The electric truck stop of the future – can you picture it? Megawatt chargers powered by clean energy generated onsite. Wide pull-through stalls. Simple reservation systems for no wait time. Conveniently grabbing a meal while you charge in just 30 minutes. This is a vision that is quickly becoming a reality. Now more than ever, fleet owners and operators are advancing electrification beyond pilots and demonstrations and are exploring charging options to put their plans into practice.
Expanding fleet electrification beyond local routes is essential to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Medium- and heavy-duty trucks may make up less than 5 percent of vehicles on the road, but they account for about 29 percent of the sector’s total GHG emissions – that’s about 7 percent of the U.S.’s total emissions. To achieve the full electrification of road transport and meet the Biden administration’s aggressive decarbonization goals, America must support electric long-haul trucking with a network of charging hubs along key highway corridors.
The economics of electrification are taking shape
It’s not just societal pressures to decarbonize and federal policies and incentives that are driving the shift. Organizations are swayed by the economics of going electric, which are becoming more impressive by the day. Electric-powered trucks will be cheaper to buy, own, and operate than gasoline and diesel incumbents for nearly half of all trucks on the road by 2030, and nearly all truck types by 2035, according to a DOE study from early this year. Even more recently, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, the Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that electric long-haul trucks could achieve cost parity with diesel as soon as 2027.
Today, over 100 models of medium- and heavy-duty trucks, vans, and buses are commercially available in the U.S. This number is set to grow as truck manufacturers take advantage of federal funding and programs such as the DOE’s SuperTruck 3 program, which awards $127 million to companies pioneering electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and the 21st Century Truck Partnership, a R&D program in collaboration with major truck makers including Daimler, Ford, Navistar and Volvo, among others.
While many organizations have already adopted light- and medium-duty electric fleets for services such as last-mile delivery and municipal public transit, long-haul trucking fleets come with a bigger set of challenges. True, it will take longer for these vehicles to reach cost parity with their diesel counterparts – but they are being developed, costs will fall, and they will be adopted sooner than we think.
Overcoming the barriers of charging long-haul electric trucks
Charging infrastructure remains the biggest challenge, however, and it’s one that fleets must prioritize now. To date, EV infrastructure funding has focused on building enough public charging to ease the “range anxiety” of consumers. But for organizations with long haul trucking operations, it’s not simply range anxiety that is holding them back – their business depends on being able to get from point A to point B (and to point C and D and so on). These vehicles are predominantly traveling along highways for hundreds of miles to complete the job, so having reliable, fast, and cost-effective charging in convenient locations is essential.
Of course, onsite or “behind the fence” charging will be a natural first step. Many organizations have put effort towards developing their own onsite charging infrastructure and have found the cost, space, or power barriers to be too high to electrify more than a handful of trucks. Building this infrastructure at scale requires massive capital plus energy and charging expertise. Quite simply put, it’s a risk that can prevent fleets from electrifying at the required pace to meet mandates and make an impact on emissions in the necessary time frame. The answer is a combination of onsite and offsite charging that maximizes the value of electric vehicle assets by extending range far beyond local routes.
The time to plan your long-haul charging strategy is now
The process of planning and building a network of offsite charging can take years to complete and getting ahead of long lead times will be critical. Charging infrastructure capacity needs are complex and upgrades to grids’ distribution networks are expensive. Ultimately this is not a quick nor simple fix, despite growing utility and government investment. Planning your fleet’s electrification now to include long-haul routes and offsite charging will put you at an advantage as you navigate this complexity.
At my company, TeraWatt, we understand these challenges and have the know-how, resources, and capital to address them. That’s why we’re building a network of TeraWatt Charging Centers along the Interstate 10 (I-10) highway stretching from Los Angeles, CA to El Paso, Texas.
With access to shared Charging Centers along key highways, companies can dip their toe into electrification without any interruptions to their business operations. We invest the upfront capital, bring the required power density to the site, purchase and install the equipment, optimize and maintain sites, and upgrade sites with new technology as it becomes available. All sites will feature pull-through charging stalls featuring dozens of direct current (DC) fast chargers and on-site amenities for drivers. We’ll be offering multiple ways to reserve and pay for access to chargers that accommodate each fleet’s pace of electrification, whether piloting or adopting at full scale or somewhere in between.
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