A blog by Klaus Burkart, Chief Shared Service Centre Officer at Eurowag looks at transport companies future in the era of electric trucks and explores 6 ways you need to think about It.
By Klaus Burkart, Chief Shared Service Centre Officer at Eurowag
There is little doubt that our industry is entering a period of a rapid change. Start-up vehicle manufacturers like Tesla as well as established players such as Volkswagen or Volvo are forging a path into fully-electric future and driving a zero carbon world depicted in the historical Paris Agreementon climate change. International society has recognized that climate change poses a global threat, calling for a carbon-zero transition of all industries included our logistics and transportation industry. According to an intergovernmental body, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the transport sector was responsible forapproximately 23% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2010
Therefore the efforts by this industry is the key to protect our planet. The past year 2017 has witnessed more and more electric trucks come to the market (recently the Fuso eCanter of Daimler), and with ambition of countries like France and the UK to become diesel free by 2040, which means political will and technology readiness are out there for a mass transformation in our industry in the coming years. We want to share a few thoughts with you on how having electric trucks in your fleet will affect your business and how you can be equipped for this change.
1. Think how you pay and recharge your trucks.
Current payment models for charging electric passenger vehicles are more or less based on the combination of time that a vehicle occupying a charger and the price of electricity. However, we are far from one solution for all types of electric vehicles.
It’s not yet known how this could be done for electric trucks for instance. One of the biggest challenges is that some of those trucks are not returning regularly to the home base. So we need think a solution that we could help truck drivers to fast recharge their vehicles during safety breaks or in the process of loading and unloading. This calls for a big amount of investment in new infrastructure, which should be in line with the further upcoming regulations.
2. Operational leasing for an E-truck? It is not ready yet.
Another thing to keep in mind is how you pay for the vehicles themselves. About 75% of vehicles used for commercial road transport is currently operational leasing, rental or other forms of financing. This is the model that works perfectly for vehicles with combustion engines, in which a truck has a well-defined residual value.
However, banks and leasing companies will have to take more risks of dealing with this megatrend, as no robust data is available on second-hand value and expected life-span of electric vehicles, especially in terms of the battery.
3. Drivers will need to change the mindset.
With lack of infrastructure for recharging, the capacity of batteries determine the radius of actions, truck drivers will definitely have to think at all times where they can stop for recharging their vehicle. Possibly, your driver will need to book a parking lot with battery charger in advance and plan it alongside with driver working hour regulations.
Capabilities to recharge the vehicle at any potential opportunity, for instance when unloading or loading the cargo, would require warehouses and logistics centres to buy-in and support these capabilities with heavy investment on hardly validated business cases.
Of course, the progress in battery technologies is being made rapidly. With some countries piloting inductive charging, this problem could potentially go away in the nearest future. However, inductive charging as we know it today still has some flaws: is proven to be much less effective and more time consuming than plug-in charging.
4. Is it freezing or hot outside? Prepare for troubles.
Another factor drivers and dispatchers will need to take into account are outside temperatures, as this will affect capacity and the long-life of the batteries as well as the power required for either heating the vehicle cabin or temperature controlled transport of goods.
5. Fewer parts that could break: lower maintenance costs.
An electric motor is using far fewer components than a combustion engine.
The construction of the electric truck means also no changing of motor oil in the engine as well as lower maintenance costs in general. However, it will require specialized mechanics and repair shops, which to start with are likely to charge a premium.
6. Transporting dangerous goods? – Probably not.
Electric vehicles are unfortunately not suitable for all intents and purposes. If you transport hazardous goods, you will be limited to use e-trucks for some kind of freight due to load combination restrictions.
Lithium-ion batteries themselves could impose a risk of explosion. Although they are popular, but have been implicated in fires on board planes, therefore their transport is restricted. However, battery life and the safety characteristics change as the materials change.
In addition to the electric vehicle, other issues are also arising with the emergence of driverless vehicles, which will be under the spotlight in our next articles.
 IPCC. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg3/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter8.pdf