Electric semi-trucks are ready to be deployed, but there aren't near enough plugs to charge them
Truck manufacturer Daimler has a production capacity of around 2000 electric semi-trucks per year.
It has only deployed around 100 of them.
Lack of charging infrastructure is slowing down adoption across the industry.
Electric semi-trucks are ready to go. The technology is there, manufacturers have capacity to produce them, and demand is only going to increase.
Sure, the batteries are a bit heavier than truckers might like, but that's not what's slowing down the deployment of electric semi-trucks on US streets. The problem is that there's still no way of charging big fleets of them, according to Daimler Truck North America president and CEO John O'Leary.
Daimler, the leading US heavy-duty truck manufacturer, unveiled the Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia, its first fully electric semi-truck, in May of 2022. Its current production capacity is around 2000 trucks per year and it wouldn't be hard to double that number to 4000, O'Leary said in a recent media briefing reported by Trucknews.com. But there are only around 100 electric trucks out on the streets.
"Overwhelmingly, infrastructure is slowing us down in terms of EV deployment," he said during the briefing. "Siting, permitting, construction delays – all that means current lead times are measured in years, not weeks or months."
If the US EV charging infrastructure is already not enough for the rapidly increasing number of electric cars being bought and used — it needs to be quadrupled by 2025, and to grow more than eight times by 2030, according to a new report out of S&P Global Mobility — it's definitely not enough for fleets of big trucks with big batteries.
Building charging infrastructure for electric semi-trucks poses different challenges compared to charging infrastructure for regular EVs: Long-haul semi-trucks need to be charged relatively fast, which requires much more power than regular fast chargers for passenger vehicles, they need lots of real estate connected to the grid to park and maneuver.
The majority of electric passenger vehicles charging stations have fast charging at around 150 kilowatt. To charge fast enough, a semi-truck would need something closer to a full megawatt, and a station that allows multiple trucks to be charged with that amount of power at the same time.
There are only a handful of places that can offer it, one of the first ones being Electric Island, developed by Portland General Electric and Daimler Trucks North America.
Fleet operators report that setting up charging infrastructure can take more than a year, according to a December 2022 report by consulting company McKinsey.
And once they're built, the amount of power it will have to provide might be a challenge for the power grid.
Experts predict that a charging installation serving both cars and trucks along a highway might need to provide around 19 megawatts of peak power by 2035, which is roughly what a small town draws, according to a study from the electricity and gas utility National Grid.
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