Electric semi-trucks join the race to zero emissions

Albertsons purchased Volvo VNR Electric trucks as part of the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project, a collaboration between Volvo Trucks North America and 13 other organizations to develop a plan to successfully introduce battery electric trucks and equipment. in North America the large-scale transportation industry.

Brett Pope, director of electric vehicles at Volvo Trucks North America in Greensboro, NC, said the VNR Electric is available in tractor and straight truck configurations to meet a variety of demands, including those faced by grocers. are faced. “A battery-electric vehicle performs well in distribution segments that operate in fixed geographic areas to help meet charging needs and take advantage of energy recovery through regenerative braking,” he notes. “Supermarkets that make constant deliveries to stores, for example, are ideal. “

Pope adds that the VNR Electric can support a range of up to 150 miles depending on the truck configuration, and also has the ability to recharge to an 80% battery level in 70 minutes.

Another grocery company that is testing waters with electrification is Providence, the RI-based wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI). The company revealed in May that it was adding 53 all-electric TRUs to its fleet at the company’s distribution center in Riverside, California. UNFI is removing 53 of its diesel-powered TRUs from operation and using AEM to rebuild the units to all-electric specifications. The company will lease the TRUs through Newark, New Jersey-based PLM Trailer Leasing for five years, while continuing to explore how they fit into its operations. UNFI predicts that electric TRUs will help it save 135,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.

On the supplier side, Rundle names Saint-Louis-based Anheuser-Busch as one of the first to use electric trucks. “The application of a beer truck delivering beer to a city is a perfect case for electric batteries, where there are a lot of stop-starts and you have to move at very low speed,” observes- she does.

Infrastructure challenges

For now, the industry will likely continue with short-range tests like these until the infrastructure for electric utility vehicles catches up. A recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy and the University of California highlights the lack of current policies regarding adoption incentives, charging infrastructure and electricity pricing that have so far prevented the widespread electrification of commercial truck fleets. The report argues that policies are needed to revive the widespread use of electric long-haul trucks.

Federally, the Biden administration has earmarked $ 174 billion from the president’s infrastructure plan to advance national supply chains for electric vehicles, including advanced technologies for batteries and charging infrastructure. At the end of June, President Biden was still in bipartisan talks with lawmakers over his proposals.

Meanwhile, there are incentives available to help businesses switch to electricity. For example, California has a voucher program to encourage companies to trade in vehicles for electric versions, and there are credits for zero-emission vehicles tied to current legislation.

As Volvo’s Pope observes: “Getting electric trucks into service means more than just trucks. Charging infrastructure is crucial to enable vehicles to improve uptime. It is important to address this issue early on, as every site will be different and infrastructure installation times will vary based on current needs and future capabilities. For example, Volvo Trucks worked with partners like Greenlots as part of the Volvo LIGHTS project to help build the necessary charging infrastructure.

He continues: “While the evolution of [electric] products will continue to meet the needs of commercial transportation solutions, it will require collaboration and partnerships with many key stakeholders to be successful.

In the meantime, Rundle advises companies to consider power upgrades that may be needed to support charging electric trucks. “If you’re ordering a battery-powered electric truck that you’re going to have delivered over the next few years, you’d better get started today, also discussing with your local utility about upgrades to the power supply to the installation, ”she says. .

While the industry is not there yet, Rundle remains optimistic about the future of electric long-haul trucks. “By 2030 or 2035, if you look at where battery technology is going, as well as the evolution of charging capacities, then the idea of ​​an electric long-haul truck starts to become more feasible,” says she does.

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