State of the Electric Truck Industry
Demands for oil are high and gas prices are steadily rising. In fact, gasoline prices are $0.08 higher than they were a year ago and these soaring costs can take a financial toll on fleets. Electric, battery powered trucks are set to begin production soon but is the much-hyped technology ready for practical use in the transportation industry?
2019's Industry Landscape
• In 2016, Tesla began to advertise on social media that they would soon begin production of electric semi-trucks. The Tesla semi is a battery powered, heavy-duty Class 8 truck going into production soon.
•Nikola Motor Company is an electric and hydrogen startup company that recently announced plans to build new, all-electric trucks to compete with the Tesla Semi. Nikola also has future plans to make hydrogen trucks and hydrogen refueling stations. Nikola's semi-trucks will be zero emission fuel cell powered that are scheduled to be in production by 2021.
•Volvo Trucks released images of their electric trucks they plan to test in California next year. California is an ideal location for testing, since the state is working to improve air quality and carbon emissions.
Pros of Electric Trucks
• All electric trucks emit zero emissions. If companies used more electric trucks, they could save billions of dollars in fuel costs each year. United Parcel Service, Anheuser-Busch, Walmart, PepsiCo, and JB Hunt are the first companies to order Tesla Semis.
• Cities and towns along busy truck routes have higher rates of pollutants in the air from the use of diesel fuel. Electric trucks can significantly reduce these harmful particles in those areas and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
• Cities with high populations will be the first to capitalize on electric trucks because they have initiatives to reduce air pollution. As battery technology becomes more advanced, electric semi-trucks will be able to cover longer distances.
Cons of Electric Trucks
• Long haul trucks need longer lasting batteries that are still in development. Currently, most electric trucks are set to roll out in heavily populated areas to make local or regional deliveries. These trucks can only go about 60 miles before they need to recharge. The battery technology isn’t available yet for long haul trucks.
• There aren’t a lot of companies making electric trucks. At the end of 2017, Tesla stated their electric trucks would begin production in 2019. That time frame was pushed back to 2020, further delaying them getting to market and on the road.
•Electric trucks may be only a small percentage of the semi-truck market for years. Medium duty powered trucks need to go about 80 to 150 miles to make them cost-effective with their deliveries. Long haul trucks will need to go even further without recharging their batteries to make operations cost effective. Truck recharging stations need to be built as well. Truckers need to be educated on how to drive and maintain these trucks. For now, the best use of an electric truck is for shorter distances and local pickups and deliveries.
More companies may develop electric trucks to compete with companies like Volvo and Tesla, but in the meantime, diesel fuel trucks and their drivers remain the lifeblood of the trucking industry.