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Supply Chain News: Report on Plans for a Network of Electric Trucking Charging Stations Shows Challenge of eTruck Adoption


Charging Network is Critical to Support Over the Road Transport

July 6, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff
A group of West Coast utility companies have joined forces to take a look charging station needs to recharge medium and heavy duty electric trucks, under the banner of the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative.

Specifically, a new report from the group assesses the charging infrastructure medium- and heavy duty electric trucks will need as they travel along the approximately 1,300-mile-long Interstate 5 (I-5) corridor and interconnecting highways.

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The report also notes it will take as long as two years to plan and build the medium duty stations, and three to five years for the heavy duty upgraded stations.

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There is clearly strong interest in electric trucks, as evidenced by pre-orders for the electric Tesla Semi.

But to make electric trucks work in practice, sufficient on the road charging infrastructure will need to be built, presenting a chick-and-egg scenario for shippers and carriers.

And charging stations for electric trucks involve a lot more complexities than those for automobiles.

Trucks "require more space for maneuverability, serve a wider variety of vehicle types, and consume more electricity at a higher rate, which means they require more planning and coordination with electric utilities to make sure the electric grid is prepared to support them," the report notes.

But there are big gains to be made in terms of CO2 emissions if electrics reach the market. Although heavy-duty trucks account for only 5% of the vehicles on US roads, they contribute a disproportionately high 23% of all transportation-related emissions.

The report notes there has been growing adoption of medium duty electrics in the past couple of years, with continued rapid growth projected. Significant adoption of heavy duty electric trucks is not expected until 2025, the report says.

The report estimates that by 2030 medium and heavy duty electric trucks will make up over 8% of all trucks on the road in California, Oregon, and Washington.

It adds that "Clean fuel policies in all three West Coast states continue to drive transportation electrification. Continued government support - through policies, regulations, and incentives - will be essential to advance the adoption of electric trucks by fleet operators."

The report also notes most government programs and incentives to date have focused on the trucks themselves and private charging at a single location in a fleet’s home base, and not over the road charging capabilities.

The report also says that there is a need to standardize charging infrastructure, meaning there would be no question as to whether a given charging site can service any truck that comes in.

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In performing its analysis, the report used the following assumptions: medium duty trucks projected to be on the road during the next five years will have an average range of 90 to 120 miles. The heavy duty electric trucks expected to be on the road during the next 10 years would have a much longer range of 230 to 325 miles on average.

With a goal of keeping the electric truck batteries at an optimal charge range of between 25% and 80%, the recommended distance between stops for charging for medium duty electric trucks is 50 miles, and for and electric trucks is approximately 100 miles.

The report is also bullish on improvements in the speed of charging batteries at a station.

In 2019, for example, Tesla said the battery for its Semi electric truck when it is actually launched would charge in just 30 minutes with enough power to last 640 kilometers.

The report bases its analysis on an assumption that it will take about 15 minutes to charge a truck battery to 80% of capacity, about how long it takes to fill up a heavy duty truck with diesel fuel if it has standard twin 125-gallon tanks.

The report in the end recommends a plan to create electric charging stations every 50 miles along Interstate 5 by 2025. First, it would involve building 27 stations for medium duty vehicles. However, by 2030, 14 of these stations would be upgraded to also charge heavy duty vehicles.

Most of the stations will be built in California, but Oregon would have five and Washington six. Other main highways are also part of the plan as well. Each site would be equipped with up to ten 350 kW charging ports. The report recommends looking at utilizing existing truck stop locations as potential sites for the stations.

Projected costs: some $850 million.

However, the report notes that such cost estimates are very difficult given the numerous variables, such as equipment selection, site location, distance from the electric utility interconnection, electric circuit capacity and associated upgrades, permits, and uncertain labor costs.

The report also notes it will take as long as two years to plan and build the medium duty stations, and three to five years for the heavy duty upgraded stations.

The report offers a 10-point action plan to guide industry and government efforts. The report also says collaboration across various stakeholders will be key to success – and as in most areas will take real effort to achieve.

The full report is available here: West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative Study

Any reaction to the report's analysis? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.




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