Battery electric emerging as long-haul’s diesel successor

Providing they can charge quickly during mandated rest periods, battery trucking appears a cost- and performance-effective diesel alternative. By Jack Hunsley

Long-haul trucking is a crucial component in supply chains worldwide. For instance, in 2020, trucking contributed US$368.9bn to the US’s gross domestic product, the largest contribution of all potential freight modes, while also carrying the most tonnage. As such, in the context of the automotive industry’s decarbonisation efforts, balancing low and zero emissions mobility with expected levels of truck performance is a delicate juggling act.

Special report: Commercial vehicle powertrain mix

Tide turning

Smaller vehicles are quickly turning towards battery electric due to their lighter weight and shorter-range requirements, however, the discourse for heavier long-haul trucks has been in flux. Pre-Hindenburg scandal, for instance, Nikola had fuelled a widespread opinion that hydrogen was the obvious diesel replacement given the technology’s high power density and diesel-like refuelling times. Its now exiled former Chief Executive, Trevor Milton, even went as far as to tell Automotive World that Nikola was “going to literally completely control the supply chain and trucking in America” within a decade, albeit with a proposed mixture of battery electric and fuel cell trucks initially. Though unlikely, Milton’s vision for fuel cell trucking may yet still come true. However, in recent months battery electric has put a dent in its theoretical lead.

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