Electric trucks are just around the corner, cardless payment systems in development
As if was not enough with 1970s-style “convoys” of heavy trucks, coming back as platoons of self-driving vehicles with only a few humans in charge, now the haulage industry may soon face the prospect of those same trucks humming along on electric power.
Electric vehicles usually produced in China
If you read the story BYD delivers a fleet of all- electric trucks to work in yards in California on the Electrek.co website a few weeks ago, maybe there is no need to buckle down for disruption of the industry – yet. The China-based maker of electric vehicles has delivered the first of some 27 yard and service trucks to customers in California. These are heavy haul vehicles, but they mainly move containers and loads around freight yards and for short distances. As the story says, BYD is also delivering a solar charging system which, in “sunny California” (so is the stereotype of the state) should suffice to keep the electric trucks charged and running. After all, they move freight around yards and railyard areas and will not roam very far – so charging, like fueling the diesel yard trucks, is in house from the company’s own pumps or sockets.
Road freight companies could shrug this off – after all, the container ready to load for a 1000 mile trip could have been dragged out of the freight yard by mules or 10 000 strong cats for all one cares. But now Elon Musk, the electric truck and car entrepreneur, has announced that he will launch an all-electric semi by next year. Tesla to enter the semi truck business, starting with ‘Tesla Semi’ set to be unveiled next year, another recent Electrek.co headline said. That could be a game changer.
As far as getting freight from point A to point B, it doesn’t matter where the load moves with diesel, biofuel, electricity or those 10 000 cats running at 60 Mph – someone still has to pay for the power, and it is the haulier who pays up front and takes the risk of fluctuating diesel prices, defrauded drivers, funny business with fuel by drivers and drivers of cat-powered trucks pilfering catfood for their weird grandmother’s 10 cats.
Seriously, the advent of all-electric or hybrid long-haul trucks (to the extent that driving on combustion fuel didn’t fully recharge the batteries) presents new issues in paying for, let’s call it, the cost of propulsion. First, the unit of charge is the kilowatt hour KwH, which is similar to liters or gallons of combustible fuel and will take the vehicle an approximate distance. A semi can carry 150 gallons (about 567 liters) of fuel or even much more depending on its configuration.
Experienced fleet managers will know how far a full tank will take a full load. They can detect irregularities in fuel consumption (not necessarily pilferage or accidental leakage) that may indicate the engine is not running efficiently or the driver is pushing the vehicle beyond best fuel consumption practices. When significant numbers of all-electric vehicles join fleets, new rules of thumb will be developed – it should not take more than XY KwH to drive a load from city A to City B.
What about charging networks?
That still leaves the issue of purchasing charging, like fuel in the pre-electric days. Fortunately (or maybe not?) the electric long-haul trucks of the near future (if Musk is right) have been preceded by a sufficiently large number of their “little brothers” – electric passenger cars. Charging networks with thousands of charging points have developed over the past few years both in North America and Europe. There has been considerable standardization of charging equipment and safety standards (most drivers know not to smoke while fueling, but some may want to poke around with so-called connectors, and these have been designed with safety in mind). While much charging of electric passenger cars will take place at home (from house current or dedicated chargers), there are various charging networks, some with membership and/or card schemes with an appropriate security measure.
In the US, the new ROEV Association which represents the three largest charging network providers, will give its customers the ability to easily access and pay for public charging stations across the networks, we believe it will be also possible to use it for electric trucks. This ability—referred to as interoperability—represents more than 90 percent of the public chargers in the United States.
When long-distance trucks go electric or hybrid (Volvo and Mercedes already have plans for medium and long-haul hybrid and electric trucks according to Trucks.com), these systems will be adapted to the commercial freight market. Instantic will be there to do its part with cardless payment systems.