A report by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) has found that 50% of Class 8 regional haul tractors are ready for electrification now. The report—Electric Trucks Have Arrived: The Use Case For Heavy-Duty Regional Haul Tractors—is the third of four market segment reports based on findings from last year’s Run on Less – Electric (RoL-E) freight efficiency demonstration.
The Run on Less – Electric demonstration focused on the heavy-duty regional haul tractors of the trucking industry in addition to medium-duty box trucks, terminal tractors and vans and step vans.
Heavy-duty Class 8 tractors are the most challenging of all the truck segments considered for electrification. Battery electric vehicles cannot replace all diesels, but they can replace a significant share of regional haul ones, where the driver and truck return to base each day, where loads are usually cubed out, or in the case of beverage deliveries, the daily distances are not very long.
The new report documents the four heavy-duty regional haul tractors that participated in the Run on Less demonstration: Anheuser-Busch with a BYD 8TT tractor; Biagi Bros. with a Peterbilt Model 579EV; NFI with a Volvo VNR Electric; and Penske with a Freightliner eCascadia.
When Run on Less – Electric concluded in September 2021, NACFE predicted that 70% of this market segment was electrifiable. Given the more detailed analysis, interviews with industry experts and further research for this report, NACFE now considers this market segment to be 50% electrifiable with lower average daily miles.
This would result in the avoidance of nearly 29.4 million metric tonnes of CO2e annually. NACFE estimates the entire CO2e to be eliminated by this segment at an average of 250 miles per day to be 97.8 million metric tonnes.
The study team had five main findings:
NACFE considers short and medium regional heavy-duty tractors electrifiable today with their range of 200 miles, about 3,000 to 4,000 lbs. of freight capacity penalty compared to diesels and improving total cost of ownership when monetizing all benefits. Regional haul tractors perform in various duty cycles including out-and-back, hub-and-spoke and diminishing return. Tractors currently available are meeting the needs of about 50% of this market segment.
Regional haul tractors return to base daily giving fleets confidence about making investments in charging infrastructure. These trucks often have 10+ hours of overnight dwell time for charging. Many people mistakenly assume Class 8 heavy-duty tractors are used in mostly long-haul disparate routes. In fact, only 40% are used in long-haul and 30% are vocational trucks and regional haul tractors respectively. These regional haul tractors are good candidates for electrification due to their shorter daily distances and return to base operation.
Operational changes such as the choices of the truck for each daily route, en route opportunity charging, driver incentives and managed charging are all examples of actions to improve the TCO of heavy-duty regional haul BEVs. Many actions are emerging to improve the TCO of operating electric vehicles in this market segment with many having to do with increasing range. Batteries are expensive and heavy so fleets can reduce the up-front cost by taking actions to extend the range. Others include lowering other costs such as charging during off peak hours.
The drivability (particularly in getting up to speed), quietness and other aspects make these trucks ones that drivers prefer over diesels, improving driver attraction and retention for fleets. Drivers of all sizes of electric vehicles share how much they like the driving experience over internal combustion engines. For regional haul driving much time is spent accelerating to highway speeds and this specific aspect of day cab electric tractors definitely will help attract and retain drivers in this segment.
Some medium and longer regional haul duty cycles pose more demanding requirements for current BEVs, but the next generations of products are bringing larger battery packs, better performing systems and lighter solutions to improve the TCO. Incentives are key to help the financials for these applications. NACFE defines medium and longer regional haul as vehicles that return to base frequently and travel in a radius of 100 to 200 miles or 200 to 300 miles respectively. Improvements are needed to make these vehicles—with their more than 200 and up to 600 miles of range—acceptable for total cost of ownership operations.