My biggest takeaway from this year’s NTEA Work Truck Show? The industry appears to be headed toward an electric future. But a lot of work still needs to be done for that future to become a mainstream reality anytime soon.
Here’s what I mean: Electrification is building momentum because the cost of battery technology has been trending downward to the point where electrified trucks are becoming a more attractive and financially viable option for fleets to try.
According to Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance report, lithium-ion battery prices have fallen 73% per kilowatt-hour since 2010. That trend is expected to continue until EVs become cheaper to buy than their fossil-fuel-powered counterparts by 2025 to 2029.
As battery costs have dropped, this has allowed for more affordable power that extends the battery range between charges, making it comparable to the range of conventional-fueled vehicles – and thus more acceptable for more fleet applications.
That's why we’re seeing a growing number of OEMs like Tesla, Freightliner, Mitsubishi Fuso and now Ford – with its recent $500 million investment in Rivian to produce an all-electric pickup truck – entering the fray.
But here’s the challenge: charging infrastructure. There's not enough of it.
After all, what happens when you have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of vehicles that need to be charged – most of them at the same time – putting massive amounts of stress on the existing grid and infrastructure?
What will be the impact on the cost of electricity and thus the cost of “fueling”? Will there be any stability in pricing so that consumers and fleets can budget and plan?
There was a lot of talk at the 2019 Work Truck Show about the need for greater collaboration among fleets, regulators, automakers and utility companies to work toward a solution – to build out charging infrastructure that’s sufficient, stable and affordable enough to meet demand.
So, while the future of the work truck industry appears to be electric, the question is, when will that happen? Watch the developments in charging infrastructure. That will give you an accurate gauge as to when mainstream adoption will become possible.
Sean M. Lyden