How to choose the right electric truck
For some businesses, electric trucks are already the most practical and economical option. For other companies, the technology isn’t quite there yet.
This guide explains what you need to know if you’re weighing up your options.
How heavy are the loads you carry?
The bigger the payload, the more batteries are needed to cover any given distance. But, the bigger and heavier the truck battery, the less weight you have left available for your payload. This means there’s an equation to balance carefully with larger payloads.
Most manufacturers can make realistic route simulations to find out of their vehicle will manage to do what you need.
If you don’t carry heavy tools or equipment and tend to fill up with volume rather than weight, fully electric trucks are a realistic option. Volvo and Scania are the two most advanced manufacturers already selling in the UK.
If you usually carry the full payload for your truck’s weight category, there’s not yet a fully electric truck to meet your needs. This tends to apply to construction companies and some types of waste management, for example. You may find that Scania’s plug in hybrid works for you instead. It automatically switches between electric and diesel, depending on its level of charge and the demands the driver is making of it.
How far do you need to drive?
Electric trucks can currently travel anything from 45 miles to 185 miles on an overnight charge. This wide range depends on the payload, temperature, speed and how hilly the roads are, plus a few other variables.
If your travel distances are within these limitations, electric trucks are still an option. Fully electric trucks are ideal for transporting goods in and around cities, especially is your trucks stick to regular routes and return to the home depot at the end of the day to recharge. Some distribution contractors, city construction companies and refuse collection agents in cities have already started using electric trucks.
At the moment, fully electric truck technology is not really there yet for long-haul transport, and heavy-duty transport applications in the timber, construction and mining industries. Longer distance jobs need charging scheduled at specific locations along the way, in sync with the driver’s working hours. Plug-in hybrids may be the answer for some businesses whilst others may have to wait for a denser public charging infrastructure to develop.
What are your charging options?
With current charge point technology, fully electric trucks need around 9 hours to recharge.
Electric trucks will work well for you if they can charge at your home base or truck depot overnight and get through a working day without recharging.
If your trucks work round the clock, electric probably isn’t for you just yet. Fast DC chargers which can fully charge a truck in 2 hours are a new technology which will soon be a great solution for trucks that are used on two consecutive shifts.
As electric vehicles become more common, we will also need a national network of public charging stations in fuel stations, loading bays, service workshops, truck stops and other places where trucks are parked.
Can you afford driver training and route planning?
Like the fuel consumption in a diesel truck, the distance you can get out of a single battery charge in an electric truck can vary quite a lot depending on the way it’s driven. To get the best performance, you need to recuperate energy and maximize range.
If you have the budget and company flexibility, you can train your drivers to use electric powertrain technology in the most efficient way and also help them plan the most economical routes.
Where do your trucks operate?
Electric trucks are a godsend in cities and residential areas because they’re almost silent and don’t belch out smelly exhaust fumes. Anyone who has spent a day in London and come home to find black stuff up their nostrils will relate!
For this reason, electric trucks are ideal for waste collection companies, light construction works and for delivery of consumables to shops.
Haulage and motorway transport is less convenient in electric trucks as there isn’t yet enough recharging infrastructure or a choice of models with the distance range that’s needed.
Are there zero emission zones planned in your usual working areas?
Many cities already have zero emission zones, and more are planning ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ) where only electric vehicles are permitted.
Taxes are also being discussed which will penalise fossil fuel users and subsidise the transition to carbon-neutral road transport.
Do you bid for contracts with companies that have a sustainability agenda?
Electric trucks can help you lower your carbon footprint as a company and boost your brand image. A growing number of private companies and government agencies have strong sustainability goals. They are more likely to give contracts to companies that have a lower carbon footprint or can operate with silent vehicles.
If brand image is a priority, or if you often pitch to organisations with defined environmental goals, electric trucks may help boost your top line.
Could you offer night-time urban deliveries?
London and some other cities are shifting to using electric trucks in the night, to make deliveries and even collect waste. The same work can be done in less time when there’s little other traffic about, and the reduction in peak traffic volumes is a goal that many cities have been trying to achieve for decades.
If you can offer this service, you could get a seriously strong competitive edge. The number of new business opportunities in “green partnerships” is set to grow very fast for companies that can transport goods to locations and at times that are no longer feasible with diesel trucks.