Heavy electric trucks feasible when jointly operated

In the Dutch province of Limburg and the neighbouring German ‘Bundesland’ North Rhine-Westphalia soon nine large 40 to 50 ton electric trucks will be operated by local Dutch and German transport companies. This is unique in the world. Sharing makes the investment in electric trucks and charging infrastructure feasible. Yes, also this is unique.

 

Harm Weken, Managing Partner

Rob Kroon, Consultant

 During the launch event of ‘electric Green Last Mile’ or eGLM on 16 February 2017 in Maastricht, Researcher Frank Rieck of the ‘Hogeschool Rotterdam’ pointed out what we all actually already know. In cities heavy trucks are responsible for over a quarter of the total NOx emission. As a result, the diesel engines of trucks are by far the largest air polluters un urban areas.

Switching to electric trucks could reduce the NOx emitted considerably, in cities but of course also in the suburbs and its surrounding area. But, transport companies don’t do this because the range of electric trucks is still limited and the investment in electric trucks and charging infrastructure too high.

The project eGLM, of which project manager FIER Automotive was one of the initiators and the investment platform LIOF is the lead partner, shows electric trucks can be feasible. Now still with subsidy. But when the market has developed in three to six years, the additional government funding eGLM-trucks now receive from the European Union, the province of Limburg and North Rhine-Westphalia shouldn’t be needed anymore.

 
Field research and business case
The province of Limburg asked FIER Automotive to investigate the movements and volume of trucks driving around in Venlo. The field research and analysis, showed that most of the rides trucks made are less than 25 kilometres and follow the same route every day.

These relatively short and basically the same routes are ideal for electric trucks. Because this makes it possible to calculate within a very small margin the battery capacity to be installed in the trucks and the charging infrastructure needed to power the fleet. To make the business case work, only scale and cooperation is needed.

 By bringing together Dutch and German transport companies economic scale is realised. Together they order nine electric trucks. In addition, to be as efficient as possible, the companies involved in the project share both the trucks and the charging infrastructure. This makes eGLM a unique cooperation. Besides bringing 40 ton electric truck to the road, transport companies are not used to sharing their equipment.

Clients and government
The further expansion of the electric truck market very much depends on what local governments and clients of transport companies do to encourage it, representatives of the industry emphasized during the launch event of eGLM on 16 February 2017.

Clients, such as large retail and furniture chains, should reward in their contracts transport companies whom do invest in electric or clean transport solutions. Large clients sometimes do this, but to further develop the electric truck market it is not enough. As a result, the cheaper diesel trucks prevail. In addition, trucking companies asked for longer contracts to enable them to earn back the investment of an electric truck, which takes about eight years.

Stick and carrot
Governments, the participants of the launch event debated, should use ‘stick’ and ‘carrot’ to create the right incentives for the transport industry. For example, by setting a clear time table to gradually reduce the use of trucks with diesel engines in city centres. This would allow entrepreneurs to adjust their companies to the new policies. At the same time, local governments could give privileges to electric trucks, for example the use of faster routes or access to special lanes to avoid traffic jams.

With eGLM the transport companies have made a first step towards a more sustainable industry. By doing so, they clearly indicate they are ready to take up the challenge and prepare themselves for an electric, clean and sustainable future.

 

Photo: iStock

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