Clean and green: A spark of hope for electric semis
It'll be tough to convert the trucking industry to EVs, but action is beginning.
You’ve seen them — those double pipes belching exhaust from the tops of semi-trucks.
It’s a lot of pollution. According to Statista, medium- and heavy-duty trucks in the U.S. pumped out 422.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, an increase of more than 80% since 1990. This figure makes up 25% of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, only topped by passenger cars (of which there are millions more).
An obvious sector for electrification? Yes. Except there’s a major problem: it’s not called the long-haul industry for nothing. In other words, a full battery charge is not going to cover the typical 500 miles a day driven by truckers.
But baby steps are being made. Out west, for instance, giant distribution company NFI Industries just announced that it has ordered 60 Volvo (VLVLY) VNR Electric trucks for its hub in Ontario, Calif., a commitment that adds to 20 VNRs and 80 Freightliner eCascadias already in place.
We “started our electrification transition,” Bill Bliem, senior vice president of fleet services, told NGT News, “because we are committed to sustainability initiatives across our operations, and we are continuing to invest in Volvo trucks because of the proven viability and success we have had operating the Volvo VNR Electrics in our real-world routes.”
At present, it is the routes that are key. With Southern California being a very self-contained market, NFI is using the vehicles on daily supply journeys from its distribution centers in La Puente and Fontana, both west of Los Angeles toward San Bernardino. Also important are dedicated charging stations, which are being installed at sites all over the region.
Another factor: grants and incentives from California state programs, as well as from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which oversees emissions controls across much of the greater Los Angeles region. “Without some of the grant opportunities, this would be very challenging,” Shane Blanchette, senior director of operations for another logistics operator, Quality Custom Distribution, told Canary Media. The subsidies are particularly important, he said, given that electric trucks still cost about three times as much as their diesel-fueled counterparts.
10-four, good buddy.
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)