Technology doesn’t take a break so get ready for the Class 8 electric truck.
Disruption is everywhere, in every industry, and trucking is no exception. First, we saw the advent of the natural gas-powered Class 8 truck. Once considered to be primarily used by cities for busses, garbage trucks, and other municipal vehicles, we now see a number of OEMs manufacturing LNG and CNG class 8 trucks for commercial use. At the recent ACT Expo 2018 in Long Beach, CA, a number of these vehicles were on the floor of the exhibition hall. The volatility of diesel prices has made these trucks more viable.
Once natural gas Class 8 trucks become more commonplace, can electric trucks be far behind? To be fair, the only battery-electric Class 8 truck at the ACT Expo was the Thor Trucks ET-One semi. But to assume that this is an indication that the viability of battery-powered electric trucks for commercial use is far off in the future would be short-sighted.
In a recent article in trucks.com, the author noted that, according to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), “Electric vehicle technology is advancing rapidly and will make electric trucks a viable freight and logistics tool in the near future.” If you find that difficult to believe, considering the limitations on range and infrastructure for electric vehicles, consider this…although Thor Trucks may have had the only Class 8 electric truck at the ACT Expo, in the last couple of months, Freightliner unveiled two battery-powered models specifically for the U.S. market. And Volvo and Volkswagen won’t be far behind.
Certainly, at this point and as I indicated above, there are issues that make these vehicles limited for over-the-road commercial use when it comes to distance and infrastructure. Most can only go 200 to 300 miles before needing a charge (although Tesla is claiming that, by 2020, it will produce a semi that can go 500 miles) and there is currently no infrastructure enabling these vehicles to “power up” on the go. However, I personally remember when Teslas and other electric cars first came out. You couldn’t find a charging station anywhere. Now I find them in a variety of places from rest areas on the interstate highways to certain parking lots in, admittedly, more affluent locales. That infrastructure is growing…slowly to be sure, but growing nonetheless.
Here at NationaLease, we try to always stay abreast of what is happening in the industry. That’s why we’re very excited that Giordano Sordoni, one of the co-founders of Thor Trucks will be speaking at the 2018 NationaLease Annual Meeting in Miami, FL this coming September. At our meeting, he will share his thoughts on the current and future state of electric trucks for commercial use. He will also inform us how he and the Thor team are leading the charge to show how this new technology can result in cost savings, reduced environmental impact, and reliable performance.
This unique start-up is not planning to go it alone. They will partner with existing auto-manufacturers to build their trucks. Other than its proprietary battery technology Thor vehicles will use off-the-shelf components and have features that are familiar to both drivers and fleet managers. Their prototype, the ET-One is a heavy-duty semi with the capability to haul 80,000 pounds of cargo and travel up to 300 miles on a single charge.
Technology is not going to stop or go backwards and our industry has to be ready to embrace new technology as it becomes more available and financially feasible. Who knows what may be just around the corner?