OK, I realize that, for the rest of you, Charlie Brown has nothing to do with electric vehicles.
However, as the push for electric vehicles moves forward, we are going to be faced with “grid grief.” That phrase reminded me of Charlie Brown and his catchphrase, “good grief!” because … well, that is how my mind works. No real form or function, just random associations of words and images.
In other words, the way my brain works makes absolutely no sense.
With that being said, as you all know, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles are two of my favorite subjects. Simply stated, there are a lot of issues to be addressed and things that need to happen before we see widespread adoption.
I know some of you are thinking, ‘that is horse shit’ (shout-out to my grandfather here). ‘We already have electric cars so electric CMVs are not that far away.’ Well, I agree, sorta.
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released a study back in December regarding electric vehicles and issues that need to be addressed. The study identified three main hurdles that must be addressed before electric vehicles are viable. Let’s take a look at the issues identified.
Supply and demand of electricity in the United States
The first issue that must be addressed is the ability to provide electricity sufficient to power the vehicles with our current power grid.
The report noted that full electrification of the U.S. vehicle fleet would place a huge demand on the country’s available electric generation. According to the folks at ATRI, electrification of all cars and trucks would require 40.3% of all the electricity currently generated in the country. Moreover, electrification of just the vehicles hauling freight would require 14.6% of the country’s electricity while long-haul trucks alone would account for 10.6%. If you forget about the CMV, electrification of passenger cars and trucks alone would require 26.3% of the country’s current electrical output.
Of course, this is not spread around evenly. Some states would be hit harder than others. For example, the report noted that Arkansas would need 46.9% of the state’s current electricity generation. In other words, a significant investment would need to be made to existing infrastructure to accommodate widespread electrification.
Now, I am no engineer and I have never professed to be good at math, but those numbers seem high. Really high. To make this work we will need a big investment in our existing infrastructure. If you are curious where that money will come from — the answer is, you and me.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the material needs to produce enough batteries to support electrification.
Battery production requires lots of cobalt, graphite, lithium and nickel, among other things. The ATRI report found that, depending on the material, the U.S. fleet would need 6.3 to 34.9 years of global production to make enough batteries to provide for electrification of the U.S. Fleet. According to ATRI this equals 8.4% to 64.4% of the global reserves.
Also, keep in mind that not all these minerals are mined in the U.S. Some are imported from countries that do not like us very much. This seems to me to be a real concern as disruption in the supply chain of these materials could have a very detrimental impact on electrification.
Interestingly, the report also noted that life cycles emissions, when accounting for mining and current emission level for electricity production would only provide a 30% reduction in CO2 over diesel.
Truck parking and charging
In its report, ATRI noted that finding a place to charge trucks while on the road is a problem. Quite simply, we all know that truck parking is already an issue. ATRI states that, regardless of advances in battery capacity or charge rates, electric charging will be limited by truck parking and hours of service rules.
According to ATRI, the installation of equipment necessary to charge electric trucks at existing truck parking areas would exceed $35 billion. In addition, the cost of installing hardware to charge the trucks runs about $112,000.00 per unit. This is a heck of a number. And when you think about the current lack of truck parking spaces that could become charging stations, this presents a problem. For complete electrification of long-haul trucks access to charging stations must be available.
Another issue to consider is the increased weight of electric vehicles. As we all know, batteries are heavy and electric power units weigh more than diesel power units. This means that less freight can be hauled and be in compliance with weight limits. Since you can’t haul as much freight, you will need more trucks to make up for the shortage. This results in trucks on the road and more congestion on the highways.
Now, contrary to what you may think, I am not opposed to either electric or autonomous vehicles. I get that change is coming. However, I do not think that either are the immediate solution to our problems and that many issues need to be addressed to ease the transition to these types of vehicles.
Brad Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd. and is also president of Driver’s Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to services at discounted rates. For more information, contact him at 800-333-DRIVE (3748) or interstatetrucker.com and driverslegalplan.com.
Brad Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation’s commercial drivers. Brad is also president of Driver’s Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at discounted rates. For more information, contact him at (800) 333-DRIVE (3748) or interstatetrucker.com and driverslegalplan.com.