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The 5 'WHYS' of Electric Trucks (plus 5 why nots)

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By James Carter

· 3 min read

There is much discussion about electric trucks, however there's huge advantages of going electric, with down sides that can be managed and improved with new technology.


Typically around 80% of the cost of operation of trucks over a 7 year / 700,000 mile life are variable costs - energy, maintenance and driver the big ones.

While a BEV truck has higher initial capital cost than a diesel truck, its total costs are much lower as it cuts energy expenses by ~60% and maintenance by ~50%. Tesla says this could be a $200,000 saving per truck.

At today's hydrogen prices, an FCEV truck will cost ~10x more in energy costs vs BEV trucks.

Resource Efficiency and Pollution

Electric trucks are zero emission at vehicle, meaning a huge difference in air quality vs diesel trucks - especially a problem as diesel trucks age.

Even with the average CO2 electricity emissions in US, total CO2 is cut significantly with BEV trucks, and dramatically so when running on renewable energy dominant grids.

Capability and Safety

Electric trucks offer 100% torque at 0 rpm, offering exceptional hauling characteristics. Low mounted batteries in tractors and instantaneous drive response makes them so much safer in slippery conditions. They are also much quieter and easier to drive.

Technology Pathway

We're just getting started with battery technology, and the pathway ahead with new battery types such as solid state, bi-polar and new chemistries will improve energy density, cycle life and safety.
This will allow trucks to be lighter and operate for longer.

Infrastructure Investment

Our friends at WattEV, Inc. are investing heavily in truck charging infrastructure, with their first station at Bakersfield, California now under construction. They will be joined by other major roll outs in North America and Europe.

The WHY NOTS (and why they aren't so bad)


Heavy batteries are often cited as a problem, but 75% of loads are well below 80,000lb Gross Vehicle Weight limit of Class 8 trucks, meaning most loads aren't impacted.

What's more, battery energy density is constantly improving, and some expect that a Tesla Semi 300 will weigh LESS than a diesel.


Long haul trucking is a relatively small component of total truck miles today. Range for battery electric vehicles is improving all the time, with Tesla Semi 500 expected to offer well north of 500 miles range in good conditions. This will improve with battery technology advances.

Recharging Time

Truck recharging with today's CCS takes much longer than diesel or hydrogen trucks. However, the coming Megawatt Charging Standard will allow trucks to charge to 80% in under 30 minutes.

Depot charging allows trucks to be charged overnight, with no down time, or requirement for drivers to stop at rest stops on short routes.

WattEV will offer both depot charging and ultrafast charging.

This article is also published on the author's page. Illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

James Carter is the Principal Consultant for Vision Mobility and co founder of Action Events​. Previously he worked in sales and product planning in Toyota.

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