Is Electric the Future for Vocational Trucks?
Industries that are highly important for moving goods and services across the country to consumers must be both efficient and reliable to ensure products are delivered on time. As technology evolves and people look to create a more-sustainable automobile industry, many are wondering whether electric vehicles are the future for fleet trucking and transport, as well as cargo and work vehicles.
Consumers looking to rent from fleet management companies may find that electric vehicles in the commercial fleet business offer both advantages and disadvantages, especially related to fuel efficiency and emissions. Depending on how this technology continues to advance and what efforts are made to make travel routes compatible for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), many companies may turn to BEVs for a higher return on investment.
How Will Electric Vehicles Impact the Trucking Industry?
The market for personal electric vehicles only continues to grow. Now, there is a push to move electric vehicles into the commercial realm, leading manufacturers of heavy-duty and fleet vehicles to enter the BEV world with plans to produce their own electric models.
Fleet companies that manage rental services for work trucks, box trucks, cargo vans, and even large semi-trucks may very well choose this growing alternative to traditional diesel, especially if diesel performance and costs become more of a detriment.
Advantages of Electric Vehicles in the Trucking Industry
There are many ways that BEVs could change or affect certain protocols or standards in the trucking industry for fleet management companies. Many of these are beneficial, including:
- Emissions: BEV’s are considered a safer alternative for the environment compared to traditional diesel which has been used in the trucking industry for years. Electric fleet vehicles can reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, allowing for a cleaner earth. In fact, according to Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, “In urban delivery routes with lots of stop-and-start driving, electric trucks are roughly 50 percent more efficient to operate than diesel trucks overall. That makes them at least 20 percent less expensive than diesel-fueled trucks, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 50 percent.”
- Efficiency: Electric fleet vehicles in the trucking industry are more energy- and cost-efficient. They do not release harmful pollution into the atmosphere, and people can eliminate their use of traditional fuel and save money coming out of their own pocket.
- Performance: There is a push in the BEV industry for higher performance standards with lower product costs. Battery capacities are expected to increase to accommodate for a higher performance level, while cost, weight, and charging times would ideally decrease.
- Maintenance: Diesel-based engines have friction-sensitive systems including valves, pumps, transmissions, and belts. Depending on the BEV, some may have fewer parts or not contain any of these parts at all, ultimately accruing less damage over time. This would reduce any cost or time associated with maintenance and service visits, keeping these vehicles available for use instead of in a repair shop.
- Noise Disturbance: Typically, BEVs are much quieter than a standard diesel engine. Work trucks or other fleet and cargo vehicles can operate 24/7 without the noise becoming a disturbance to residential or natural outdoor areas.
Disadvantages of Electric Vehicles in the Trucking Industry
Unfortunately, many BEVs in the trucking and cargo industries aren’t advanced enough to compete with traditional diesel engines. BEVs at this point are only able to operate for short-haul transport routes, like urban-based delivery and services. As electric batteries improve, ideally these BEVs will be able to operate for longer distances, such as regional or nationwide routes.
There are other disadvantages to having electric vehicles in the commercial fleet business, but these drawbacks are typically due to a lack of capable technology for industry needs. Currently, BEVs are more expensive than traditional combustion engines, but there’s an overall operational cost reduction associated with fuel and maintenance. However, companies may still opt for cheaper diesel engines rather than ones that are battery powered because of their ability to travel longer distances.
Additionally, one of the biggest drawbacks of electric vehicles in the trucking industry is electric grid issues and the lack of charging stations nationwide. With fuel-powered vehicles still making up the majority of the trucking and fleet industries, the need for charging stations across travel routes is relatively low. Fortunately, as the use of BEVs expands over time, so should the ability to recharge vehicles wherever and whenever.
Finally, fleet management companies must consider all safety standards and regulations before fully implementing BEVs into their everyday operations. Certain trucking specs, like Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), must be up to par to ensure that BEVs are compatible with the weight of fleet loads and can safely haul products over long distances.
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