The Economic Upside of Electric Trucks
A company looking to purchase an electric-powered delivery truck today will likely experience some sticker shock: Such a vehicle costs nearly $150,000, compared to about $50,000 for the same kind of truck with a standard internal-combustion engine.
However, using electric vehicles can markedly lower the costs of a fleet of delivery trucks. That’s the conclusion of a new MIT study showing that electric vehicles are not just environmentally friendly, but also have a potential economic upside for many kinds of businesses.
The study, conducted by researchers at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL), finds that electric vehicles can cost 9 to 12 percent less to operate than trucks powered by diesel engines, when used to make deliveries on an everyday basis in big cities.
“There has to be a good business case if there is going to be more adoption of electric vehicles,” says Jarrod Goentzel, director of the Renewable Energy Delivery Project at CTL and one of four co-authors of the new study. “We think it’s already a viable economic model, and as battery costs continue to drop, the case will only get better.”
Another of the paper’s co-authors, Clayton Siegert, a 2009 graduate of the CTL’s master’s of engineering in logistics program and a member of the Renewable Energy Delivery Project, presented the results in January at the IEEE Power and Energy Society Innovative Smart Grid Technologies Conference, in Washington. The paper will be published in a volume of the conference’s proceedings. It originated in a thesis project by two researchers who received the master’s of engineering in logistics from CTL in 2011, Andre De Los Rios and Kristen Nordstrom.
Electric vehicles: A staple of the truck fleet?
The CTL study was conducted using data collected by the international office supplier Staples, as well as ISO New England, the nonprofit firm that runs New England’s electric power grid. Using that data, the researchers modeled the costs for a fleet of 250 delivery trucks, and examined alternate scenarios in which the whole fleet used one of three kinds of motors: purely electric engines, hybrid gas-electric engines and conventional diesel engines.
Based on the Staples data, the researchers modeled what would happen if diesel gasoline cost $4 per gallon. Trucks with internal-combustion engines averaged 10.14 miles per gallon, compared to 11.56 miles per gallon for hybrid trucks, while the electric-only trucks averaged 0.8 kilowatt-hours per mile. Staples currently has 53 all-electric trucks, manufactured by Missouri-based Smith Electric Vehicles, in use in several American cities.