Editor’s note: Written by Niki Okuk, the Program Manager for CALSTART, a nonprofit organization accelerating clean transportation solutions. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.
Talk about electric trucks typically focuses on how terrible conventional trucks are for the environment and the fastest ways to reduce air pollution. That’s important, but not enough attention is paid to what electric trucks do for their owners and operators.
In addition to improving public health, commercial trucking electrification saves truckers money and improves the overall driver experience. Electric trucks increase fleet efficiency and create new lifetime operational savings by lowering maintenance costs and reducing fuel costs. Huge strides in electric truck technology and an influx in supporting government programs have made these trucks more reliable and much more affordable. That’s why now is the best time to start preparing for fleet electrification.
Whether you are ready to purchase your first electric truck or just looking to start the planning process, the steps outlined below will help you prepare for your transition towards a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) fleet, as well as give you some valuable questions to help get the right conversations started.
UNDERSTAND YOUR UTILITY NEEDS
While the technology has advanced, and fleets are beginning to see the business case for ZEVs, infrastructure remains one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption outside of cost. When planning for the future of your fleet, infrastructure must come first.
Understanding your current utility logistics will help you gauge your infrastructure needs and costs. The process for coordinating charging infrastructure with your utility provider will vary depending on whether you rent or own your workspace, so plan accordingly with your property owner (or utilities manager) if needed. To avoid ongoing construction as your ZEV fleet expands, you can plan to install multiple years of charging infrastructure at once, or lay the conduit to make future installations easier.
Several utility providers also offer incentives to fleets in their service territory, so speak to your energy provider directly to better understand what charging infrastructure incentives are available in your area.
Questions for your utility provider:
- What kind of charging infrastructure is available?
- Where on site can it be installed?
- Do you offer any fleet incentives or programs?
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TRUCK
Finding the electric truck best suited for your fleet starts with understanding how your current vehicle needs translate to a ZEV. Route data and fleet telematics like location, total mileage, and vehicle uptime and downtime can help you zero in on the right model.
With every major manufacturer offering their own version of an electric truck, you now have more options than ever before. Connecting with an approved, local dealer will be crucial for understanding the current state of the ZE truck market and the timelines needed to complete and receive orders. Your local dealer can also assist with cost comparisons between different products and break down lifetime costs as compared to your conventionally fueled vehicles.
Another useful resource for learning about the ZEV market is the Zero-Emission Technology Inventory (ZETI) tool, which is an online resource used for cataloging worldwide commercially available offerings of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. ZETI provides comprehensive information, including regions where certain brands are available for purchase, timelines for future models, and model specifications and details.
Questions for your local dealer:
- What ZEV do you have to match my current fleet needs?
- What is the timeline for purchasing and receiving my new electric truck?
- How does the lifetime cost of a new electric truck compare to my diesel truck?
CAPITALIZE ON INCENTIVE PROGRAMS
To accelerate and facilitate the adoption of ZE trucks, many organizations and local governments offer voucher incentive programs on vehicles proven to reduce air pollution and support local climate change goals.
For example, the California Air Resource Board maintains the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). HVIP offers point-of-sale vouchers to help make advanced vehicles more affordable. By funding over 7,000 vehicle purchases and delivering an average of 20% in price savings, HVIP has helped fleets invest in ZEVs at a fraction of the cost. Visit the Alternative Fuels Data Center to search for federal and state incentive programs in your area.
Knowing what incentives are available in your area and how you might qualify for them can paint a clearer picture of what to expect to pay when you are ready to transition. Some programs even offer additional incentives if you operate in a community particularly vulnerable to air pollution due to geographic and socioeconomic factors.
Questions for your local incentives program:
- What incentive programs do you offer for a fleet of my size?
- What do I need to do to qualify for the incentive program?
- When is the program open and what is the application deadline?
CO-BENEFITS AND BEYOND
Electric vehicles give truckers a cleaner, better smelling, and quieter driver experience, but they are not the only ones who stand to benefit from electric vehicle adoption. Cleaner trucks mean less air and noise pollution for all individuals working in and around truck yards. The ZEV transition will also bring new recruitment and retention opportunities, as well as business growth as more customers choose to prioritize companies with clean energy operations.
By answering key planning questions early on and understanding what is available in your region, setting realistic, manageable electrification goals becomes significantly easier and puts you on the path towards fleet efficiency, a more pleasant driving experience, and big savings.
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