Though sustainability is trending across industries, wide-scale adoption of heavy-duty electric trucks starts with large fleets. Once Schneider takes delivery of its 50 eCascadias, it will be "one of the largest battery-electric truck fleets in North America," the company said, with plans to buy more for other routes.
Perhaps the biggest reason large fleets are leading the charge is because of the upfront costs required. Even beyond procuring trucks, standing up charging infrastructure for 150 trucks could cost about $30 million, Thomas Healy, CEO of Hyliion, said during the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo.
Schneider was one subject of a study released in April that estimated the fleet could save $554,813 in annual fuel costs by electrifying its 42-truck fleet based out of Stockton, California. But those savings would not be enough to mitigate the $8.9 million in estimated upfront infrastructure costs required to support the electric fleets, the study found.
These costs make government subsidies and close partnerships with OEMs more critical for trucking firms — even for a company such as Schneider, which reported operating revenues of $1.4 billion in Q2.
The Golden State has been pressuring trucking firms to curb emissions, with mandates for green-truck sales and operations comping down the pike, such as CARB's Clean Truck Act. But it has also made state funding available to aid in that transition.
"Schneider’s sustainability initiatives got a big boost when we were selected to participate in the state of California’s Joint Electric Truck Scaling Initiative," Schneider President and CEO Mark Rourke said in the announcement. "The scaling of zero-emission vehicles is a key component of our goal to reduce carbon emissions by 7.5% per mile by 2025 and by 60% per mile by 2035."
While many fleets are looking to reduce their carbon footprints, some are opting to commit to alternative fuels before going fully electric.
The upfront costs of BEVs aside, another obstacle fleets face is equipment availability. There aren't many BEV or hydrogen Class 8 models for fleets to buy. The eCascadia is Freightliner's first, and even lighter-duty electric trucks have kept the likes of UPS and Amazon in a holding pattern.
That's one of the reasons J.B. Hunt set a longer-term goal of converting at least 25% of its day cab and straight truck fleet to run on alternative fuel. A year ago, the company said it was researching batteries, hydrogen, natural gas and other fuel systems.
Renewable and compressed natural gas are seen as bridge fuels. While they do produce emissions, they produce fewer, and they can help fleets go greener while electric equipment becomes more readily available. The Port of Long Beach this year exempt natural gas trucks from its impending emissions fee.
Date: Sep 7, 2021
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