From Diesel to Electric Trucks: Making the Switch Part 2

31.05.2018

In our previous article, we discussed the Tesla Semi, Elon Musk’s soon-to-be-available electric truck, and its relationship with costs within the trucking industry. Yet the technology’s ability to travel 500 miles with a full load, while convincing big names to put in preorders of at least 500 trucks, ultimately impacts more than just the bottom line.

In fact, with 75% of EU freight and 70% of US freight transported by road, this article explores the ways in which legal requirements and infrastructural feasibility will ultimately influence the speed at which the transportation industry will switch from fuel to electric automotives.

Part 2: Regulations & Infrastructure Affecting eTrucks

Reducing Emissions: Death to Diesel

While cost is certainly a deciding factor in company investments, legal regulations is one of equal consideration. In recent years, several countries have taken part in a global pact, known as the Paris Agreement, to reduce CO2 and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. In response, some major cities such as Madrid, Paris, and Mexico city have thus even announced upcoming diesel bans, while, country-wise, France and the UK have announced sales bans on fossil-fuel vehicles from 2040 onwards.

Considering transport constitutes 2/3 of EU oil demand, and trucks alone make up 9% of global oil demand, targeting fuel-guzzling vehicles seems to be an understandable way of mitigating emissions and reaching internationally set targets. The result is, of course, a stronger regulatory push inadvertently towards electric trucks.

Nonetheless, similar to fuel costs, the US lags in concrete environmental regulations, thus speaking to the US’s slower uptake of eTruck technology. And as heavy duty trucks, which make up a large majority of transportation vehicles and consume 2-3x more fuel than light duty trucks, are expected to be the last vehicles to make the electric transition, regulations will have to extend further in order to foster a global push away from diesel.

Yet considering that the continued uptake of eTrucks could displace up to 3.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2050, which is equivalent to 40% of today’s diesel demand for trucks, stronger and wider regulation may be a welcomed push towards eTrucks.

Infrastructural Feasibility: Charging the eTruck

Integrating electric tucks into your fleet in order to reduce costs, meet legal requirements, and reduce pollution is all very well – until you’re stranded 50 miles from the nearest charging station. In fact, perhaps the biggest inhibiting factor in switching from diesel to electric trucks is the lack of supporting infrastructure along the world’s highways.

Yet good news remains for those of you who’ve been growing increasingly excited with each hint at an electric future: Infrastructural solutions are in the works. While the lack of charging stations requires stronger batteries and thus higher expenses, Tesla is reportedly already in talks with its eTruck clients to install “Megacharger” stations at relevant locations. This is likely to propel cyclical development in favor of the eTruck: the more electric trucks Tesla sells and accommodates, the more external charging stations will pop up along highways, within warehouses, and outside distribution centers. Furthermore, the possible introduction of intra-day charging would allow for smaller battery sizes and more reliable charging processes, eliminating the hesitation to invest in electric fleets.

Electric Trucks: Ready or Not, Here They Come

It’s not a question of if, but when. Electric trucks represent severe potential for the reduction of costs and pollution, and at prices that are comparable to those of diesel trucks, their uptake is inevitable. The speed of this uptake, however, is less concrete, and while Tesla’s product will take to the streets in 2019, we’ll have to wait an additional 4 years to see if his 2023 prediction of manufacturing and selling 100,000 eTrucks per year will roll out as expected.