What’s delaying freight electrification?

FCEV-powered freight could be a steppingstone to an efficient, cheaper, all-electric fleet. By Elle Farrell-Kingsley

Freight emissions currently account for roughly 29% of all vehicle emissions globally. Despite significant improvements in energy efficiency, freight vehicle consultant Evenergi has forecasted that freight emissions could grow by 56−70% between 2015 and 2050. This is attributed to the increase in freight transport due to the rise of online consumerism, increased urbanisation and reduced vehicle ownership.

IDTechEx predicts that electric trucks will account for 9.4% of the global medium and heavy-duty market by 2030. However, the delay from production to deployment is significant, as highlighted by the Tesla Semi—in 2017, the vehicle was anticipated to enter production by 2019; however, it was delayed until October 2022 and Tesla eventually fulfilled some orders to PepsiCo in December 2022.

“Heavy-duty trucking, aviation, and shipping trains are all currently propelled by internal combustion engines (ICE),” says Iryna Zenyuk, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor at the University of California. “Battery-driven electric powertrains suffer from challenges of weight and long recharging times,” she adds. Different battery types and chemistries are better suited to specific applications than others. Lithium-titanium-oxide (LTO) batteries can be charged quickly and respond well to regenerative charging, but they have low energy density and are heavier. Conversely, nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) batteries are lighter and have higher storage capacity—well-suited for long-range applications. However, these batteries are relatively new to the market and still in development.

The Tesla Semi's battery alone takes up a colossal 11,000 pounds of the 80,000 pounds limit

The battery in the electric Ford F-150 Lightning weighs 1,800 pounds alone, and that’s just to power a pick-up. In terms of freight, Tesla’s Semi battery is estimated to weigh around 11,000 pounds due to its 100kWh capacity—a figure that can quickly eat into a loaded Class 8 truck’s maximum gross weight of 80,000 pounds.

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