Frito-Lay’s efforts at its Modesto location, but I also have been seeing other efforts, albeit on a smaller scale by fleets of all sizes.

In addition, there are efforts in other parts of the country with fleets getting some experience with electric trucks. There are forward-thinking fleets across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico who are leaning into learning about how electric vehicles might fit into their operations. We are hearing stories of fleets ordering one, two, or three EVs to gain experience with them.

See also: NACFE: 'Waiting is no longer an option' for realistic emissions reductions in trucking

One thing to note is that these early adopter fleets have a good understanding of where EVs make sense. We are seeing EVs being deployed in short regional haul applications like parts shuttles for manufacturing operations and for local deliveries with medium- and heavy-duty trucks being used to deliver food and beverages, as well as port drayage.

These applications align with the use case reports we published last year. As you may recall our four reports focused on terminal tractors, vans and step vans box trucks and heavy-duty regional haul tractors.

Electric vehicles have a place in trucking today, but they are not right for every duty cycle and use case. It is imperative that fleets choose the right application to pilot an electric vehicle project, or they will be disappointed in the results. If done well, scaling at that site can then follow.

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I am heartened by what I am seeing across the North American trucking industry when it comes to electric vehicles. While some of the bleeding edge fleets have moved from just a few electric trucks to 15, 20 or even more, there are a host of other fleets that are making an initial foray into alternative powertrains. The more deployments we have, the more data we can gather and the more we can refine the use cases where electric vehicles are well suited to replace diesel powered vehicles and just as important where they will not work.

I am proud of the efforts that fleets are making to ensure we get to a cleaner movement of goods sooner rather than later.

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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