Electric Truck Sales To Surge In Next Decade Says Navigant Research

A report from Navigant Research claims that electric truck sales will grow from roughly 31,000 worldwide in 2016 to more than 332,000 by 2026. The research firm believes the growth will be driven by economics — trucks with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric powertrains will simply cost less to purchase and operate over their useful lifetime than diesel powered trucks. The calculus in favor such vehicles will only improve over time as battery prices fall and charging infrastructure increases.

electric truck

Diesel trucks today are becoming more expensive as manufacturers add costly pollution control systems such as exhaust after treatment and advanced fuel injection systems to satisfy stricter emissions regulations. The higher the price of new diesel trucks, the more competitive alternatives like hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric trucks become. In addition, am electric truck typically has significantly lower fuel and maintenance costs. A professional fleet manager has to look at total cost when choosing which truck to buy. Return on investment is one key metric that can skew the decision in favor of a vehicle with alternative power.

In an odd twist of fate, the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal has had a knock on effect on how the public looks at all diesel vehicles. The illusion of  “clean diesel technology” has now been shattered, thanks to VW. Four of the world’s largest cities have pledged to ban diesel powered vehicles from their streets completely by 2025. It is unlikely they would have taken such agressive action had the VW scandal not raised public awareness of the environmental hazards of diesel engines.

Also, general awareness of global climate change is higher now than ever before, thanks to the Paris climate accords agreed to by all the world’s nations last December. More and more corporations are adopting stricter environmental guidelines for their businesses both out of a desire to increase their “green” credentials with customers and a because of a recognition that climate change is not a hoax created by the Chinese and must be dealt with seriously.

An electric truck may be a hybrid — a vehicle that utilizes an onboard fossil fuel engine to recharge their batteries. The engine can vary from the tiny 648 cc two cylinder engine used by Workhorse to the natural gas powered turbine developed by Wrightspeed that burns so cleanly it meets California’s strict emissions standards without a catalytic converter. It can also include a conventional gasoline or diesel engine that keeps batteries charged during the work day. Plug-in hybrids simply allow the trucks to be recharged when not in use, which means the onboard range extender engine needs to run less frequently.

Pure battery electric vehicles face obstacles such as high initial costs and relatively short range. But they may prove ideal for the “last mile” scenario that gets consumer goods from suburban warehouses to stores and customers in cities. Deutsche Post has begun manufacturing just such a vehicle which it designed in house. It will be perfect for moving consumer goods into the four cities that plan to ban diesel vehicles completely.

The hardest challenge for an electric truck is moving freight long distances. Diesel engines still excel compared to other power sources in the world’s fleet of tractor trailers. But changes are happening there, too. Nikola Motors has unveiled a prototype tractor with battery power and a hydrogen fuel cell range extender. Tesla Motors has hinted it may be working on an electric truck of its own, although no details have been released.

One thing seems certain. The days when the diesel engine was king of the freight hauling world appear to be numbered. That’s good news for the environment.

Source: Hybrid Cars


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.