Tesla's Electric truck driving down the highway

The Future of Electric Vehicles in the Trucking Industry

The electric vehicle market has made steps to further cement its position in consumers’ minds and has seen substantial demand in the American automotive market. With an increasing number of electric vehicles on the road each day and EV firms now producing electric alternatives in industries such as commercial transportation and aviation, it appears that electric alternatives are here to stay.

This article will offer some context and insight to what current electric vehicle trends could potentially mean for the future of the trucking industry, and will discuss the potential cost and benefits of Automotive technological innovation.

1. The Need for Electronic Commercial Transportation

The initial role of EV"s first started as a cleaner alternative to the general automotive market. With climate change becoming an ever-increasing concern, companies in the automotive industry have been developing alternative solutions that will reduce emissions.

When it comes to the trucking industry, the concern for carbon emissions is no different. During Tesla's showcase for their electric semi-truck products in 2017, Elon Musk claimed that 1/5 of all CO2 emissions in America comes from transport and of that, 29% of CO2 transport emissions comes from road haulage.

If accurate, this means that 6% of all greenhouse gasses can be attributed to the road haulage industry.

2. Tesla and PepsiCo Freight Case Study 

In 2017, PepsiCo purchased a fleet of Tesla branded electric semi-trucks, with Tesla claiming that these trucks had ranges up to 425 miles per charge. PepsiCo's initial order of 100 electric trucks has recently been fulfilled and has seen usage that at the time of the writing of this article, has been limited to the state of California.

Although there have been reports of these trucks having issues hitting this 425-mile range, specifically due to varying load weights. Also, PepsiCo's initial order of 100 trucks was significantly delayed due to technological issues during production.

3. The Cons of Electric Vehicles in Commercial Transportation

Although the use of electric vehicles in the trucking industry is an exciting future prospect, there are still concerns about their logistical feasibility. One concern with the use of EV trucks is that the required infrastructure in order to charge these vehicles is either lacking or non-existent. However, the Department of Transportation has recently committed funds to EV infrastructure, which will primarily be used for the construction of more charging stations across America.

This commitment was made in order to help ease the anxiety of potential safety risks and logistical problems facing EV use in the transportation industry and hopes to encourage the use of EV's as a whole in the future.  Another concern is how these EV's will perform under varying weight loads.

PepsiCo is currently using their electric trucks to transport light consumer goods, such as Frito Lay chips. But there is concern that these trucks will struggle to meet previous mileage promises when transporting heavier cargo, such as aluminum canned beverages.

Some also claim that the technology needed to reduce emissions significantly does not currently exist and will not be able to meet future emissions goals set by state legislators. 

Current commercial EV's are also expensive, unless incentivized to buy electric freight trucks, this will exclude a sizable amount of owner-operators and companies from anti-emission efforts.

4. The Benefits of Electric Vehicles in Commercial Transportation

The main benefit for EV's in commercial transportation is that they will reduce the carbon footprint and CO2 emissions that can be attributed to road haulage. If widely adopted by logistics companies and transportation branches, the switch to EV's will significantly reduce the emissions that the trucking industry currently produces. 

Switching to EV's may also be more cost efficient in the long run. Depending on the state, the use of EV's may allow you to take advantage of government incentives and tax benefits. The cost of fuel with EV's is also irrelevant, which will help fleets and owner operators avoid inconsistent gas prices that the country has seen for the past couple years. 

With EV's, there is the potential for future innovations that can aid the general driving experience. Autonomous driving features have been a widely debated topic in the EV industry for years now and people have shifted that debate to include the use of autonomous vehicles in trucking. While the main concern with autonomous driving is the potential safety hazards with it, many wonder what autonomous driving will mean for the truck driving job market. 

This is a valid concern, but the technology for autonomous driving has not been developed enough where it is feasible in a normal driving situation, let alone commercial freight. The most likely scenario is autonomous driving technology being produced to be an active aid to the driver, and not a substitute. 

With driver fatigue being the leading cause of commercial transportation incidents, autonomous vehicles have potential to make commercial driving less hazardous in the future.

5. What's Next for the Trucking Industry? 

The future of EV use in the commercial transportation industry could be both an exciting and stressful prospect for owner-operators and truck fleets. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, the widespread adoption of commercial EV's is not yet feasible due to the lack of national infrastructure to support it as well as the lack of technological innovations that will make commercial EV use advantageous. 

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