Local and regional agencies have been working to promote and implement commercial electric vehicle infrastructure, according to experts at a recent North American Council for Freight Efficiency workshop discussion. These efforts come as Congress is also working toward proposals for national electric vehicle charging infrastructure–which is also part of President Biden’s current American Jobs Plan.
“There are lots of different options for how these vehicles will be charged,” said Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carbon-Free Mobility program senior associate, Jessie Lund. “I will note: [Almost] all of the charging we are seeing, with a couple of exceptions, is fleet depot-based charging.”
For this kind of charging, sites could include areas like truck stops, rest areas on toll roads, interstate rest areas, warehouses, stores, shared-card-lock locations, or ports.
“There is a whole plethora of options,” Lund added. “Some may have some challenges, such as interstate rest areas where it’s illegal to do commerce. So that is probably not a great option for the near-term future.”
If three particular conditions are met, some trucking industry experts believe that electric vehicle deployment for commercial fleets will grow rapidly. These conditions include the accessibility of charging for the public, electric grid resiliency that can handle more demand, and overall truck availability in regards to a positive total cost of ownership.
“Truck OEMs are responsible for the trucks and the servicing, and are addressing this with technological innovation,” said Daimler Trucks North America’s vice president of product compliance, Sean Waters.
In it’s recently-released top research priorities list for 2021, the American Transportation Research Institute included an industry-wide focus on electric truck deployment and the attention needed for infrastructure capabilities and updates to accommodate it.
“Incentives, like Section 45 in the Clean Energy for America Act, also are critical to spur the early adoption of zero-emission vehicles,” added Waters. “Similarly, to support a nationwide charging infrastructure, a vast coalition of players will need to participate in order to identify where to place charging infrastructure, ensure common standards and resiliency, and to help fund its creation.
To help this move forward in the way it should, federal backing is a must, he added.
“The federal government’s support for all of the above will be required in order to create a universally accessible, cohesive, [and] nationwide experience viable for the nation’s fleets,” said Waters.
Commercial truckers would be granted a 30% credit for their electric vehicle purchase through Section 45 in the Clean Energy for America Act, and such credits would last until electric vehicles are determined to comprise more than half of all vehicle sales each year.
Non-profit organization Calstart, which works toward clean transportation technology expansion, has been collaborating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate nearly 150 sites along Interstate 5 down the West Coast for potential infrastructure for alternative fuel methods. As of now, this evaluation includes 62 sites for depot and public charging infrastructure.
“We are going to need not only partner collaboration, but also finding resources to really support being able to build out that infrastructure,” said Calstart’s senior director of clean fuels and infrastructure, Alycia Gilde.
Calstart has also been working toward analyzing what is needed for an efficient EV Infrastructure electric grid to exist along that corridor.
“We wanted to understand, where do we anticipate the transition to zero-emission vehicles, the traffic, and throughput in terms of where we should be prioritizing infrastructure?” said Gilde. “For example, at truck stops…and then understanding what is the current load, and what additional load do we need in order to support electrification along I-5?”
According to Gilde, 27 sites will be able to be planned for medium-duty charging along the interstate corridor, and then eventually placed at every other site location for heavy-duty truck charging.
Natso, a truck stop- and travel plaza-representing trade group, is also aiming to boost electric vehicle charging station numbers across the country through National Highway Charging Collaborative group efforts.
“We have the real estate and the amenities,” said Natso’s vice president of government relations, David Fialkov. “We know what drivers want.”
Fialkov added that Natso and its industry are ready to collaborate with Congress, the utility sector, and state and local governments to push forward these innovative efforts.
“Utilities are enthusiastic about these projects,” added Peter Thomas, commercial business deployment manager at Electrify Commercial, a company which customizes programs for electric vehicle charging.