E-Commerce Will Drive Electric Heavy-Duty Truck Adoption

March 08, 2022 by Trucks.com, @trucksdotcom

Editor’s note: Written by Saloni Walimbe of Global Market Insights, a market research firm. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.

The onset of the COVID 19 created a massive shift in consumer purchase behavior worldwide. This is evident from the profound rise in digital shopping and the subsequent surge in e-commerce deliveries.

According to a World Economic Forum report, consumer e-commerce deliveries rose by 25 percent in 2020. Of this growth, 10 percent to 20 percent will continue even after the crisis has ceased. That is good for the heavy-duty truck market given trucking’s role in transporting freight in the e-commerce ecosystem.

Trucking is a linchpin for the global economy. The American Trucking Associations estimates it is responsible for the movement of 72 percent of all consumed goods in the U.S. Heavy-duty commercial trucks are crucial in the supply chain network. Each product moving from ports or factories to customers’ doorsteps is transported via road at some point, creating significant opportunities for the heavy-duty truck market, which is set to exceed $450 billion by 2027, according to Global Market Insights Inc.

While overseas freight transport is more reliant on services like maritime or air cargo, domestic freight transport relies more on trucking. To maintain their strong position in the logistics ecosystem, heavy trucking businesses are making major efforts to improve their functions, by using improved equipment and advanced GPS routes to speed up delivery times.

Electric Heavy-Duty Truck Adoption And Construction

Stringent lockdown measures imposed by governments across the globe during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 triggered massive upheaval across the economic landscape. One of the industries most impacted by these protocols was the construction industry, which faced significant setbacks stemming from project delays and a dearth of labor.

The industry is rebounding as regulatory authorities and governments continue to ramp up investment in infrastructure development and accelerate the transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

With these developments, the scope of heavy trucking will improve. Construction is one of the most prominent application areas for the heavy-duty truck industry. Government initiatives to improve global infrastructures as part of a post-pandemic economic revival strategy will yield significant innovation in high-performance heavy trucks over the years.

Companies like Denmark-based Unicon for instance, are making strong efforts to introduce electric heavy-duty commercial trucks for the movement of crucial construction products such as concrete, which is considered among the most difficult industries to electrify. In February 2022, the company announced plans to place an order for 11 Volvo VM Electric heavy-duty truck models, the largest private single order in the nation. As part of a long-term collaboration between Unicon and Volvo Trucks, will convert the electric trucks into concrete mixers to use in  Denmark. That will push the development of advanced electrified heavy trucking solutions for concrete transport.

Electrification Of North American Transportation Sector

For the past two decades, sustainability has become a major pain point for the logistics ecosystem in North America. Freight transport vehicles, specifically heavy goods vehicles are among the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for almost 14.5 percent of the total oil consumption in the U.S.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates suggest that these vehicles represent nearly a quarter of the overall GHG emissions of the transportation sector.

While the definition of green logistics is somewhat ambiguous, a prominent part of the concept is the mitigation of carbon emissions via electrification. A complete transition to hybrid or electric vehicles is a work in progress.

Volvo Trucks is one of the most prominent heavy trucking businesses leading the charge in the deployment of tailpipe emission-free trucks worldwide. This is evident from the company’s recent efforts in North America, where it introduced an improved version of its Class 8 Volvo VNR Electric heavy-duty truck, with faster 250kW charging functionality and over 85 percent increase in range.

General Motors also is moving forward with the electrification of smaller trucks. The company had initially planned for the heavy-duty pickup trucks to go electric in 2040, in line with its aim to become carbon neutral. However, in January, the automaker announced that the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty pickup truck models would become fully electric by 2035, in line with plans for the rest of the light-duty product lineup.

Collaborative Efforts

Many organizations have also started to make collaborative efforts to build strong charging infrastructures to support the development of cleaner, fuel-efficient electric heavy-duty trucks. For instance, NFI Industries and Electrify America announced their intention to install a new network of fast-charging stations for electric heavy-duty trucks, fitted with 34 ultra-fast DC chargers. The project, slated for completion in December 2023, is part of Electrify America and NFI’s broader strategy to tackle the negative repercussions of emissions from the heavy trucking industry across Los Angeles.

Over the years, road transport has evolved at a breakneck pace, becoming far more complex than before, with many freight transport businesses having to double up their efforts to keep up with ever-increasing transport volumes and high driving power requirements. In this scenario, the development of sustainable heavy-duty trucking solutions has become imperative to pave the way for a more sustainable and carbon-free road freight outlook in the future.

Editor’s note: Trucks.com welcomes divergent thoughts and opinions on transport technology and trucking industry issues. Use the comments section to cite yours. Qualified opinion leaders are welcome to offer suggestions for opinion columns. Contact info@trucks.com.

Jerry Hirsch April 26, 2021
Volvo Trucks is pushing rapidly into heavy-duty electric trucks and believes that they could be accounting for half its sales in some markets.
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