However, researchers were not sure if the network could operate many electric trucks that charge at the same time in one place. Unlike electric cars, which have relatively low energy needs and would be distributed through neighborhoods, the rolling stock of electric trucks could tighten electricity distribution systems.
Electricity distribution relies on substations that serve small areas, usually about a few square miles (although this varies greatly depending on population density). If one area suddenly exceeds the capacity of the substation, the operation could be interrupted. Placing multiple electric trucks without running that problem could require major upgrades, which could be expensive and would take months or even years.
Borlaug and his colleagues modeled substation requirements using data from actual diesel delivery fleets. The team took into account how far the trucks drove and how much time they spent at their home base to assess the charging needs of the electric fleet.
“Approximately 80 to 90% of the substations we studied were able to accommodate fleets of up to 100 trucks without the need for significant upgrades,” says Borlaug. And for fleets to manage charging by choosing a slower speed to avoid straining the network, even fewer substations will need an upgrade, he adds.
However, he says the trucking industry is slowly adopting new technology Ben Sharpe, an analyst at the International Clean Transport Council, a nonprofit research group that studies the transportation sector. Some states are considering incentives or even requirements to push fleets for electrification.
California is over rules in June 2020 demanding that most heavy trucks sold by 2035 be zero emissions. The state also has an extensive voucher system to subsidize the cost of buying new electric vehicles. You can’t “overestimate the importance” California Truck Regulations, Says Sharpe. In large part as a result of these programs, about half of all electric trucks currently on the roads in the U.S. and Canada are located in California, he adds.
Other U.S. states follow California’s leading role: in July 2020, 15 states signed new rule this requires that all new medium and heavy-duty vehicles be zero emissions by 2050, and other targets lead to the deadline.
Although short-range electric trucks seem relatively close to commercial reality, some researchers they warned that extending the range of electric trucks may not be technologically or economically feasible in the short term.
“You would certainly make short moves, no doubt about it, because the economy is in your favor, everything is in your favor,” he says. Venkat Viswanathan, a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University. And with batteries getting cheaper and lighter, trucks that can travel between 500 miles between charges look more realistic, Viswanathan says.