With all the headlines in the news about switching the trucking industry to EVs; as a heavy-duty parts supplier for over 30 years we are continually seeking reliable insight into the future requirements of the industry we support.
The report titled “Charging Infrastructure Challenges for the U.S. Electric Vehicle Fleet“ by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) discusses the potential challenges of developing both the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) and the production of the EVs themselves for the trucking industry. The report also analyzes the current electrical infrastructure and identifies several challenges that must be addressed to facilitate the widespread adoption of EVs in the trucking industry. Other sources also investigate the current challenges that will need to be met to increase the EV market to include freight trucks.
The report discusses the state of the current electrical grid and the effect on demand the switch to EVs would have on this aging infrastructure and notes that based on what the light duty EV population was in the US in 2019; 26.3% of all the electricity produced went to charging EVs¹. According to the report, if full electrification is the goal, it would take an additional 1.6 billion kWh of electrical production each year. That is an over 40% increase to current levels solely to charge light, medium, and heavy-duty electric vehicles¹.
This is an incredible extra load on an aging electrical infrastructure. “It should be noted that an estimated 60% of distribution lines have outlived their 50-year life expectancy.”² Additionally the power stations currently providing power to the US are aging as well. With hydroelectric plants averaging over 65 years in age and coal fired plants averaging over 45 years³ in age. Another substantial infrastructure investment will be required to update/upgrade current power stations to handle the increase in demand. Currently some jurisdictions are already limiting Electric charging station installation permits due to the additional load on the current grid’s capacity.
The report also looks at vehicle production. With over 12 million freight trucks in the US⁴, replacing these vehicles with an electric equivalent will require a massive increase in lithium-ion battery product. This, in turn, means a massive increase in mining operations and processing of the minerals required to produce that many batteries. Current estimations run at over 300 additional mines within the continental United States⁵ to support this type of manufacturing increase. Meanwhile, these mining operations currently fight an uphill regulatory battle to obtain the permitting required to operate, due to numerous environmental concerns. Without an increase in mining, costs of the required minerals will continue to rise making it more difficult for companies to switch their fleets economically.
Lastly, the report finds that there is currently a significant lack of charging infrastructure available to support the deployment of EVs in the trucking industry. The report suggests that this lack of infrastructure is due in part to the high cost of deploying and maintaining charging stations, the difficulty of siting and permitting new charging stations, and the lack of available funding for charging infrastructure development.
What does it mean to truckers and the trucking industry today?
The report highlights several implications for truckers and the trucking industry today.
The current lack of charging infrastructure available to support the deployment of EVs in the trucking industry. This means that truckers who are considering transitioning to EVs may face limited options for charging their vehicles during long-haul trips, which could limit their ability to use EVs as a viable option for their operations.
Add the high cost of switching to an EV fleet due to the lack of mining operations and as a result, trucking companies may need to carefully evaluate the feasibility of EVs for their operations.
There are more than a few significant challenges to overcome before electrification of transportation fleets can be achieved. One thing that is very clear is that EVs will require a massive influx of funding by all parties involved if they are to slowly take over the trucking industry. With new technological developments in Hydrogen powered engines and advances in technologies such as Indirect Injection Diesel Engines (that are said to dramatically reduce emissions); there are sure to be several other potential alternatives to EVs for our industry to consider. The answers will become clearer over time as technology continues to find new and better ways to protect the environment without damaging industry and the economy.
*¹ U.S. Department of Energy, “Find and Compare Cars” (accessed on October 2022)*
*² Glen Anderson, Megan Cleveland, and Daniel Shea, Modernizing the Electric Grid: State Role and Policy Options, National Conference of State Legislatures (November 2019)*
*³ U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B)(updated on September 22, 2021)*
*⁴ “Charging Infrastructure Challenges for the U.S. Electric Vehicle Fleet”, prepared by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) December 2022*
*⁵ U.S. Congressman Tom McClintock, Natural Resources Committee (November 16, 2022)