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McKinsey & Company: Why most eTrucks will choose overnight charging

Electric trucks are coming, but fleets need to find the best charging strategies to keep them going

Electric trucks (eTrucks) are entering markets worldwide. As these vehicles are deployed, fleet operators must determine potential use cases, such as last-mile delivery, and select the best charging strategies. We have identified the use cases most likely to electrify first and the most viable charging strategies based on cost, practicality, and other factors.

Charge of the eTruck brigade

McKinsey estimates eTruck adoption will exceed 30 percent by 2030 across different vehicle classes: light commercial vehicle (LCV), medium-duty truck (MDT), and heavy-duty truck (HDT). The potential uptick in adoption will likely be a result of the alignment of several key factors: regulation, electric truck supply, improvements in battery electric technology, and overall economics.

First, the regulatory push to reduce emissions is driving interest in eTrucks across the logistics and transport sectors, which currently contribute 3 to 5 percent of global CO2 emissions. Regional regulations, such as those in the European Union, require new trucks to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030. States and cities are creating regulatory push as well. For example, California’s recent Advanced Clean Truck regulation requires manufacturers of commercial vehicles to start selling eTrucks in 2024 and restrict all sales to this category by 2045. Likewise, more than 40 cities around the world have begun to ban diesel and gasoline internal combustion engine (ICE) trucks in their city centers.

Next up is supply. While most people would have difficulty naming an eTruck model today, this is already changing. Based on our analysis of automaker future product plans, we expect a five- to tenfold increase in the supply of eTrucks by 2030. Major OEMs have already announced new models across different weight classes, and we expect there will be more than 30 models by 2040.

Technologic and economic factors will also play a big role in eTruck uptake. Improvements in battery and electric powertrain technology, including those related to safety, energy density, battery supply, and performance, are increasing both vehicle range and consumer confidence. As the technology improves, battery costs are also falling. Over the next decade, they should decline to the point where the total cost of ownership (TCO) for many eTruck models will be similar to or better than the TCO for ICE trucks.

These factors will create a favorable environment for the adoption of eTrucks across the LCV, MDT, and HDT segments. Our analysis of three key markets—China, Europe, and the United States—suggests that demand could reach 2.7 million units by 2025 and 11 million units by 2030.

Potential use cases

Our research revealed that eTrucks could play a role across multiple use cases, although these will vary by vehicle class and application (Exhibit 1). Each use case will differ in terms of required range, payload, route predictability, infrastructure access, model availability, and the need for a cold chain (an uninterrupted series of refrigerated production, storage, and distribution activities for goods). Today’s battery packs can best support use cases with predictable routes, relatively shorter ranges, and payloads that do not require cold chains. Thus, we expect three commercial use cases to gain traction first: last-mile delivery, dry goods distribution, and point-to-point long-haul transport.

Exhibit 1

Use case 1: Light commercial vehicles making last-mile deliveries

This first use case will involve LCVs making last-mile deliveries. These routes are typically short—under 100 kilometers per day—and do not involve heavy or refrigerated payloads. Today’s batteries can easily move these small lightweight trucks, even when they are loaded with packages. In addition, the batteries in these vehicles can easily support these routes, often without the need for en route charging. For instance, a 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery can easily support an LCV driving approximately 130 kilometers per day.

Use case 2: Medium-duty vehicles distributing dry goods

In this use case, MDTs drive across cities or states for dry goods distribution, which typically means delivering goods from warehouses to urban supermarkets or distribution centers. This use case is feasible over the short term because the eTrucks have a defined and fixed daily route and a known average daily distance traveled of about 200 kilometers. Since their fixed routes have known stop times at either end, the eTrucks can be charged at the beginning and end of their journeys.

Use case 3: Heavy-duty vehicles doing point-to-point long haul

This use case covers large heavy trucks—class 7 and class 8—that drive long distances to deliver goods from ports or production facilities to large distribution centers or warehouses. The exact routes and distances remain highly predictable and fixed, with a range of 400 kilometers or more. These eTrucks typically operate almost continuously using two drivers. Given the extreme service cycles, these use cases will likely emerge last and will probably require en route charging at predetermined stops.

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SOURCE: McKinsey & Company

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