There were just over 2,000 electric trucks on U.S. roads at the end of 2019. This stock is expected to grow to over 54,000 by 2025, according to a new analysis from Wood Mackenzie.
Compared to passenger electric vehicle (EV) and electric bus penetration levels, the electric truck market is still in its infancy. But the need to electrify the sector is clear: Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MDV/HDV) are the second-largest contributor to U.S. transportation emissions.
To get a glimpse of what lies ahead for e-truck commercialization, Wood Mackenzie’s analysis also looked closely at the new Volvo Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions (LIGHTS) project – a three-year demonstration and collaboration between the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Volvo Trucks and 14 other organizations.
The role of public charging in elecric long-haul trucking
The number of MDV/HDV electric charging units in the U.S. is also expected to increase exponentially over WoodMac's forecast period.
There were roughly 2,000 electric truck charging outlets in the U.S. as of 2019. This number will rise to 48,000 by 2025.
The range of most commercially available electric trucks is adequate for regional haul applications (<300 miles). Since over 68 percent of city and regional Class 8 trucks are parked for more than 6 hours each day, many electric trucks may be able to rely on Level 2 chargers. That means that existing and pre-commercial e-truck and charging technology can already support city and regional haul e-trucks.
However, electric trucks with larger batteries or shorter dwell times will likely require DC fast chargers to satisfy their charging needs. And long-haul e-trucks will not be able to exclusively rely on chargers sited at warehouses where they load or unload.
The Volvo LIGHTS project is using a mix of private and public fast chargers to recharge 23 e-trucks.
Using public chargers to supplement warehouse charging can reduce costs depending on the electricity rate structure, demand charges and on-site generation.
Distributed energy resources and on-site generation for electric trucks
Electric fleet energy management strategies should include using distributed generation and software to balance the grid, EV charging and building loads.
Using distributed energy resources like on-site solar and storage to cover extra electricity needs from EV charging is becoming increasingly popular among electric fleet operators of all vehicle types. Electric fleet management software can provide real-time control of EV charging, DER integration, site load management and demand response functionalities.
Fleet operator participants in the Volvo LIGHTS project will be making use of solar only and solar-plus-storage combination approaches to bring down their operating costs. Adding storage to a site with solar generation can increase the flexibility of EV load and reduce costs by capturing excess generation when chargers are not in use and price arbitraging.
If enrolled in a time-of-use (TOU) rate, during low-peak periods the storage asset can recharge using cheap grid power while during peak periods it can discharge to the EV chargers.
Making e-truck economics pencil out
Much of the discussion around heavy-duty fleet electrification today focuses on the higher upfront cost of the vehicles as well as their expected range.
However, the electric truck’s total lifetime costs could be as low as only 2 percent more than a diesel truck (unloaded).
Over an expected 12-year lifetime (without a battery replacement) the e-truck’s fuel costs are estimated to be 37 percent lower and maintenance costs 46 percent lower than a diesel truck driving the same distance. What brings the total lifetime cost of the e-truck higher than the diesel truck is the vehicle and charging infrastructure costs.
In California, where the Volvo LIGHTS case study takes place, there are several unique short and long-term financial incentives that can significantly reduce an e-truck’s total lifetime cost.
First are utility EV charger incentive programs. These programs typically consist of a make-ready incentive in which the utility will perform all the site inspection, design, construction and installation of all utility- and customer-side EV infrastructure components up to the charger.
Make-ready programs can be incredibly lucrative for fleet operators, as the utility bears all the installation and electrical upgrade costs.
Offering incentive programs in exchange for data collection can give utilities a chance to study in detail the exact impacts of heavy-duty electrification on the local distribution grid.
Second are innovative rate schemes. Many utilities have begun to offer time-of-use (TOU) rates specifically for EV charging that are designed to shift charging to times of low demand.
These rates can be most effective for vehicles with shorter or flexible schedules. Southern California Edison, the demonstration’s utility partner in the Volvo LIGHTS project, enacted a demand charge holiday until 2024, reducing the financial burden e-truck charging can have on a fleet’s operating expenses.
A third approach that is currently unique to California is the ability to earn and monetize Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits.
In California’s LCFS, each fuel is given a carbon intensity score, which is then compared to a declining benchmark. Fuels below this benchmark generate LCFS credits, which equal one metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions.
Credit prices are determined by market demand and have ranged from as low as $20 in 2013 to its current peak of around $200. One analysis found that an electric Class 8 tractor driving 60,000 miles per year could generate credits worth $33,900 per year.
Fleet operators can increase their credit generation potential by using renewable energy to power their fleet. By pursuing this path SRECTrade, a credit transaction and management firm, estimates that Volvo LIGHTS fleet partner Dependable Supply Chain Services can add an additional $0.25/kWh of quarterly revenue through this approach.
Kelly McCoy is a grid edge analyst at Wood Mackenzie and author of Electric Heavy-Duty Trucks and Charging Infrastructure: A Grid Edge Case Study.