CREDIT: David Goldman / AP Images for Frito Lay
One market where electric vehicles are well-positioned to make headway are delivery trucks in local, urban areas. And thanks to a grant from the Department of Energy, a partnership in Texas is looking to take advantage of that possibility by deploying 30 electric delivery trucks for a 2-year demonstration project.
The partnership is between the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), Smith Electric Vehicles Corporation, and the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE). The Council received the grant, and Smith Electric Vehicles will provide the trucks. The fleet will be made up of the kind of medium-duty commercial delivery trucks often used to deliver supplies to business franchises within one locality. It’s a job particularly well-suited to electric trucks for several reasons: daily routes are often exactly the same, meaning range needs are fixed and predictable, and the vehicles always return to the same spot for the night, making re-charging easier.
Companies like Frito-Lay, FedEx, Coke, and PepsiCo have already deployed electric delivery truck fleets in markets around the country, including Smith Electric vehicles purchased by Frito-Lay and FedEx.
The H-GAC partnership hopes this new pilot project will lay the foundation for widespread use of the vehicles in the Houston-Galveston area as well:
By deploying 30 zero emission trucks targeted for this program, H-GAC expects to reduce petroleum consumption by over 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel over the 2-year demonstration period. The project will have additional impact with an expected reduction in GHG emissions by 37.5 million tons of carbon equivalents per year and an expected reduction in criteria pollutants of over 2,000 tons per year. […]
Each Smith Newton will be delivered with an electric vehicle charging station (EVSE). Fully recharging the vehicle will take approximately 6 to 10 hours per night, depending on the size of the battery pack and the state of charge when the vehicle returns to the fleet depot.
The H-GAC Zero Emission Truck project will serve as a pioneer for this innovative clean technology by helping fleets deploy all-electric delivery trucks that will improve their fleet operations and benefit the local community.
As of 2011, less than one percent of the 135,000 medium-duty trucks bought by U.S. companies were electric, according to Americas Commercial Transportation Research. But the cost of the battery makes up about a third of an electric truck’s price all by itself, and battery innovation is proceeding at a brisk clip.
Granted, the market is still in a transitional phase. Studies suggest the cost-effectiveness of electric delivery trucks trumps that of equivalent vehicles powered by fossil fuels only under specific circumstances: when daily distances traveled are high, but low speeds are common; when customer stops are frequent; and when the planning horizon is extended beyond ten years. Happily, those circumstances fit neatly with the routine of a normal urban delivery vehicle.
Even when all those criteria are not met, fossil-fuel-powered trucks are more economical by only a small margin — around one percent. And that’s before taking into account government incentives for cleaner vehicles, such as the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 currently on offer for electric vehicle purchases — or more comprehensive policies that could level the playing field between renewable and fossil fuels, such as a carbon tax.