Box trucks can go fully electric: report

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by Emily Atkins

The full complement of medium-duty box trucks in North America should be able to electrify with relative ease.

This is the key finding in a newly released market segment report by The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). Electric Trucks Have Arrived: The Use Case For Medium-Duty Box Trucks is based on findings from last year’s Run on Less – Electric (RoL-E) freight efficiency demonstration.

The top level finding from the report is that 100 percent of that market segment will embrace electrification although some applications within the duty cycle will be easier to electrify than others that have more complex operations. When the simpler box truck portion of this market segment, about 380,000 trucks in the U.S. and Canada, electrifies, it will result in the avoidance of 7,681,707 metric tonnes (MT) of CO2e annually.

Fast electrification

“Electrification should happen fast for the simple trucks, and the industry should prioritize the other applications with regard to benefits and difficulty to bring to production given the smaller unit volumes,” said Mike Roeth, NACFE’s executive director.

Three fleet-OEM pairs in the RoL-E study operated medium-duty box trucks: Day & Ross with a Class 6 Lion6, Frito-Lay with a Class 6 Peterbilt-Cummins 220EV, and Roush Fenway Racing with a Class 6 ROUSH CleanTech Ford F-650.

The report found that medium-duty box trucks are a great application for electric trucks given their short distances and return-to-base operations. The vast majority of medium-duty box trucks are not driven long distances and are home every night. They are an ideal portion of the overall medium-duty truck market for electrification.

However, more complex Class 6 and 7 trucks such as snowplows, refuse trucks, and fire trucks will require significant efforts which will delay the timing of electrification.

Launching point

The report says that tackling relatively simple and straightforward applications such as box trucks provides the trucking industry with a launching point to design, build, validate and refine battery electric trucks.

Developing these vehicles will provide valuable information about how much power is used by air conditioning and heating, as well as peripheral devices such as liftgates. “This knowledge can be carried over to more difficult applications, providing a “known step” as the industry works through the issues in other more complex applications,” the report notes.

The report also includes basic information about medium-duty box trucks and the size and scope of the market. It looks at duty cycle and charging considerations and presents the benefits and challenges of battery electric vehicles. It includes information on the manufacturers and fleets that had medium-duty box trucks in the Run and provides details on what metrics were measured. There also is a discussion of total cost of operation.

“As we wrap up our report series from Run on Less – Electric, our detailed analysis of all four market segments are very much in line with our earlier thinking before and just after the Run,” Roeth said.

“The marketplace in these shorter haul, return-to-base operations are ready today to electrify and the industry should work together as one to amplify and realize the benefits while mitigating challenges and risks urgently.”