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Van, step van electrification in Canada, U.S. would save ~5B gallons of gas/year

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The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) and RMI’s latest research shows that vans and step vans in the U.S. and Canada are 100% electrifiable today. Their latest report, Electric Trucks Have Arrived: The Use Case for Vans and Step Vans, calculates that electrification of vans and step vans would result in the avoidance of about 43.5 million tons of CO2e annually, equivalent to removing nearly 5 billion gallons of gasoline from our economy per year. Vans and step vans, most easily recognizable as package delivery vehicles, constitute about half of all registered commercial vehicles in North America.

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NACFE says shifting to electric package delivery vehicles is not only feasible and beneficial for climate action, but also will make a significant impact on decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. Electricity, especially in the context of other fuel types, is less volatile and less expensive than gasoline.

E-commerce is creating significant growth in the trucking sector this decade. The case for electrification includes cost analysis of the vehicles themselves, energy usage, maintenance and sustainability metrics. Moreover, NACFE’s market research and analysis also found that switching to electric commercial vehicles would have benefits for the health, safety and productivity of drivers.

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While the electric transition for these vehicles will not be easy or happen overnight, vans provide the most compelling argument for immediate electrification, NACFE argues. Companies that hesitate to electrify their van and step van fleets, or those who further invest in fossil fuel, risk stranded assets.

Additional findings from the study include:

  • E-commerce is leading the doubling of the huge van and step van market. The continued growth of e-commerce, coupled with customer demand for faster, cheaper shipping, and the need for last-mile delivery solutions, will likely drive growth in the van and step van market segment over the next decade.
  • Everything around electrifying smaller commercial vehicles is easier and the TCO for this market segment is approaching parity with diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles. Battery technology today meets the operational requirements for smaller commercial vehicles, especially in the Class 3 to 6 range. The battery packs are smaller and don’t impact cargo capacity or payload. Additionally, because these vehicles are typically used in single-shift operations, fast charging is not necessary. This lowers the power requirements, thereby reducing the total cost of charging and infrastructure.
  • Improves driver attraction and retention. Many drivers of these vehicles have not driven trucks before, and the ease of operation will be key to attracting them. Reliability and improved working environment are not the only benefits drivers see with electric vans and step vans. There also is a definite “cool” factor when it comes to interacting with the public. Drivers tell NACFE they get a lot of interest about the electric vehicles they are driving, from both their peers and their families.
  • Transition will be challenging, but planning can mitigate risks. Even though electrifying smaller commercial vehicles is easier, the transition still will be difficult. Electrification will not happen overnight or in a silo. Redesigning parking lots and depots to support electrification will take time, effort, and money. Thoughtful planning during the design phase at new sites can help fleets mitigate some of the challenges existing sites will experience as they work toward electrification.

The report uses findings gathered from the real-world truck demonstration, Run on Less – Electric (RoL-E), conducted in September of 2021. It shares the methods used to select the participating fleets, routes, and equipment, the metrics that were measured, and details of the Run’s findings and lessons learned.

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