BEV trucking looks to overcome infrastructure challenges
Risk of a chicken-and-egg situation in e-truck adoption and requisite infrastructure
Assessing the business case for electric trucks is difficult to estimate because they have different operational and maintenance costs to passenger EVs, according to Carl-Adam Wahlstedt, business owner of Scania charging access at Swedish truck firm Scania.
Electric charging networks for passenger vehicles are more advanced in terms of commercial deployment, giving vehicle operators a good idea what their running costs will be.
But heavy duty trucks operate differently, and more frequently, requiring larger volumes of energy than passenger vehicles.
“This is the main issue for operators; it can become difficult to assess the business case. For example, they do not know how much to budget for maintenance costs, or what the utilisation will be,” says Wahlstedt, quoted in a report by law firm DLA Piper on the future of electric vehicles.
To help address this issues Scania’s parent company Traton Group invested in a joint venture with Germany's Daimler Trucks and Sweden's Volvo Group to install a public charging network of 1,700 chargers for electric trucks across Europe.
“The purpose was to show that it is possible and establish a benchmark for the industry,” says Wahlstedt.
The growth of this and other charging networks is already starting to bear fruit in Europe.
“We clearly see the change in attitude and interest from the markets when presenting easy-to-use solutions for their EV journey,” adds Wahlstedt.
Rollout is being helped by new EU laws passed earlier this year requiring government to provide at least 3,600kW of truck charging capacity every 60km along the EU’s primary motorways by 2030.
Difficult down under
In Australia — where infrastructure rollout is even slower than in Europe and no such mandates exist — operators and investors face an even tougher challenge, according to Anthony Headlam, CEO of charging infrastructure firm Newvolt, quoted in the same report.
“The primary challenge in terms of attracting capital is that investors have no reference points within the Australian market, and very few internationally for this asset class,” says Headlam.
As with the Scania joint venture, Newvolt is trying to demonstrate to the market that there is a commercially viable model for the technology.
“We think an important part of our job as an infrastructure developer is working out a commercial model that enables capital deployment in the context of inherent uptake uncertainty in a new market,” Headlam says.
Newvolt’s commercial model is structured to enable it to secure long-term charging services agreements with fleet operators ahead of time.
“This allows us to lock in contracted revenue, which gives revenue certainty to investors and supports our ability to build the infrastructure,” Headlam explains.
But fleet operators looking to deploy electric trucks in Australia will still have to compete for limited production slots with operators in other regions.
“This is where the government can be helpful. EV adoption targets help to telegraph the intention of the country globally,” says Headlam.