The road to truck fleet electrification: Learning from experience

With the rising cost of fossil fuels and concern about CO2 emissions, it’s becoming clear that the sun is setting on the combustion engine. To fleets, this can be daunting – being forced to rethink nearly every facet of their operation as they move away from diesel. And while this may seem challenging, at the end of the day, electrification will improve fleet efficiency and lower operational costs in ways diesel fleets could only dream of.

In our recent eTruck Report, we surveyed a number of European fleet operators and asked them for insights into why they electrified, what hurdles they faced, what improvements they are seeing, and what is on the horizon. Below are a few key takeaways that will help  fleets embarking on this journey.

1. Understanding the benefits beyond zero emissions

Converting your fleet to electric has benefits far beyond just the environmental impact. Fleets undergoing the electrification process are discovering several other areas in which their eTrucks outpace diesel vehicles.

For starters, the drastic reduction in noise is allowing certain fleets to increase their operating hours. Cure Afvalbeheer, a Dutch waste management company, has found that they can extend their routes in more densely packed urban areas and run later in the day thanks to their eTrucks. As a result, they were able to add a second shift into their schedule and take extra trucks off the road.

Another area in which eTrucks excel is in total cost of ownership. A recent study from Transport & Environment says that “the average electric van is already 25% cheaper per mile to own and operate than the average diesel van.” Right now, eTrucks across the globe have lower maintenance costs, lower ‘fuel’ costs, and a bevy of available subsidies that not only achieve TCO parity with their gas counterparts but offer savings right out of the gate.

What’s more, electric motors offer instant torque which allows for improved towing capacity, a smoother ride, and greater efficiency. Simply put, an electric motor makes for a better truck.

2. Understand when and how to recharge

The biggest obstacle fleets mention is planning around their new eTrucks’ charging needs. Unlike gas engines, an eTruck requires more time to refuel – an association many equate to an increase in downtime. However, this does not need to be the case.

The first thing to consider is all the time the vehicle is parked (e.g., in the depot overnight, unloading at its destination, or parked during driver breaks). Think about how long the vehicle is resting during each of these stops and how long it needs to drive until it reaches the next stop. With this information, you can design a charging network where every minute of parking time is capitalized on as an opportunity to recharge.

Granted, this assumes there is charging at all of the truck’s parking destinations, which is unrealistic at present. However, with medium- and heavy-duty eTrucks now capable of driving hundreds of miles in between charges, the need to charge at every stop is far from a necessity. The point our European counterparts are illustrating is that, with a comprehensive EV charging ecosystem, eTruck charging times no longer present such a hurdle.

3. Understand where we are in the eTruck transition

Like any shift in technology, the transition to all electric fleets is going to happen in phases. For example, the final phase – long-haul trucking – is still a few years away from being realized, as on-route high-power charging infrastructure is not readily available enough to effectively hand routes of that length to eTrucks.

Meanwhile, light- and medium-duty fleets with daily routes are already well on their way to being electrified across Europe and North America. Thanks to improvements in EV charging technology and battery storage, last mile delivery, refuse, service vehicles, and regional transportation fleets are already seeing their electric vehicles thrive under routine conditions.

Major companies such as Amazon, Tesco, Albert Heijn, and many others are already electrifying their fleets. Not only does this move help them realize earlier the benefits of e-transportation, but the more infrastructure installed to aid light- and medium-duty fleets, the more groundwork has been laid for their long-haul and heavy-duty fleets in the future.

The point here is, so long as you understand what the current EV technology and charging ecosystem can support – and where they are headed – you can keep your fleet apace with the e-transition and grow your charging network to support further phases of your fleet electrification.  

Interested in learning more about how fleets across Europe are paving the way for a cleaner, more efficient, electric transport future? Download the full report here.

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