Commercial freight carriers want to electrify, but wait for technology

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Commercial freight carriers say they want to buy medium to heavy-duty electric trucks, but they’re waiting for technology and production to catch up with demand.

US Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) highlighted how important the decision to electrify medium to heavy trucks is to the future of the transportation industry.

“This is the biggest transformation in the transportation industry since the combustion engine,” Beyer said on June 15 at a Bipartisan Policy Center event on commercial freight transportation. “If we don’t, we are in great danger from a fossil fuel industry that is inherently uncertain… and would limit our ability to compete globally. “

Beyer said the European Union was moving forward with the commitment to phase out fossil fuels in commercial transport. “It’s going to happen with or without us,” he said.

During a virtual panel discussion, representatives from the commercial freight transportation industry said they are investing in alternative fuel methods for their fleets, but suppliers cannot yet meet their needs.

Tiffany Nida, Middle Mile fleet manager for Amazon, said her company’s climate goals include an electrified fleet.

“Amazon has two sustainability goals,” she said. “The first is Shipment Zero, where 50% of all shipments will be net zero carbon by 2030. The second is our climate commitment, where we want to be net zero carbon by 2040.”

In this context, the company is exploring all avenues, including compressed natural gas, hydrogen and electrification as alternative fuel services for its fleet of delivery vehicles. Already, she said, the company has ordered 100,000 EVs for its last-mile fleet and plans to have 10,000 on the road by the end of 2020.

For Thomas Jensen, senior vice president of transportation policy at UPS, his company studies different fuel sources with the aim of testing the efficiency, range and durability of each alternative.

“Efficiency is the key,” he said. “UPS is more committed than ever to doing our work in a safe and sustainable manner. “

But each company said it was struggling to switch to electrification. For UPS, the challenge is to wait for the market to catch up with its needs. Although the company has pre-ordered more than 10,000 vehicles, order fulfillment has been pushed back to 2022. Additionally, UPS has the largest pre-order of Tesla fully electric semi-trucks, but is once again awaiting delivery. due to a delay. production.

In addition to getting the vehicles, businesses have difficulty accessing electric vehicle charging stations.

“It’s not just that availability is still limited,” Nida said. “The charging infrastructure is also a challenge.

Ryan Laskey, senior vice president of Dana’s Commercial Vehicle Drive and Motion Systems division, said another challenge was training the workforce to support and repair the vehicles.

“Everyone wants to get out electric vehicles, everyone has pre-orders out there,” he said. “But we have to make sure we have after-sales service and after-sales service… that’s one thing if you have to fix a diesel truck. There are a number of stores where you can take it to work. We need to have this service (for electric vehicles) in remote areas. “

Laskey said it’s commercial vehicles that will lead to electrification.

“As you start to look at the transportation industry, companies that move from point A to point B… are looking to do it in the most efficient way possible to save money,” he said. Laskey said. “They are the ones who will drive the change. “

Ben Prochazka, executive director of the Electrification Coalition, said the question of whether commercial vehicles would go electric was no longer a question of “if” but “when”.

“The race for electrification is a global race happening right now,” he said. “And it is essential that the United States maintain its leadership in the commercial transportation sector. “

And it is important to move forward in the electrification of medium and heavy trucks in order to have an impact on the environment, he said.

“Trade rights and the freight sector have a disproportionate impact on our emissions and on public health,” he said. “Freight vehicles can travel 40,000, 50,000, 60,000 miles a year. Thus, even if they represent less than 5% of the total number of vehicles in circulation, they have a huge impact on pollution.

Getting there, Prochazka said, would require changes in federal policy, however. The coalition suggests that federal policies on the electrification of commercial transportation include three elements: adjusting manufacturers’ credits for building vehicles over 14,000 pounds gross; extend the tax credit for recharging electric vehicles to eliminate the cap per site in order to encourage the construction of the recharging infrastructure; and the financing of charging stations for heavy and medium electric vehicles.

The panelists agreed that federal policy changes were needed to help not only large companies, but also smaller ones.

“Federal support is essential,” Jensen said. “People look at UPS and other big companies and wonder why they need help. But we do a lot of business with medium and small businesses, and those medium and small businesses need that help.


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