Diesel-powered engines have garnered a reputation for their nasty emissions. Nitrous oxides may contribute to asthma and shortened life spans. Particulates are also bad for lungs and other living tissue. Of course, we cannot forget about the pollutant carbon dioxide, responsible for a host of issues such as climate change. Converting the fleet that hauls America’s freight has long been on the agenda for the trucking industry. [Full disclosure: This post has been generously supported by Montway Auto Transport.]
Improved air quality and noise reduction are especially important facets in metropolitan areas worldwide, because more people are moving to cities. For the first time in 2008, more people lived in cities than in the countryside. The UN predicts a global population of nine billion people by 2050, with approximately 70% of them living in cities. Not long from now, humans will need to transport goods to urban environments for large amounts of people, with decreased noise and emissions. Large cities such as Paris and London are considering a ban on internal combustion engines in city centers. Restrictions like these create a demand for not only electric and hybrid electric cars, but trucks as well.
Truck manufacturing companies are stepping up to the task. This month, a Tesla-inspired company called Nikola announced its hybrid hydrogen-electric semi-truck Nikola One, with a host of innovative features such as fuel cell technology and regenerative braking. Nikola joins with its role model Tesla and Mercedes to create a zero emissions heavy-duty vehicle. In Tesla CEO’s Master Plan Part Deux, Elon Musk outlines his desire to create fully electric and autonomous and transport trucks and buses, noting they “are in the early stages of development.” Mercedes also unveiled its fully-electric urban e-truck earlier this year, aimed at distribution transport of commercial goods.
Fully electric heavy-duty trucks are expected to hit the markets by 2020. What do these futuristic machines mean for the long-distance transport industry?
Lowered Emissions & Noise
The most obvious benefit of fully electric trucks is the reduction in pollution. Hybrid trucks have slowly invaded the market for years, especially in regulation-heavy states like California. More and more state legislatures are pushing for fewer emissions, and diesel trucks are some of the guiltiest culprits on the road.
Everyone has heard their local garbage truck barreling down the street. Large trucks such as these put out 100 decibels of sound, which is as much as Boeing 707 aircraft. Prolonged exposure can cause significant hearing damage, which is especially concerning for the people who operate them. Electric and hybrid electric trucks boast a nearly silent engine, offering a much-needed reprieve from the raucous noise of most large trucks.
Lowered Operating Cost
Upfront costs of electric trucks greatly exceed their internal combustion engine counterparts. However, these hefty green machines make up for it in the long haul with cheaper “refueling” and lower overall maintenance costs. Removal of the diesel engine means the elimination of many maintenance procedures such as oil changes, and their disposable parts, such as their brakes, last longer as well. Many companies are already leaning toward hybrid-electric trucks for this reason, such as Coca-Cola, with the largest alternative energy fleet in the United States.
Additionally, experts predict the costs of replacing electric batteries will decrease by 2.5x by 2025, and the range between charges will increase by the same amount. Continued advances in the technology mean that long distance electric transport trucks are coming closer to a reality every year.
What about the auto transport industry? One of the largest auto transport companies in the US, Montway Auto Transport, shares that although the upfront costs are high, they are more than made up for within a couple years’ time. If large car shipping companies convert to using electric trucks, the overall cost of transporting cars from place to place drops, providing customers with better competitive pricing.
In general, electric vehicles weigh less than those with internal combustion engines. Less weight on the frame leaves more capacity for cargo, and more dollars in business owners’ pockets. It’s estimated that every pound after max load is worth $.50. If a shipment contains an extra 2,000 lbs of goods, that’s $1000 in extra revenue from every load
Other advanced features included shipping and tracking software right in the truck, so that every shipment is accounted for, from pickup to drop-off. Truckers can also use these features to receive new orders, saving time from returning.
Safety and Convenience for Drivers
Last year, 745 truckers were killed on the job in the United States. Truck driver has remained one of the deadliest occupations in the country for years. Truckers also take 22 days off work on average per year for job-related injuries and illness, which is more than any other occupation. Upgraded technology and safety will finally bring truckers into the 21st century.
Features like panoramic windows, 360-degree cameras, and improved brakes mean less accidents and safer trips for everyone. The Nikola One boasts a mid-cab entry, much like an airplane cockpit, which would mean a reduction in injuries climbing into and out of the truck. The electric engine of these trucks sits lower to the ground and behind the driver, meaning the nose of the truck is more streamlined for better aerodynamic movement. This also offers a much-improved view of the road in front of them.
As far as convenience, these newer trucks will provide dashboard GPS, USB plug-ins, full-size beds and refrigerators, and hands-free Bluetooth for phones — features that many car operators have enjoyed for years.
Electric trucks are the future of the auto transport industry. Vast improvements to pollution, noise reduction, and quality of life for drivers mean that zero emissions vehicles are desired by all. The future is not too distant, with testing for the FUSO Cater E-Cell happening in Germany this year. Results are expected early in 2017. Trucks like these are likely to take over the light transport sector first. With improvements to availability of charging stations and battery life, cross country auto transport is no longer a pipe dream. Instead it’s a reality on our horizon.
This post has been generously supported by Montway Auto Transport.