Report ranks states where EV trucks could dethrone diesel

Source: By David Ferris, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A study released yesterday identified the states and regions where electric freight trucks are likely to first triumph over diesel vehicles.

Weighing factors from terrain to pollution to the cost of electrons, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) says the most promising states include California; Washington; the Northeastern states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York; and Texas.

The report comes a month after 15 states and the District of Columbia announced an agreement to use 100% zero-emission trucks and buses by midcentury (Greenwire, July 14).

Currently, the batteries in heavy-duty electric vehicles are too expensive for them to compete on price against the ubiquitous diesel-powered big trucks that are a major source of air pollution. But there is still fertile ground for change, according to the NACFE study.

The states that came out on top move lots of freight and have favorable incentives from utilities and governments. They have lower electricity prices that make e-fueling cheaper. They have terrain that is hilly, which allows for regenerative braking to feed the battery and extend a truck’s range. They are neither too hot nor too cold — both of which can impair an EV battery — and they suffer from dirty air from diesel exhaust, especially in poorer communities near truck routes.

While no state is ideal — Pennsylvania has chilly winters, Texas is flat, and California has high electricity prices — these were the states that best met the environmental, political and economic factors NACFE considered.

Thinking regionally, the report named the most promising regions as Northern and Southern California; the cluster of Oregon and Washington state; the Texas Triangle region of Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio; the east side of the Rockies through Colorado and southern Wyoming; and the Northeast.

The authors added that other parts of the country are also suitable for electric trucks.

“It’s more about who is ready now and who should be taking action now,” said Mike Roeth, NACFE’s executive director, in a call with reporters yesterday.

The report is notable for its focus on regions rather than multistate corridors.

In June, a coalition of West Coast utilities revealed plans for an $850 million charging corridor to serve heavy long-haul trucks. The network would run through California, Oregon and Washington (Energywire, June 18).

NACFE recommended that fleets look first at relatively short routes of no more than 230 miles that start and end in the same place, to make overnight recharging easier.

Fleet owners in these regions “should immediately begin planning for electric truck deployments — even if only on a pilot scale,” the report said.

It added, “Those that act fast are most likely to be able to take advantage of existing funding opportunities and are least likely to experience challenges with grid infrastructure that is already maxed out by other nearby fleets.”