That’s a 27-fold increase over today’s fleet, and the expansion of charging infrastructure will be nearly as dramatic.
There were just over 2,000 electric trucks on U.S. roads at the end of 2019. This stock is expected to grow to over 54,000 by 2025, according to a new analysis from Wood Mackenzie.
Compared to passenger electric vehicle (EV) and electric bus penetration levels, the electric truck market is still in its infancy. But the need to electrify the sector is clear: Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MDV/HDV) are the second-largest contributor to U.S. transportation emissions.
Thus far, MDV/HDV emissions-reduction efforts have largely centered on new diesel technologies and hybrids rather than pure electrification. But over the next five years, that will begin to change as all-electric trucks become more prevalent.
“Exponential increase” in charging infrastructure
The number of MDV/HDV electric charging units in the U.S. is also expected to increase exponentially over WoodMac’s forecast period.
There were roughly 2,000 electric truck charging outlets in the U.S. as of 2019. This number will rise to 48,000 by 2025.
Electric truck charging can be achieved using the same approaches used for electric buses: plug-in, wireless and overhead chargers. Plug-in charging at freight facilities is the primary charging method in use today, while wireless and overhead charging platforms specifically for electric trucks are still in the testing phase.
Planning for this huge growth in electric truck charging infrastructure needs to take into consideration the size of the electric fleet, hardware and installation costs, charging technologies, and battery size.
Unique requirements for electric truck charging
Electric trucks have a few distinctive considerations when it comes to charging. The range of most commercially available electric trucks is sufficient for their current applications (<300 miles). Since over 68 percent of city and regional Class 8 trucks are parked for more than six hours each day, many electric trucks may be able to rely on Level 2 chargers. Electric trucks with larger batteries or shorter idle times will likely require direct-current (DC) fast chargers to satisfy their charging needs.
Chargers can be installed at truck parking spaces in a manner akin to how public chargers are sited today. However, trucks also spend significant amounts of time at loading docks, and these tight spaces typically do not have room for a charger. Spaces like this will likely have to be redesigned to accommodate chargers.
To minimize costs associated with installation, chargers for the MDV/HDV segment should be sited near the transformer and load panel. Chargers located in parking lots may require extra conduit and trenching expenses.
Volvo Lights project
Although there are barriers to the mass adoption of electric trucks and the necessary charging infrastructure, the industry is working to combat them.
One example of this is Volvo’s Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions (Lights), a three-year demonstration project that aims to design the ideal regional electric truck configuration.
The project’s aim is ambitious: Volvo seeks to commercialize new heavy-duty e-truck technology, develop a suite of electric fleet management solutions, and develop human capital and improve community engagement around trucking electrification.
While the project is just getting started, there have been some early findings that are noteworthy for market participants.
One is that fleet electrification provides operators with many financial and environmental benefits on its own due to lower fuel and maintenance costs and zero tailpipe emissions.
Another is that while support from policymakers and utilities is just getting off the ground, fleet operators willing to test this new technology can take advantage of incentive and pilot programs to advance their electrification goals.
The Lights project specifically focuses on advancing electric truck technology, but EV charger vendors also have an opportunity to develop advanced charger technologies and solutions. Retractable cables or underfloor-mounted chargers are two examples of how trucks parked at a loading dock can be charged, though the installation process and costs need to be studied further.
The Volvo Lights project also underscores that utilities have an opportunity to provide advisory services to fleet operators as they consider electrification — particularly as it relates to installing and operating charging infrastructure within the capacity constraints of the grid. Offering incentive programs in exchange for data collection enables utilities to study in detail the exact impacts of heavy-duty electrification on the local distribution grid.
Kelly McCoy is a grid edge analyst at Wood Mackenzie and author of Electric Heavy-Duty Trucks and Charging Infrastructure: A Grid Edge Case Study.