2021: The year electric trucks get on the road?

Run on Less
Run on Less
Mike Roeth
by Mike Roeth
11 February 2021
Could this be the year when electric commercial trucks shift from demonstration to deployment?

Mike Roeth is the Executive Director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) - an organisation working to drive the development of efficient, environmentally beneficial and cost effective tech in the North American freight industry.

NACFE has collaborated with Virgin Unite’s Carbon War Room (now merged with RMI) since 2013. In 2017 and again in 2019, Virgin Unite partnered with NACFE on its Run on Less trucking efficiency demonstration events.

Below Mike shares why 2021 could be the year when electric commercial trucks shift from demonstration to deployment.

Run on Less
Run on Less

Are you one of the many people who have been getting a lot more home deliveries since the pandemic started? Food delivery and online shopping exploded during 2020 and to service the demand more and more delivery trucks are driving up and down your street every day.

Have you ever considered the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from trucks and vans? Or the long-distance trucks that bring goods to warehouses before they go the “last mile” to you or a store? Fortunately, even if your answer is no, more and more companies are beginning to use zero-emission electric trucks to move the goods we need.

To help more of the trucking industry understand how to deploy electric trucks, NACFE and our partners at RMI are holding the third Run on Less trucking demonstration series - testing the mettle of electric trucking, with a dozen pioneering trucks. In 2021 drivers will be reporting real-time data and sharing their stories to show the current state of electric trucking technology in the freight industry.

I have been pleased to see that every year the number of electric models introduced by truck makers, from vans, to heavy-duty trucks, increases. There is also increasing political and policy momentum for electric trucks around the world. In the past year we saw mandates in California that truck makers must sell increasing numbers of zero-emissions vehicles, and in India, a US$1.4 billion investment in electric vehicle incentives to create market demand signals for the industry. In Europe, a coalition of major truck makers has pledged to go zero-emission by 2040 and are working with EU policymakers to align this science-based ambition with political support.

Run on Less
Run on Less

The transportation sector contributes a huge amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally and is the number one contributor to GHG emissions in the US. Reducing these emissions is mission critical. We simply can’t get the world to a 1.5°C pathway without shifting transport to zero-emissions solutions. Even more, transportation-caused air pollution creates disastrous human health problems that often disproportionately affect low-income communities in developed and developing countries alike. Zero-emission trucking can help solve these dangerous and harmful issues.

Trucking fleets interested in deploying electric trucks now have lower equipment costs, increasing battery storage capacity, and charging infrastructure available in more places than ever before.

Companies in aligned industries, such as fuel production and the finance sector, are also now calling for urgent action. Shell and Deloitte have said that urgent action is what it will take to get the world’s trucks and buses to produce net-zero emissions by 2050. Their report, Decarbonising Road Freight: Getting into Gear, offered 22 solutions to help address the factors that will drive decarbonisation in transportation.

The increased viability of commercial electric trucks comes at a time when the public better understands how important freight movement is to daily lives. The pandemic showcased how indispensable trucking is to our wellbeing (and economies) when early disruptions impacted the movement of essential goods. What we now need to understand is how central the industry is to fighting climate change through reducing emissions.

It’s also important to note that while wonderful, trucking electrification still has many challenges, including charging infrastructure availability, high upfront costs, and a general lack of understanding about how to deploy electric trucks into today’s world.

To accelerate progress for electric trucking, the transportation industry will need to glean lessons learned from leaders on the forefront of zero-emission innovation. They will need to scale best practices, while also increasing confidence that – when the rubber meets the road – these vehicles are capable of meeting the rigorous requirements of the freight industry.

The industry will need to come together with different parts of the electric truck ecosystem to support innovation, collaboration, and the acceleration of zero-emissions goods movement.

Supported by 15 sponsors focused on getting electric trucks on the road, the Run on Less-Electric (RoL-E) demonstration vehicles will include electric vans, medium-duty box trucks, and heavy-duty trucks moving freight in a variety of conditions and geographic areas.

Run on Less
Run on Less

In order to increase electric truck adoption and deployment, RoL-E will help trucking fleets, charging infrastructure companies, utility companies, and policymakers better understand the current benefits and challenges of hauling freight with electric trucks with timely data showing how these trucks operate in real-world conditions.

Getting to net-zero emissions in transportation is not a moonshot. Yes, it is lofty, but it is imminently doable when we consider all the pushes and pulls from governments, the trucking industry itself, and from the industries that support it. Not to mention growing public understanding of how important trucking is to their daily lives.

NACFE is excited to get into the weeds with the trucking industry to understand how we can increase electric truck deployment, today and tomorrow. Let’s make 2021 the Year of the Electric Truck to make trucking cleaner and greener for all! Learn more and follow the run at runonless.com

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.