Electrified roads ahead: The UK prepares for cost-effective eHGVs

Electric HGV charging

According to new research from Element Energy, Electric Heavy Goods Vehicles (eHGVs) are poised to become more economical than their diesel counterparts in the coming years. Coupled with recent data from e-mobility service provider ZapMap, which shows that there are now more than 920,000 fully electric cars on UK roads and a further 560,000 plug-in hybrids, it’s safe to say that the UK’s e-mobility transformation is officially in full swing.

Easily accessible charging infrastructure is a prerequisite for the mass electrification of vehicles, meaning the expansion of charging station infrastructure is vital to meet growing demand. The UK power grid still has a long road to travel before it is ready to accommodate eHGVs that rely on ‘opportunity charging’; meaning vehicles that require charging at random locations along their journey, as and when needed.

Opportunity charging, especially for long-haul trucks, requires widespread high-power charging infrastructure along major transportation routes; and while the UK government has been making significant strides in promoting the adoption of electric vehicles, its long-distance charging concept is a long way from being materialised.

However, Element Energy’s report notes that over half of British eHGVs will only require charging at their home depots, reducing the need for widespread public charging infrastructure. Those invested in transitioning to an eHGV fleet should therefore not be dismayed by the government’s stagnated plan to modernise the grid, as depot charging for vehicles with pre-determined routes are now entirely viable. Plus, as technology advances and economies of scale come into play, the initial higher investment in electric vehicles is predicted to be offset by lower operating and maintenance costs.

Smart solutions

Adopting eHGVs is now also easier and requires less upfront investment thanks to new operational leasing models that are available on the market. This type of model can provide an attractive option for owners looking to outsource the design and construction of eHGV charging infrastructure. Energy company Vattenfall, for example, provides a unique operational lease through which the specialist takes full responsibility for the design, construction and operation of all eHGV infrastructure on behalf of its clients, reducing risks for transport and logistics businesses by owning and operating the infrastructure on their behalf.

What’s more, Vattenfall also provides investment capital for new or existing electrical infrastructure. For businesses with limited capital of large infrastructure plans, working with a specialised ‘power partner’ can free up capital expenditure (CAPEX) and remove the need for any upfront costs, replacing them with predicable operational costs (OPEX). Thus, businesses can move towards net zero sooner and gain distinct cashflow advantages.

Gary Jacobs, a Business Developer at Vattenfall Network Solutions, comments: “As the transportation sector embraces electrification, businesses stand to gain immensely from increased efficiencies. The shift to electric HGVs is just one example of the ways companies can reduce energy consumption by replacing aging, inefficient and polluting infrastructure with cleaner, more reliable electrical systems – and Vattenfall is here to help UK companies with the finance and expertise to accelerate electrification however we can.”

A straight road to net-zero

The UK government has decided not to take a slow route to net-zero and has set an ambitious goal: by 2050, the use of diesel trucks must become history to achieve its net-zero climate goal. The year 2035 is the deadline for phasing out sales of all new ‘non-zero emission’ trucks up to 26 tonnes, and 2040 for those above.

Combined with the fact that electric trucks are on the brink of economic viability for city, urban, and regional deliveries; and that their total cost of ownership – including purchase price, energy, and maintenance costs – are set to outpace diesel (even under the most conservative estimates regarding fuel and battery prices), there has never been a better time to transition to eHGVs.

1 thought on “Electrified roads ahead: The UK prepares for cost-effective eHGVs”

  1. Kevan Chippindall-Higgin

    Interesting. As usual, not a dicky bird about weight, carrying capacity and range. A Tesla battery weighs around 800 kilos and if it tows say a caravan, range drops by around half. A small caravan will weight under 1 tonne and a big one around 2 tonnes. Let us assume 1.5 tonnes. Now look at a truck. Its all up weight is up to 44 tonnes.

    The torque of an electric motor will be a great boon. However, I cannot see the Traffic Commissioners reducing the 6 weekly safety inspections required for most commercials, except perhaps for low mileage local removals trucks, where 3 months might be allowed. Therefore, the operating costs, excluding fuel, will remain the same.

    At one stage, filling up with electricity away from home was more expensive than hydrocarbons and with commercial electricity still very pricy, unless a vehicle can be charged at base, savings will be gossamer thin. Also bear in mind that a lot of trucks that are running about going from job to job will have large tanks to last them all week when the can then fill up at the yard from the bunker, which is again much cheaper than the forecourt.

    We must then consider payload. Money is made by carrying weight or volume. Very light goods will end up in what is called a super cube trailer. Goods in such vehicles are not that heavy but very voluminous. Furniture is a good example. Unless of the flat pack variety, much of furniture is air. Goods that must be kept dry such as plaster and cement, are very dense, whereupon weight become critical. If a vehicle loses several tonnes of carrying capacity, costs must rise. The journey costs what it costs. That cost must be spread out over fewer goods, pushing up prices.

    Then there is the re-charging times to take into account. It might take half an hour to fill a really big tank. Truck pumps have a higher flow rate for this reason. How long will it take to charge a really big battery and what sort of power will be needed. A current 150 KW fast charger is the single phase power supply to 11 terraced houses. A 350 KW fast charger will power 26.5 houses. A busy yard will have tens of lorries all needing charging at roughly the same time. To charge 40 trucks will require the power to 1,060 houses, plus of course other electrical loads in the establishment. Where is this power to come from? How is it to get there? To power that many houses will require a huge cable and this will be just one depot.

    On balance, this whole thing makes no financial sense whatsoever and this is why, like Elon Musk when he launched his very pretty e tractor unit, real life figures are carefully avoided. I am afraid that this is all complete nonsense, pie in the sky wishful thinking.

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