Electric-powered semi-trucks promise to save costs on fuel while reducing carbon emissions. A win-win scenario for trucking companies, owner-operators, and eco-activists. Unfortunately, the is not currently ready for the road.
Electric engines and battery capacity are not at the level they need to be to handle fueling a fully-loaded semi-truck. But thanks to companies such as Volvo Trucks and Nikola, all-electric trucks may be ready for the long-haul sooner than we think.
Volvo Electric Semi-Trucks
Two dozen semi-trucks powered by electricity are set to hit the streets in Los Angeles, California. Before Volvo delivers the tractors, a system of essential charging stations will need to be established for the short-haul vehicles. Until then, there are currently only five in operation in all of Southern California.
Although these electric trucks are only available for short-haul, we may be seeing more on the road, due to cost savings.
- Electricity is cheaper than other traditional forms of fuel.
- Engine components are cheaper to replace and break down less often, thus resulting in fewer as well as cheaper maintenance fees.
- Batteries are becoming much more efficient with greater longevity.
To elaborate on that last point a bit, these days lithium-ion batteries are capable of lasting roughly 150 miles per charge. Once scientists figure out how to further extend battery capacity without the battery adding too much weight, electric semis can be used for long-hauls as well.
Aiming to be the go-to brand for electric semi-trucks, Nikola Motor Company is scheduled to launch electric semi-trucks in 2023. Unlike Volvo and Tesla’s technology, Nikola relies on hydrogen to generate electricity. Here is how it works.
Nikola batteries are packed with fuel cells which are powered by a chemical reaction via hydrogen. The electricity is then stored in the fuel cells.
Of course, this also requires an additional supply of hydrogen. The company has plans to create hydrogen in a very cheap manner via water electrolysis, but additional charging stations would still need to be built.
Once these establishments are created, Nikola promises a number of advancements for their Nikola One trucks. Nikola promises the trucks can cover at least 500 miles per charge, have a full panoramic view for the driver, better acceleration than diesel, faster braking, and more. Te hydrogen refueling process should be between 10 and 15 minutes. For comparison, many current electric recharges can take over a half hour.
Once local state governments pave the way for alternative fuel source charging stations, we should see these electric-powered semi-trucks become more common in the next few years.