When it comes to electric trucks, one thing is certain. They may not be today’s common commercial motor vehicle, but many consider them to be the future.

In this two-part series, we look at the infrastructure motor carriers must consider when adding electric vehicles (EVs) – specifically, electric trucks – to their fleet, as well as the infrastructure society and private enterprise must provide to accommodate electric truck operations.

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change, at least 15 states plus the District of Columbia, have joined the Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) initiative. ACT requires manufacturers who sell medium- and heavy-duty- vehicles in an ACT state to meet an increasing percentage of zero-emissions vehicles sales. This mandated transition to EVs includes a zero-emissions memorandum of understanding to achieve 100% electric trucks by 2050, with an interim goal of 30% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030.

A variety of technologies and fuels in addition to batteries make up the group of low- or zero-emission vehicles. Hydrogen-powered trucks may be on the horizon, while some point to the significant emission reductions that diesel trucks have already achieved. Still, states intend to require electric powered vehicles.

And, indeed, electric trucks already operate today. In California, snack manufacturer Frito-Lay employs electric tractor-semis, as does beverage company Pepsi-Cola. For the most part, though, short- to mid-range fleets  make up the largest group of electric trucking operations for two reasons. One, the batteries powering electric trucks have yet to consistently achieve longer distances between charges. Two, long-distance electric truck operations need a network of charging stations. Private fleets, like Frito-Lay and Pepsi, may have delivery routes that return their electric trucks to a home base for charging, but that is not always an option in for-hire trucking.

Who will provide the charging network for tomorrow’s long-distance electric truck operations? Motor carriers with widespread terminals might present an option as the platform for a charging network. But, large scale fueling today, even with diesel, is commonly available only at the carrier’s distribution centers and not at local terminals. And those distribution centers only service that motor carrier’s own trucks. A public charging network, open to all electric trucks, will still be needed.

Two sources for that public charging network exist: private enterprise and the government. On the private enterprise side, startup TeraWatt Infrastructure has reportedly raised $1 billion in funding and secured properties in 18 states to install commercial vehicle charging stations.

While that private enterprise process develops, the federal government has taken a half-step toward an electric vehicle charging station network that may some day work for electric trucks. In a recent Federal Register notice, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a final rule setting minimum standards for projects under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula program. That program, part of the 2021 “infrastructure law” dedicates $5 billion over 5 years, with a goal of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030.

Why a “half-step” toward a nationwide electric vehicle charging network for electric trucks? Because, despite trucking industry input on how an electric charging system must work compatibly with trucking hours of service, delivery schedules, and off-duty cycles, FHWA declined to adopt any trucking-specific parameters for projects to prevent any influence on truck technology evolution.

Meanwhile, motor carriers interested in adopting electric trucks, with or without a national charging network, have their own decisions to make… as we will discuss in Infrastructure and Electric Trucks, Part 2.

The PrePass blog and podcasts are published as a public service of PrePass®, the most reliable and technologically advanced weigh station bypass and integrated electronic trucking toll payment platform in North America. PrePass also includes INFORM™ Safety and INFORM™ Tolling software for improving truck safety scores and lowering toll costs.

Photo: Courtesy of Tesla