Trucking lobbies for seat at EV-charging table


Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg left the Beltway and hit the road last week to promote the formal unveiling of the Biden administration’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula program that was established by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law signed by the president in November.
The law sets aside $5 billion over five years for the program. That money is apportioned to every state. The legislation also includes $2.5 billion for a separate competitive grant program. Both are aimed at the administration’s goal of deploying 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations by 2030.
“The president’s [legislation] will help us win the EV race by working with states, labor and the private sector to deploy a historic nationwide charging network that will make EV charging accessible for more Americans,” Buttigieg asserted in promoting the law.
With zero emissions being the long-term goal of almost every sector of the economy, much of the long-haul trucking industry wants to make sure it’s at the table as government coffers begin to release the money that will fund the charging network.
It’s particularly important for the heavy-duty long-haul market — the one segment in commercial trucking for which virtually all vehicles will require access to a public charging network because they do not routinely return to the same location for overnight parking.
Big bang theory
Because diesel truck emissions have an outsize effect on the environment, dedicating federal funds for EV truck charging should be a given, according to one expert.
“To me, it’s a very logical extension of the goal of trying to decarbonize,” Ann Rundle, vice president, electrification and autonomy at ACT Research, told FreightWaves. “There’s more vehicle miles traveled on [on average per vehicle] in commercial trucking than in the passenger sector, so you’re going to get a bigger bang for your buck by having dedicated infrastructure for commercial vehicles.”
Almost half of the greenhouse gasses from the entire medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fleet are emitted by combination tractor-trailers used in long-haul service, according to an environmental consultancy (see table). This segment of the trucking market also accounts for over 40% of medium- and heavy-duty tailpipe nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emitted in urban areas. Regional-haul tractors account for an additional 12% of GHGs and a similar percentage of urban tailpipe NOx and PM emissions.
U.S. in-use medium- and heavy-duty fleet environmental impact.
VMT=vehicle miles traveled; PM=particulate matter.
Source: M.J. Bradley & Associates.
“Access to charging infrastructure is critical to accelerate the decarbonization of freight movement,” Ashleigh de la Torre, public policy director for Amazon [NASDAQ: AMZN], stated in recent comments submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
De la Torre said that achieving “Shipment Zero,” Amazon’s initiative to deliver 50% of Amazon’s shipments with net-zero carbon by 2030, will mean ensuring that its entire fulfillment supply chain for customer shipments produces net-zero carbon.
‘Semi-private’ stations
Amazon’s comments were among over 400 received by FHWA, which the agency solicited over the past two months to help develop guidance for the administration’s two EV charging initiatives.
Amazon recommended that each state be encouraged to set aside a portion of its EV charging program funds (see top-5 table) for installing infrastructure suitable for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs). “States should place a high priority on installing infrastructure that will accelerate the adoption of electric HDVs, especially class 8 trucks (gross vehicle weight greater than 33,000 lbs.),” de la Torre said.
De la Torre also pointed to a provision in the infrastructure law stating that funds for EV charging be open to the general public “or to authorized commercial motor vehicle operators from more than one company,” what Amazon terms “semi-private” charging stations accessible only to trucks.
“Infrastructure that is open to the general public is unlikely to provide the level of charging availability necessary to accommodate commercial operations,” the company noted.
State 2022 funding Texas $60,356,706 California $56,789,406 Florida $29,315,442 New York $25,971,644 Pennsylvania $25,386,631 Top 5 states ranked by EV charging program funding.
Source: U.S. DOT
“Semi-private EV charging stations can guarantee available charging capacity to commercial fleets and accommodate their longer charging times. Predictable and driver-friendly charging schedules will promote faster adoption of electric HDVs by fleets. States should be encouraged to fund semi-private charging station projects to help accelerate the conversion of freight fleets from diesel to electric.”
The American Trucking Associations agreed that each state should allocate a fixed percentage of funds toward the build-out of heavy-duty truck charging infrastructure. But the association, which represents the country’s largest truckload carriers, recommended that FHWA also consider how to provide charging infrastructure to the 97% of trucking companies that are defined as small businesses.
“Without the financial means to install chargers, let alone the high price of EV power units, roughly one-third of small trucking companies will be extremely challenged to play in the electrification space,” ATA asserted.
Deployment jump-start
While the $7.5 billion in federal funds will not address what is needed when full demand for EV charging hits, “it can inspire intentional deployment to bridge infrastructure gaps, provide equitable access to resources, and create innovative public-private partnerships,” according to Volvo Group.
The company recommended that states consider co-locating charging infrastructure alongside existing facilities. “Proximity to the highway, amenities at the site, truck volumes, convenience stores with bathrooms and distance to the next charging facility are important considerations when selecting locations.”
Nikola Corp. [NASDAQ: NKLA], which signed a multiyear deal in January with battery maker Proterra Inc. to use Proterra battery packs in its electric trucks, is also building a network of hydrogen production and fueling stations to support its fuel-cell EVs. The company agreed that to further accelerate the adoption of its vehicles, a “robust network” of recharging and refueling solutions is required.
Watch: EV short-term needs
“As the market for zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles grows, we would encourage the FHWA to consider mechanisms that fund a station for its ‘lag’ in demand in the early marketplace” as a way to incentivize the building of larger-capacity hydrogen fuel stations during the first several years when facilities will be underutilized, Nikola recommended.
High-power challenge
“At the outset, it’s going to take a considerable amount of time to charge a truck to any capacity, and the concern is creating bottlenecks of trucks at charging stations trying to get charged,” Wiley Deck, vice president of government affairs and public policy at self-driving truck technology company Plus, told FreightWaves.
Because of their weight and range requirements, large EVs require up to 10 times more power than passenger vehicles, according to Ideanomics [NASDAQ: IDEX] subsidiary Wave LLC, which develops high-power wireless charging solutions for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
In comments to FHWA, Wave Product Marketing Manager Jory Peppelaar said that for the additional power needed for heavy trucks, cables for manually operated plug-in chargers would become too heavy and require liquid cooling. And automated overhead chargers become a collision risk when servicing large vehicles.
Wave claims it can solve the problem with its high-power charging equipment, which is embedded in the roadway.
A 500kW extreme fast-charging system, which can charge a Class 8 truck in 15 minutes, will be deployed this year, according to Peppelaar. “Wireless charging will be critical to the successful decarbonization of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and should be accounted for in the FHWA’s plans,” he said.
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