By on July 14, 2020

A bundle of U.S. states and the District of Columbia unveiled a joint memorandum of understanding on Tuesday targeting the proliferation of medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles.

News of the agreement comes less than a month after the California Air Resources Board (CARB) showed off a policy that would legally obligate manufacturers to sell an increasing number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) from 2024 onward. That plan aims to basically eliminate diesel-powered semis by 2045, though the new memorandum has its sights set on 2050. 

Problems abound for environmentalists, however.

In addition to nearly every automotive engineer telling us that the scalability of batteries happens to be highly limited with present-day technologies, there’s little to no infrastructure in place to facilitate long-haul EVs. Most diesel-driven rigs can average over 1,000 miles between stops before even thinking about having to refuel. Their electric equivalents won’t be able to manage anywhere near that without devoting a substantial amount of their overall mass to energy storage. Meanwhile, there would also need to be a national charging infrastructure established catering specifically to large delivery vehicles — something that would undoubtedly require the bolstering of our energy grid (and teaching it a few new tricks).

Without it, these trucks would be dead in the water while homes/businesses suffer rolling blackouts. With it, they’ll simply be forced to take prolonged breaks as they draw energy from the nearest power station at carefully planned periods. But time is money in the trucking world, likely requiring a major technological breakthrough in energy storage. Critics of EV trucking have already expressed concerns regarding the presumably high costs of owning an zero-emissions rig. Some claim they wouldn’t even be all that ecologically sound unless the nation swaps to costly renewable energy or atomic power.

Tesla has promised a maximum range of around 500 miles on its forthcoming electric semi. When depleted of energy, the vehicle is also promised to recoup around 400 of those miles within 30 minutes via a dedicated fast charger. These are some of the most ambitious metrics we’ve seen. But they haven’t stopped it from taking criticism.

“The battery for a Tesla Semi must have a capacity of about 1,000 kWh per 100 kilometers, about 130 kWh,” Markus Lienkamp, the chair of automotive engineering at the Technical University of Munich, told Business Insider back in 2019. “This is technically not easily feasible, and it’s also pointless both economically and ecologically.”

A few manufacturers have told us that Tesla’s model is so impressive that they actually don’t believe it’s possible, bringing us back into needing battery technology to level up. But the big issue remains how much energy this will draw from the grid on a regular basis. This is general problem the world will have to confront as more EVs enter the market. Yet high capacity delivery vehicles will be a game changer. Tesla’s semi needs 1 megawatt-hour of electricity for a single charge — which is about a tenth of the energy the average U.S. home uses per year. In Europe, it’d be about one-third of the average residence’s energy consumption.

Many remain bullish on the technology, though, and seem absolutely convinced that a solution is right around the corner. For what its worth, the memorandum seems to take the bigger picture into account. The states that signed onto it (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Vermont) want to open with a clear assessment of the situation.

From Reuters:

The states committed to developing a plan within six months to identify barriers and propose solutions to support widespread electrification, including potential financial incentives and ways to boost EV infrastructure. Trucks and buses represent 4 percent of U.S. vehicles, but account for nearly 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation.

California’s mandate will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035. California’s planned rules will initially require 5-9 percent ZEVs based on class, rising to 30-50 percent by 2030 and nearly all by 2045.

But many are excited by the concept. Large companies reliant on delivery services, Amazon for example, love the idea of having to pay for less gas. EVs are also assumed to need less maintenance over the years, potentially making them cheaper to own than diesels over a longer time frame.

An increasing number of automakers are also starting to dabble in the field to see what it might take to make all-electric vehicles work for big business. While we’re curious to see what they come up with, we’ve tempered our own expectations with a healthy dose of reality. The first batch likely won’t be anything more than a proof of concept that will heavily influence when/if the second group arrives.

[Image: Nikola]

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9 Comments on “American States Join Forces to Promote Electric Trucking...”

  • avatar

    “Trucking Companies to Join Forces to Promote Electric Trucking” ahhh… Forget it. It would be too much to explain.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Without it, these trucks would be dead in the water while homes/businesses suffer rolling blackouts.”

    That’s a ridiculous claim – keep the FUD out of it.

  • avatar

    Tesla will be the real test of this, since they have lots of company trucks delivering parts from Giga Nevada to Fremont (someday Austin too). Musk has said they will be cheaper than rail freight delivery to transport new vehicles, so that will be another place to show off their rigs.

    Watching these convoys of autonomous electric trucks zoom around the country will be interesting.

    • 0 avatar

      The last metric I saw had rail burning 1 gallon of fuel to move a ton of freight 400 miles. It’s really hard to imagine anything touching that in the next 3 lifetimes.

  • avatar

    I just don’t understand the skepticism.

    CA’s rulers have had such great success w/ high speed rail, making CA the HSR leader of the world.

    Thank those rulers because if they hadn’t lied to the dopes the initiative would never would have passed . And if not for the profound corruption of CA Courts the whole great high speed rail success would have been aborted because every major tenet of the initiative has been violated.

    CA’s rulers know what they’re doing and the whole world watches in wonder.

  • avatar

    Since said American States are quickly descending into utter chaos and we are approaching Mad Max inspired world of gasoline wars I consider it to be a smart move to switch to electric trucks exclusively.

    • 0 avatar

      @Inside Looking Out,

      Considering the way things are going, it might be wiser to switch to wood fired steam trucks.

      Spend a fortune cleaning up ICE (both gas and diesel). Get them so clean you could live off the exhaust. Then, toss all that development and start off in some other direction.

      For long distance freight, rail is way better than D-cell powered trucks.

      • 0 avatar

        Electric vehicles matter. In the New World all you need to do is to steal solar panels to charge your truck indefinitely when necessary. With gasoline it is much more complicated. After you run out ready to use gasoline you have go through all process starting with oil extraction, refineries and so on.

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