Electric Trucks Have Arrived: The Use Case for Heavy-Duty Regional Haul Tractors

The Run on Less – Electric demonstration focused on the heavy-duty regional haul tractors of the trucking industry in addition to medium-duty box trucks, terminal tractors and vans and step vans.

The four fleet-OEM pairs in the heavy-duty regional haul tractor market segment were:

  1. Anheuser-Busch with a BYD 8TT tractor
  2. Biagi Bros. with a Peterbilt Model 579EV
  3. NFI with a Volvo VNR Electric
  4. Penske with a Freightliner eCascadia

How It Worked

This report’s conclusions were generated through the data collection and calculations from the four heavy-duty regional haul tractors that participated in Run on Less – Electric, interviews conducted with representatives from the participating fleets and tractor builders and input from other industry experts. All four vehicles were instrumented with a Geotab telematics device that tracked daily range, speed profiles, state of charge, charging events, amount of regenerative braking energy recovery, weather and number of deliveries.

Results

The Run on Less – Electric demonstration and subsequent research indicate that in the heavy-duty regional haul tractor market segment, 50% of those vehicles are electrifiable now.

Additional Findings Include:

The study team has five key findings based on the four battery heavy-duty regional haul tractors that participated in RoL-E.

  1. NACFE considers short and medium regional heavy-duty tractors electrifiable today with their range of 200 miles, about 3,000 to 4,000 lbs. of freight capacity penalty compared to diesels and improving total cost of ownership when monetizing all benefits. Regional haul tractors perform in various duty cycles including out-and-back, hub-and-spoke and diminishing return. Tractors currently available are meeting the needs of about 50% of this market segment.
  2. Regional haul tractors return to base daily giving fleets confidence about making investments in charging infrastructure. These trucks often have 10+ hours of overnight dwell time for charging. Many people mistakenly assume Class 8 heavy-duty tractors are used in mostly long-haul disparate routes. In fact, only 40% are used in long-haul and 30% are vocational trucks and regional haul tractors respectively. These regional haul tractors are good candidates for electrification due to their shorter daily distances and return to base operation.
  3. Operational changes such as the choices of the truck for each daily route, en route opportunity charging, driver incentives and managed charging are all examples of actions to improve the TCO of heavy-duty regional haul BEVs. Many actions are emerging to improve the TCO of operating electric vehicles in this market segment with many having to do with increasing range. Batteries are expensive and heavy so fleets can reduce the up-front cost by taking actions to extend the range. Others include lowering other costs such as charging during off peak hours.
  4. The drivability (particularly in getting up to speed), quietness and other aspects make these trucks ones that drivers prefer over diesels, improving driver attraction and retention for fleets. Drivers of all sizes of electric vehicles share how much they like the driving experience over internal combustion engines. For regional haul driving much time is spent accelerating to highway speeds and this specific aspect of day cab electric tractors definitely will help attract and retain drivers in this segment.
  5. Some medium and longer regional haul duty cycles pose more demanding requirements for current BEVs, but the next generations of products are bringing larger battery packs, better performing systems and lighter solutions to improve the TCO. Incentives are key to help the financials for these applications. NACFE defines medium and longer regional haul as vehicles that return to base frequently and travel in a radius of 100 to 200 miles or 200 to 300 miles respectively. Improvements are needed to make these vehicles – with their more than 150 and up to 600 miles of range ­– acceptable for total cost of ownership operations.

Lessons Learned

NACFE learned a number of lessons during the three weeks of the Run specific to heavy-duty regional haul tractors.

Conclusions

Heavy-duty regional haul battery electric trucks are viable solutions today for improving fleet freight efficiency and helping achieve sustainability goals on short and some medium length routes where daily mileage is 200 miles with one shift return-to-base operations where overnight vehicle dwell time allows for lower cost overnight charging. Other variations of duty cycles also may be very viable where higher rate en route charging can extend vehicle range.

As Run on Less – Electric concluded in September 2021, NACFE predicted that 70% of this market segment was electrifiable. Given the more detailed analysis, interviews with industry experts and further research for this report, we now consider this market segment to be 50% electrifiable with lower average daily miles which results in the avoidance of nearly 29.4 million metric tonnes CO2e annually (e equals carbon dioxide equivalent). NACFE estimates the entire CO2e to be eliminated by this segment at an average of 250 miles per day to be 97.8 million metric tonnes.

Market Segment Fact Sheet