Heavy duty electric trucks are already being tested on North American highways. Numerous original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are building medium and heavy duty battery electric trucks which are designed to reduce or eliminate harmful greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
We say reduce GHGs because about one third of the US electric power grid uses coal to generate electricity, clearly also producing harmful emissions. Thus, there are challenges to meet a point where all trucks are electrified.
Other roadblocks to wide range acceptance of electric trucks include high cost to purchase; large battery packs required in a tractor are very expensive and we have not seen data on how long they are likely to last.
So far, trucks have limited trip range due in part to the fact that an infrastructure of charging stations does not yet exist and charging is certain to add to trip time. Further, the required batteries add significant weight to a tractor or truck.
Some OEMs are building trucks using hydrogen fuel cell technology. This breakthrough uses hydrogen fuel that the fuel cell consumes to produce electricity to run an electric motor. It shows promise because the only thing that exits the exhaust pipe is water vapor. Yet often natural gas is used in hydrogen production, again producing GHGs.
Its current obstacles to wide range acceptance include the high price of hydrogen and lack of availability of the fuel. Making hydrogen more accessible must come from either pipelines or by trucking it – and pipelines are not very popular these days.
Nevertheless, North American governments appear to be onboard with trucking the fuel, even though it requires special trailers which will not come cheaply. Fuel cell tractors are expected to be heavier than diesel units because of the need for high pressure hydrogen fuel tanks.
Heavier Trucks and Tractors
Both battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks share the unenviable distinction of being significantly heavier than diesel tractors. Either strides need to be made in lowering the weight of trucks overall or we will see considerably lower payloads on these trucks.
And that will not bode well with fleets that surely will be forced to use these types of electrified transports in the not so distant future in the interest of going green. Trying to offset the high cost of electrified trucks through larger payloads is not yet seen as an option and may never be so.
What’s the Impact on Fleet Maintenance and Repair?
Battery electric trucks and hydrogen fuel cell trucks both operate with dangerously high voltage. Safety is a priority for shop personnel when working on these vehicles. Much information and even training will be available from OEMs regarding safe practices around electrified vehicles.
Some hand tools will need to be replaced with insulated options. Lineman’s gloves will likely be required when working on the electricals. Diagnosis of electricals will likely require special equipment.
Future trucks will be much the same as traditional diesel units. Trucks will still need regular scheduled maintenance. Absence of an engine replaced by a powerful motor will still require a cooling system, heating and air conditioning, power steering, lubrication, tires, wheels and brakes, air compressor, and others. Shops will need to reserve space for electric vehicles, perhaps in a single bay for now.
And technicians will need training on the new vehicles. Techs working on hydrogen fuel systems need to be very careful to follow recommended safe practices as hydrogen is highly flammable and electrics may cause sparks and arcing. Take no chances.
Leading Shop Management Software
At BrightOrder Inc. we’ve been working with fleets and shops for decades. And we’ve provided them with a management system using the internet since the 1990s. We’ve learned much during that time and work to continuously update our fleet maintenance and repair shop management system to streamline work for managers, technicians and back office personnel.
Our system is called EMDECS. Managers use it to generate a wide variety of critical reports for tracking analyticals. Create ROs digitally and issue work to techs without leaving your desk. Access past repairs onscreen with a few clicks. Create Preventive Maintenance schedules quickly and easily. Track tech job times in real time, eliminating costly errors.
No matter what powers your trucks –diesel, electric, or hydrogen- EMDECS can help you manage your shop. Contact us today for a demo.