Can you imagine hunting for lost treasure without a map, guide or general direction of where to look? If so, I reckon Indiana Jones movies would be much longer, as Jones would turn over every rock imaginable in search of a hidden clue. Why should fleet electrification be any different, especially for the difficult and harder to abate areas such as large class 3-8 vehicles?
Up until now, company sustainability leaders committed to Scope 1 and 2 decarbonization, and fleet managers tasked with the complex, difficult jobs of electrifying a company fleet have had to go about the process just like Jones without a map: grabbing on to every possible resource in the hopes that it addresses one of the many questions. As such, the fleet electrification process for heavy-duty vehicles has seemed overwhelming, slow and arduous at times for fleet managers tasked with leading the work.
Of course, many resources are available, whether gained through independent research, word of mouth or by working with a consultant, that can help move along a fleet electrification process. However, to help provide a comprehensive step-by-step process, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has recently launched the Fleet Electrification Solution Center, a free online tool for company fleet managers to follow when electrifying their vehicles, whether they are far along in their journey or just beginning. If we were in an Indiana Jones movie, this would be the official map to the lost treasure that everyone is after.
According to EDF’s analysis, the class 2b-8 vehicle space has seen a nearly 8,500 percent increase in zero-emission fleet deployments and commitments since 2017. It finds that roughly 200 public and private fleets have committed to deploy or have already deployed zero-emission trucks. But we have a long way to go until all medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are electric. BloombergNEF finds that this vehicle segment is responsible for 30 percent of global CO2 emissions with an estimated total of 80 million vehicles, but with the current landscape, the industry is not on track to hit net zero by 2050.
If we were in an Indiana Jones movie, this would be the official map to the lost treasure that everyone is after.
Speaking with Lindsay Shigetomi, EDF's analyst for zero-emission truck deployment, I learned that EDF's vision behind releasing this tool is to help address the knowledge gaps that have existed up until now. "We are launching [this tool] because we want to make sure fleet decision-makers and sustainability leaders have the tools they need to electrify their fleets," she said. "We have done a lot of work speaking with fleets and working with them, and we have noticed one of the biggest challenges for them is finding all the resources needed."
The tool is designed to evolve as the industry does, incorporating new learnings and resources brought about by this growing sector. "[The tool] has five overall phases, which we broke down step by step for fleets to go through," Shigetomi said. "I think even really experienced electrification project managers can benefit from starting with phase one [and working their way through the tool]."
A snapshot of the five phases of the Fleet Electrification Solution Center: Phase 1: Review the landscape and gather the team; Phase 2: Identify what is possible now; Phase 3: Create a plan for near-term deployment; Phase 4: Deploy; Phase 5: Expand adoption.
This tool provides a structure that allows you to build your fleet electrification roadmap based on your own operations. For example, its five phases have sub-steps breaking down "Things To Do" based on your needs. However, this tool is not without its limitations. For instance, I would have loved to be able to write and save directly into the web portal, creating a personal online roadmap to convert to a PDF or Word doc. Further customizations based on your needs, for example, could include the ability to input your fleet ZIP codes to retrieve utility rates and policies for each location. Also, as a visual learner, I would have loved a case study of someone using this tool to its fullest potential, kind of like a tutorial.
We have done a lot of work speaking with fleets and working with them, and we have noticed one of the biggest challenges for them is finding all the resources needed.
To ensure the tool reflected the expertise of people who will eventually use it, EDF worked with the Electric Fleet Readiness Group, comprising leaders from private fleets brought together through a partnership between EDF, the North American Council of Freight Efficiency, RMI and CALSTART. EDF sourced knowledge from the group before developing the tool, and during its soft launch earlier this year through testing and refinement.
Luckily for companies looking to electrify their fleets, it is not just tools like this that will help their journey. EDF and Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a global sustainability consultancy group, just released a report finding that medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles will reach price parity with comparable diesel or gas vehicles at least five to 12 years earlier due to recent policy support brought about by the Inflation Reduction Act’s federal purchase credits. Additionally, recent news out of the federal government is that all 50 state EV charging plans required under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are officially approved. This means that states can begin deploying the federally funded EV charging corridor. However, it will take time, likely next summer, until individuals and companies start seeing these chargers on the roads. One reason is that the Biden administration has yet to release the finalized minimum EV charging standards following the public comment that ended Aug. 22.
A spokesperson from the Federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation told me via email that the Federal Highway Administration "plans to finalize that rulemaking expeditiously." Luckily, states can start using federal dollars on everything up to installing the charging hardware itself, which should keep them busy until the minimum EV charging standards are released.
Challenges will always exist in the transition to a clean transport future. However, electrifying a medium- and heavy-duty fleet will only become easier as more and more resources come out, both financial and technical ones such as the Fleet Electrification Solution Center.