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Sunday September 23, 2018 Electric Cargo Movers The VW Dieselgate scandal had a very big impact on the battle to clean up our air.  It made many people realize that diesel was not a clean technology; that clean diesel was an oxymoron.  The result is that instead of embracing diesel governments around the world, especially in Europe, are now looking to ban it altogether.  Diesel trucks are the mainstay of cargo handling and so alternatives have to be found.

 

The city of Los Angeles was somewhat of a leader here.  They began studying alternatives to diesel for their bus fleet in the 1970s and in the 1990s they began to convert the entire fleet to Compressed Natural Gas,  Santa Monica also converted their fleet of buses at the same time.  CNG is much cleaner than Diesel but does little to reduce the amount of CO2 being pumped into the air.  Los Angeles is already looking to replace these busses with electric busses over the next few years.

In the first phase of electric vehicles brought on by the California ZEV mandate GM and Ford both rolled out a pick-up truck as one of their vehicles.  The Chevy S10E and Ford Range EV were both little more than conversions of existing pickup truck models but they were pretty popular with municipalities.  In Europe both Renault and Peugeot/Citron built electric vans based on existing gas models.  While GM and Ford abandoned their pickups the European manufacturers continued to produce and sell their vans even after their sedan offerings were withdrawn.

 

After the Tesla Roadster launched the second round of EV building Ford had Azure Dynamics build an electric version of their Transit Connect van which went on Sale in 2011.  It was expensive, did not sell well, and was eventually abandoned in favor of the plug-in versions of Focus, Fusion, and C-Max sedans.

British electric vehicle maker Smith established a presence here in the US with a couple of local delivery truck models and sold some to companies like Staples.  Smith  eventually went out of business and the sale of these trucks came to an end.  In Europe, where small vans are more common, Renault continued to sell an electric version of their Kangoo van and Peugeot also sold a small number of electric versions of the Partner and Berlingo vans.  Nissan also entered the field with an electric version of its popular NV200 van.  They have just launched an updated version of this Van with a range of over 100 miles and sales are already up 148% this year.  Tesla says it is working on an electric pick-up truck but so far there is no indication about when this will be available for sale. 

 

In the US two companies have been working on the van/pickup truck space vacated by the major manufacturers.  Via Motors, who make a plug-in hybrid van and pickup truck based on gliders from GM, and Workhorse, who have a line of plug-in Pickup trucks, have both  seen some sales in the fleet market but can't produce in the volumes required to reach  economies of scale that bring down costs low enough for non-fleet buyers.  Both have sold vehicles but both have also been very quite about just how many vehicles they have sold.

 

Other companies have also seen the light and have been working on electric trucks for some time now.  The electric semi truck market really came into focus when Tesla announced the Tesla Semi.  They didn't just have a mockup concept vehicle but had actual running vehicles at the reveal event, and since then the semi has been spotted on several occasions being tested on the open road and at Tesla Supercharger sites.

 

Other manufactures are sitting up and taking notice, revealing vehicles that were already in development at the time of the Tesla announcement and stating to get them production ready.  We have seen medium duty trucks and garbage trucks from Volvo and semi trucks from Mercedes-Benz, Cummings, VW and Freightliner.  There are also a few startups that have shown products in various stages of production readiness such as Nikola, Embark, Otto, Waymo and PACCAR.

 

Some of these appear to be focused on autonomous vehicles and even Volvo just showed a semi truck with no cab so it cannot be driven by a human driver.  Most of these are still in the early stages of development but things are moving fast in the autonomous vehicle space so we may see these vehicles on the road, at least in testing, in the near future.

 

Japanese and Korean companies seem to be placing their money on hydrogen still.  Hyundai have just announced that they are building a fleet of 1,000 fuel  cell powered trucks that will begin operating in Switzerland starting next year.  Toyota have also been testing a prototype fuel cell truck around the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles here in Southern California. 

 

It seems to me that Tesla has the jump on most of the competition as they already have a network of fast charging stations set up that can handle the needs of their semi trucks allowing them to do long haul service, assuming they can begin manufacture of these ahead of the competition.  Most of the other manufacturers will need to build out infrastructure to make their vehicles work for long haul jobs.  The exception is Volvo which should be able to find a ready market for their medium duty trucks and garbage trucks.  I expect to see the move from diesel to electric begin to accelerate over the next few years.


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