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Electric trucks – the EVolution of telematics and connected transport

Edward Kulperger, VP Europe, Geotab, on the factors fleets should consider when looking at electric commercial vehicles.

It may still be early in the transition, but the signs are clear: Europe is leading the global charge towards electric vehicles (EVs). In the UK, figures from the SMMT suggest that EVs and hybrids command a modest share of the UK market at almost 7%, while registrations of battery electric vehicles have jumped by over 80% in the last 12 months.

But what about the commercial vehicle market?

The future of electric transport

With the internal combustion engine’s prevalence on our roads slowly fading, the dual thrust of compliance necessity and commercial opportunity have seen huge numbers of businesses thrown into ‘planning mode’ when it comes to going green.

This planning has business owners and fleet managers alike addressing new regulations and looking to dramatically reduce their fleet’s running costs and environmental impact. As a result, it won’t be long until electric trucks and vans are a common sight on our roads. Geotab’s own research found that 89% of UK fleets expect to go electric before 2030, with nine in 10 fleet managers believing EVs will have a dominant role in their fleets over the next decade.

One such regulation is the 2020 climate and energy package – legislation to ensure the EU meets its climate and energy targets for the year 2020. With aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 20%, ensure 20% of EU energy is from renewables and drive a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, it’s great to see the EU taking action. Alongside this, in the UK specifically, the Government is also working hard to hit the Net Zero carbon target by 2050. Yet, despite these targets, the private sector must also play a part in the transition – creating a greener fleet economy will be critical if we are to continue making progress.

Considerations before electrification

Before making the switch to electric trucks, there are a number of important factors for fleet managers to consider:

  • Maximum range – by looking at the maximum range a combustion vehicle completes in one day, fleet managers are able to choose what kind of EV they require. Range anxiety is often cited as a main reason for fleets having not electrified however, having access to range data through a telematics device, for example, can put this anxiety to rest.
  • Running costs – it’s vital for organisations to understand the current costs associated with the vehicles they are looking to replace. While the initial high cost of electric trucks could be putting off some businesses, it’s important to note that, with lower running costs thanks to the efficiency and affordability of electricity and the lower maintenance overhead of electric drivetrains, it costs less to run them than a conventional truck.
  • Vehicle dwell – the purchase and implementation of charging infrastructure is often difficult to assess at the outset of electrification. It is therefore important to implement an infrastructure strategy based on accurate data which ensures fleet vehicles are able to charge to 100% during their dwell time, thereby maximising per-vehicle productivity.
  • Vehicle suitability assessment – a telematics solution can help businesses truly understand all three of the above considerations. By using fleet data to create accurate reports, organisations can evaluate their current fleet and create a procurement plan to help electrify.

Electric trucks of the future

With momentum gathering and most fleet managers now looking to go green, early EV movers like Tesla are continuing to lead the way from a technical perspective. The company claims its electric offering, the Tesla Semi (with a range of either 300 or 500 miles) boasts electric energy costs of just under half of that of diesel. But other manufacturers are close behind in the race to electrification with the Fuso eCanter, Volvo Vera, Hyundai Fuel Cell Electric Truck, Renault Master ZE and Mercedes-Benz eActros all hot on the heels of Tesla. With most of these trucks under development or in the testing phase, it won’t be long before we are seeing them on our roads. Indeed, UPS are already making major moves to electrify their globally ubiquitous fleet, including a significant partnership with Thor, yet another firm in the race.

Unlike the false dawns we have seen for EVs in the past, all the right cogs are now turning to make positive and lasting change. And of course, data-driven solutions such as telematics devices are the foundation on which that new ecosystem will thrive – allowing the likes of fleet managers to help usher in an electric, connected, sustainable future for our mobility ecosystem.