EDF-commissioned GNA study finds current and emerging electric heavy-duty trucks and charging systems capable of meeting most fleet needs
A study commissioned by EDF and conducted by Gladstein, Neandross and Associates (GNA) has evaluated a year’s worth of heavy-duty truck trips conducted by two national trucking companies: NFI and Schneider. Both companies have made significant efforts to start their transition to electric trucks. GNA modeled the impact of electrification on those fleets under a series of scenarios including managed charging and deployment of on-site solar and storage.
The study found that not only are current and emerging electric truck models and charging systems capable of meeting most of the technical needs of the fleets examined—although operational challenges remain—they also offer operational and fuel savings over diesel alternatives.
However, despite those long-term savings, charging infrastructure investments required for Class 8 fleets are significant and can vary dramatically. The infrastructure costs required to transition to electric trucks is significant. The use of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar and energy storage, managed charging and incentives to bring down the upfront cost of charging systems will be critical to this transition, the authors said.
The study examined four issue areas:
Fleet needs: How effective will electrification be at meeting fleet operational needs without modification of routes and timetables?
Electric load: What is the aggregate and peak facility electrical load for a combination of charging strategies, charger sizes, and traction battery capacities needed to accommodate a 40-50 heavy-duty battery electric truck deployment project?
Charging rates and scenarios: Under what charging scenarios can a target facility maximize the fraction of trips successfully charged while minimizing power demands and expected infrastructure costs? Also, how are the costs of charging and peak load impacted by managed charging under different electric rate variants?
Distributed energy resources: What role do distributed energy resources (DERs) have, including on-site solar photovoltaic (PV) generation and battery energy storage systems (BESS), on the charging infrastructure costs and emissions reductions profiles of each deployment? Also, how do DER scenarios affect the aggregate facility load profile under various utility rates?
The GNA team used a series of sixteen separate theoretical combinations of charging power and traction battery capacity to determine how many trips would have been able to be successfully completed using current or advanced (announced) electric truck technology.
The sixteen scenarios varied traction battery capacities between 300 and 1000 kWh and charging station power from 50 to 800 kW. Combinations of these technologies indicated that 88% of the trips performed by Schneider’s trucks and 93% of trips done by NFI’s trucks over the period analyzed could theoretically have been completed using electric trucks without modifying fleet operations.
While both scenarios rely on a not-yet-commercially-available “advanced” battery pack capacity of 1000 kWh, it is also possible to accomplish 71% of the analyzed NFI trips using current technology on the market today, GNA found.
The study also found that a higher charging rate or longer charging window would significantly increase the success rate of electrified fleet trips. On-route charging (for example at common truck destinations such as the Ports of LA and Long Beach) could be another way to improve successful trip coverage without the need of higher battery pack size and charging rates.
Following GNA’s analysis, EDF developed four key policy recommendations which look beyond the cost of replacing vehicles and toward the up-front infrastructure costs and other considerations of electrifying heavy-duty truck fleets.
States and utilities seeking to accelerate the adoption of electric trucks should pursue policies and programs that encourage and reward the use of managed charging. Managed charging can make or break the affordability of charging for fleets and reduce grid needs. Managed charging allows fleets to use real-time utility data like grid load or electricity cost to optimize charging schedules, lower the cost of charging, reduce stress on the grid and reduce emissions. In some of the cases GNA evaluated, managed charging resulted in annual savings of upwards of $130,000.
States and utilities seeking to accelerate the adoption of electric trucks should pursue programs that encourage and reward the deployment of clean, on-site distributed energy resources. Distributed energy resources (DERs) are a perfect solution to reducing charging costs for heavy-duty fleets, which are often burdened with short but high energy demand events that significantly increase their impact on the grid and energy bills.
GNA examined two types of clean DERs: on-site solar panels and on-site energy storage, or batteries. When added to GNA’s managed charging scenarios, DERs produced additional annual electric savings of $625,000 (Schneider) and $835,000 (NFI). Moreover, managed charging and DERs reduced annual on-peak load by 611 kW for the Schneider fleet and 4 MW for the NFI fleet. This would not only reduce costs for the truck companies, but the utility, as well. If scaled to all trucks in a utility’s territory, these load reductions could drastically decrease the amount of grid upgrades needed to accommodate electric fleets. Further if leveraged for resiliency, DERs also offer the possibility for fleets to have power security in moments when the grid power is down.
State and federal agencies should explore policies, programs or market-based tools that reduce the up-front infrastructure costs of electrifying heavy-duty truck fleets. Though lower operational and fuel costs, managed charging and on-site DERs can significantly reduce the long-term cost of electrifying truck fleets, these savings alone are currently insufficient to fully mitigate the up-front costs fleet owners would have to absorb to electrify at current vehicle prices. The California fleets examined, for example, would be unable to transition cost-effectively without revenue generated by the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
State and federal agencies should accelerate R&D to improve battery performance and optimize en route charging infrastructure design. Despite significant recent advancements in battery technology, better batteries would significantly improve electric truck performance and capabilities. For example, improving battery density (the amount of energy a battery can hold per pound of battery weight), would increase a fleet’s range. Improving the speed at which batteries can accept a charge would reduce charging time and make en route charging more feasible. Just as expanding public charging availability and capability will spur the electrification of passenger vehicles, it will also further the electrification of truck fleets.