Why the network is ready for electric truck fleets

However, researchers were unsure whether the network could handle many electric trucks charging simultaneously in the same location. contrary to electric car, which have relatively low energy needs and would be distributed in neighborhoods, fleets of electric trucks could strain electricity distribution systems.

Electricity distribution relies on substations that serve small areas, usually around a few square kilometers (although this varies greatly depending on population density). If an area suddenly exceeds the capacity of a substation, it could cause an outage. Installing more electric trucks without triggering this problem could require major upgrades, which could be expensive and take months, if not years, to complete.

Borlaug and his colleagues modeled substation requirements using data from real-world diesel delivery fleets. The team took into account the distance traveled by the trucks and the time they spent at home to estimate the charging needs of an electric fleet.

“About 80 to 90% of the substations we studied were able to accommodate fleets of up to 100 trucks without requiring major upgrades,” Borlaug explains. And if fleets managed their load by choosing slower speeds to avoid stressing the network, even fewer substations would need to be upgraded, he adds.

However, the trucking industry has historically been slow to embrace new technologies, according to Ben sharpe, analyst with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research group that studies the transportation sector. Some states are considering incentives or even requirements to push fleets to electrify.

California has passed regulations in June 2020 requiring that a majority of heavy trucks sold by 2035 be zero emissions. The state also has an extensive voucher system to subsidize the cost of purchasing new electric vehicles. You “cannot overstate the importance” of California trucking regulations, Sharpe said. Thanks in large part to these programs, about half of all electric trucks currently on the road in the United States and Canada are in California, he adds.

Other US states are following in California’s footsteps: in July 2020, 15 states signed a new rule which requires all new medium and heavy vehicles to be zero emissions by 2050, with other targets until maturity.

While short-range electric trucks seem relatively close to commercial reality, some researchers warned that expanding the range of electric trucks may not be technologically or economically feasible in the short term.

“You would be doing short-haul for sure, there is no doubt about it, because the economy is in favor, everything is in favor”, says Venkat Viswanathan, mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University. And with increasingly cheaper and lighter batteries, trucks that can travel up to 500 miles between charges look more realistic, Viswanathan says.

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