The Evolution of Electric Logistics

The Evolution of Electric Logistics

Logistics/Delivery person sign

In 2019, medium- and heavy-duty trucks made up almost a quarter of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the US. Transportation, in turn, makes up almost 30% of the 2019 US GHG emissions. In short, trucking is a big deal in the world of tailpipe pollution. But it isn’t always going to be that way. That’s because the world of logistics is changing, and like everything else, it’s doing it fast! Sure hope you’re ready to see some electric trucks and delivery vehicles soon. Electric logistics is the way of the future!

WHAT DOES ELECTRIC LOGISTICS MEAN, EXACTLY?

We’re often talking about two different kinds of logistics. The first is the kind noted above: medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Most people think of big semis doing long hauls on highways. The other is last-mile vehicles. These are used by postal delivery drivers and local companies. They could be larger rigs, like box trucks or 4×2 and 6×2 cabs, or delivery vans.

ELECTRIFIED FLEET CHARGING

Most companies aren’t looking at long-haul electrification yet. For the moment, especially in the US, the infrastructure for long-haul truck charging just isn’t ready. There aren’t enough truck stops for electric trucks. So, companies are looking at last-mile deliveries because these trucks work on shorter routes. They can organize their delivery schedules to make sure drivers will complete all deliveries on a single charge. Nobody will have to worry about charging because they can keep their fleet management in-house. They’ll do all their EV charging on-site overnight.

Some companies are developing their own charging solutions for electric logistics fleets, but most are working with external providers. One of the most important considerations of fleet charging is the ability to deliver enough power to the available vehicles. If the power isn’t consistent, logistics companies will find themselves with undercharged vehicles during working hours. Therefore, charging companies need to be able to scale operations and offer load balancing so all vehicles get the power they need without having to be moved in the middle of the night.

BUT HOW FAR CAN ONE OF THESE Electric TRUCKS ACTUALLY DELIVER? 

Will companies have to buy more EVs than gas-powered vehicles to make up for a limited range? Almost all EV adopters run up against “range anxiety” – the fear of an EV running out of power and being stranded. However, modern electrified cars, trucks, and vans continually see improvements in the available range. In fact, this is so true, that big companies like UPS, Amazon, and FedEx have committed to electrifying their entire fleets. Here, then, are 5 companies offering electric logistics options for the modern world.

ELECTRIC TRUCKS

There are, of course, other trucks than these announced and coming soon. However, these two companies are ready to put rubber to the road in a way that’s going to change the landscape of logistics.

VOLVO

Volvo has been active in electric trucking in Europe for several years. However, they’re just getting starting to break into the US market. The company offers the FM, FMX, and FH electric heavy-duty trucks. All three offer up to 185 miles in range and can accept up to 490kW in power. Their medium-duty trucks – FL, FE, and VNR – vary in their ranges.

Who’s Buying? In the US, Quality Custom Distribution, a national foodservice logistics supplier, has committed to leasing 14 of the VNR electric trucks.

DAIMLER

According to their own press release, Daimler aims to have electric trucks available in all of their main sales regions by next year (2022). Specifically, they’re planning to offer electrified logistics solutions in the light-, medium-, and heavy-duty categories.

Who’s Buying? As of yet, only the light-duty FUSO eCanter is available in the US.

Volvo Electric Trucks
Volvo Electric Trucks
Daimler Electric Trucks
Daimler Electric Trucks

ELECTRIC DELIVERY VANS

Rivian

Rivian made quite a splash when it landed a giant order for delivery vans custom-made for Amazon. At the moment, Amazon plans to transition its fleet to all-electric, aiming for 100,000 vehicles by 2030. The vans designed by Rivian focus on keeping a friendly “face” for people to see as the cars will be everywhere. They have also made sure that the delivery vehicles take drivers’ comfort and safety into account in an attempt to minimize driver turnover.

Who’s Buying? Unsurprisingly, the biggest name for Rivian is Amazon, but that’s one heck of a name!

GM

The Brightdrop EV600 is GM’s answer to electric delivery vans. It’s a slick, clean body with up to 250 miles of usable range. This EV logistics option should be officially released in the US in late 2021. That said, it looks like the first 500 Brightdrop EV600s have already been spoken for.

Who’s Buying? Those first 500 vans are going straight to FedEx to help electrify part of their North American fleet.

Arrival

Like Rivian, Arrival is a newcomer to vehicle production. This little UK startup is working to create its first vehicles for the market. Also, like Rivian, we can probably expect to hear a lot more about them due to their having taken a large order of electric vehicles for a well-known logistics player: UPS. The vans ought to have about 150 miles of range on a single charge. The body was developed with lots of input from UPS, but it looks like they’ll be made available to the market (however, good luck trying to get one in that iconic brown).

Who’s Buying? UPS has put in an order for 10,000 of Arrival’s electric delivery vans. This isn’t a full fleet replacement, but it’s a big move in the electric direction.

Electric Amazon Delivery Van
Amazon Electric Van by Rivian
Electric FedEx Delivery Van
FedEx Electric Van by GM
Electric UPS Delivery Van
UPS Electric Van by Arrival

The electrification of logistics vehicles isn’t coming – it’s here! Time will only bring more and more options to market. While newcomers like Rivian and Arrival are shaking things up in terms of rethinking delivery vans, legacy companies will not be left behind. Expect to see more electric vans in your neighborhood. Also, as the infrastructure improves to support them, we’re going to be seeing a lot more electric semis on highways. They’ll make for quieter, cleaner roads and clearer air. 

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