Charging is obstacle
Also, while establishing a truck charging infrastructure is an obstacle, forces already are at work to build one. For example, the E-Mobility Group of Daimler Trucks & Buses is now launching a worldwide initiative to establish a charging infrastructure for battery-electric trucks.
The initial focus is on charging stations installed at the terminals of truck customers. To accomplish this, the e-Mobility Group is bringing together all the main players, electric truck fleets, power grid operators, energy suppliers, charging hardware manufacturers and charging software providers to share infrastructure solutions for truck customers within the network.
The focus of activities is in the U.S. and Europe, and the first joint pilot charging stations at truck terminals already have been implemented or are in process.
Other efforts similar to this are being undertaken as well by other organizations and groups. In fact, expanding electric-vehicle charging stations nationwide is part of the $1 trillion infrastructure policy package Congress is working on.
As a result, General Motors Co. has launched a new business, BrightDrop, centered entirely on electric delivery vehicles, with the first 500 examples going to FedEx. Ford Motor Co. spotlights commercial vehicles when discussing plans for electrification.
Amazon.com is working in partnership with Rivian, a startup EV truck manufacturer, to have 10,000 of the Rivian electric delivery vans on the road worldwide by 2022 ramping up to the full 100,000 van orders by 2030.
Nikola Motor Co. has 14,000 trucks on preorder with the first delivery of battery-electric trucks expected this year in Europe. Since its introduction in 2017, Tesla Inc. has been taking preorders for its Class 8, Tesla semi. It plans to offer the semi with two range options (300 miles and 500 miles) priced at $150,000 and $180,000 respectively.
Some of North America's largest and most well-established truck manufacturers, including PACCAR, Volvo Trucks North America and Daimler Trucks North America, are rolling out new electric rigs.
Volvo Trucks Corp. began sales of its VNR Electric regional Class 8 truck in December with full-scale production at its assembly plant in Dublin, Va., beginning early this year. Mack Trucks Inc. began taking orders last year for the Mack LR Electric refuse model, with deliveries beginning this year.
Daimler started 2021 with 38 electric truck prototypes in service, including 26 Class 8 eCascadias and 12 medium-duty eM2s that several major fleets are running in an effort to fine tune their performance. Daimler plans to start assembling the production version of these trucks in 2022.
PACCAR has deployed more than 60 battery-electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered trucks. DAF (PACCAR's European truck builder,) Peterbilt and Kenworth have battery electric vehicles operating in North America and Europe.
These vehicles were placed with customers in local and regional delivery, refuse collection and port applications because they typically operate in the city and return home every day for recharging. These type of operations will most likely be the first to buy Class 8 electric trucks.
PACCAR will begin the full scale production of battery-electric trucks this year.
Pressure on tire makers
With all these electric truck makers working like crazy to meet the demand for zero-emission trucks, the pressure is on tire manufacturers now to produce tires specifically for them. Tire engineers are literally in a race against time. And their job is not an easy one.
Tires have to be designed to withstand the instant, massive torque that electric motors provide upon acceleration. This greater level of stress affects their endurance and wear.
Since range is a major concern with electric vehicles, their designers are working on maximizing the number of miles a vehicle can travel on a charge. Therefore, tires for these vehicles also have to have really low rolling resistance to extend a vehicle's range.
Very low rolling resistance can be attained by combining elements of tread compound, tread pattern and tire construction in addition to reducing the overall weight of the tire.
This is very difficult to do while providing longer tread wear and assuring other tire performance characteristics, including traction, resistance to irregular wear, cornering ability and casing longevity, are maintained.
And if that wasn't enough, EV tires will have to support more weight since batteries are very heavy compared with a diesel engine. So expect to see higher load capacity and ply ratings. Class 8 EV trucks most likely will move to 16-ply from 14-ply tires.
And of course, let's not forget that EV tires must be affordable, durable, reliable and retreadable.
To achieve these technological tire advancements, tire makers are using lower weight, eco-friendly materials and 3D printers to make new tire designs and tread patterns and to make test molds, which saves time and money.
It is doubtful that the race to EVs will slow down. Transportation accounts for about 30% of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns parked many greenhouse gas-producing vehicles and businesses. Consumers, politicians, and regulators have seen that the environment is cleaner as a result and want it to stay that way even as freight and people transportation return to normal.
This demonstration during the pandemic is going to have long-lasting effects and continue to drive the transition to zero-emission, electric vehicles.
Peggy can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]. Her previous columns are available at www.tirebusiness.com.