5 Emerging Obstacles With Fleet Electrification in 2022
Electric vehicles are reaching new heights, even breaking into supply chain operations. However, while electrifying long-haul truck fleets would bring considerable environmental benefits, it’s proven to be a challenging task. Fleets must find ways past these obstacles to embrace sustainability.
Zero-emissions trucks are still relatively new, so some challenges are only natural. Still, as climate change grows increasingly severe, overcoming these obstacles becomes more important. Here are five of these setbacks and how fleets are addressing them.
1. Limited Ranges
The most prevalent challenge with fleet electrification is these vehicles’ limited ranges. For example, Volvo’s new FH Electric has a maximum range of roughly 300 kilometers carrying a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 44 tons. That’s impressive for an EV, but the diesel FH, with the same GCWR, can go 1,000 kilometers between fueling stops.
EV ranges have vastly improved over the past few years, but they still can’t compete with traditional long-haul trucks. That can be a challenge for fleets, where making fewer stops is crucial to timely deliveries and customer satisfaction.
As a result, fleet electrification today is best suited for last-mile deliveries, not long-haul driving. While any improvement is respectable, fleets must become wholly electric eventually to mitigate climate change.
2. Challenges in Route Optimization
Charging stops pose another obstacle for fleet electrification. Diesel pumps are far more common than electric charging stations, an issue that limited EV ranges compound. Since these vehicles must stop more frequently, but their stopping options are less common, planning efficient routes is challenging.
There are nearly 43,000 public charging stations in the U.S., and their distribution is far from even. California has almost the same number as 39 other states combined. Designing a route where trucks can make their deliveries and stop at one of these stations efficiently requires extensive planning.
Charging stations will increase, but this process will likely be slow. Fast chargers cost as much as $100,000 to install, discouraging many stations from implementing them.
3. Short Supply of Electric Trucks
Not long ago, electric trucks were a rarity, often more of a proof of concept than a reality. While the market for these vehicles has expanded, it’s still difficult for fleets to obtain them. Auto manufacturers don’t produce many electric trucks, and high demand from companies looking to go green exacerbates the issue.
Many logistics businesses have put in large orders for EVs, which is encouraging. However, this has led to a backlog for many electric automakers, making it difficult for these companies to scale up or for others to get these trucks.
Bottlenecks in the EV battery supply chain further complicate the matter. With experts expecting lithium-ion battery demand to increase tenfold by 2030, the raw materials that make these batteries will be in short supply. Many automakers will also prioritize electric cars, delaying EV truck shipments.
4. High Upfront Costs
While some companies have enthusiastically embraced fleet electrification, others are concerned about the costs. Electric trucks carry higher upfront costs than their diesel counterparts. For example, the 500-mile Tesla semi-truck costs $180,000, compared to an average of $117,430 for fossil fuel alternatives.
EVs require much less maintenance than traditional vehicles, thanks to fewer moving parts. Over time, that could help make up for the ticket price of fleet electrification. Still, prohibitive initial expenses may prevent smaller companies from embracing zero-emissions vehicles.
As EV technology improves, these vehicles will become more affordable. For now, though, their high price makes them inaccessible for many smaller logistics companies.
Finally, many companies may hesitate to embrace fleet electrification out of hesitancy over its newness. This phenomenon arises with virtually any technology in business spheres. Companies are often slow to adopt new processes or resources because they’re unfamiliar with them, worrying it may cause disruption.
These concerns aren’t entirely unfounded. Like with any new technology, switching over to EVs will come with some initial disruption. Fleet managers will have to approach route planning differently, maintenance schedules must change and drivers may have to consider different factors.
If a company has been doing things one way for several years, it will be hard to move to another method. Even if statistics show how electrification has multiple long-term advantages, moving past that mental roadblock can be challenging.
How Are Fleets Navigating these Obstacles?
While these challenges limit fleet electrification right now, potential solutions are also emerging. Some of these obstacles, like high upfront costs and limited ranges, will go away with technological development, which takes time. In the meantime, some fleets have embraced other ways to become more sustainable until EVs are more viable.
For example, some fleets have implemented internet of things (IoT) devices to monitor and correct driver habits. Simple fixes like driving at 65 mph instead of 75 can increase efficiency by 20%, reducing their emissions. Similarly, these technologies can also help companies plan more efficient routes.
Technology-based route planning helps address the issues of limited EV ranges and route optimization, too. Artificial intelligence (AI) can consider far more factors far more quickly than humans can, producing actionable insights and strategies that help mitigate these challenges. AI route optimization algorithms can plan the most efficient paths for EVs to take, assigning deliveries based on charging locations and vehicle ranges.
Similarly, telematics data can help fleets grade vehicles on electrification suitability, showing which vehicles and routes are ideal for EV alternatives. These companies can then ensure they assign EVs routes that work for their charging and range needs, making the most of their investment. This optimization will help fleets make the most significant change while waiting for more EVs to become available.
New battery technologies could help reduce lithium supply chain bottlenecks, too, improving availability. Government incentives for electrification could speed these changes and encourage more stations to install charging ports as well.
Green Fleets Are Challenging But Not Impossible
Transportation is a major emissions source, so making fleets green is essential in the fight against climate change. While several obstacles remain in this effort, new solutions are continually emerging.
Transitioning to zero-emissions fleets won’t be easy. However, when companies understand the challenges they face, they can plan more effective solutions.
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