A new study by MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics has shown that by adopting electrically propelled vehicles, regional transportation fleets could potentially realize operational cost savings of 9 to 12 percent over diesel trucks.
Researchers based their “model costs” on a fleet of 250 trucks operated by office supplier Staples, and the utility company ISO New England. Data was collected using scenarios in which these vehicles relied on one of three different power sources: electric, gas/electric hybrid and diesel.
With a target route of 70 mile per day for 253 days per year, and diesel price standardized at $4 per gallon, the study found that for conventional diesel trucks, fuel consumption averaged 10.14 miles per gallon. For the hybrid trucks it was 11.56 miles per gallon, while for the pure electric vehicles it was 0.8 kilowatt-hours per mile.
Beyond assessing fuel economy, the researchers examined what could result if the trucks were part of a Vehicle to Grid (V2G) system, where the vehicles would be plugged into the electricity grid for 12 hours. In this type of scenario, the vehicle operators would receive payment from utility companies for the services they provide.
Looking at different times for overnight parking for the trucks, the MIT research team concluded that fleet companies could collect some $900-$1,400 in earnings on V2G revenues, which would represent a reduction of 7-11 percent in operating costs.
Because electric trucks employ regenerative braking, this effectively reduces maintenance costs and down time, since EVs are normally gentler on brake components, which are considered to be frequent wear items on most fleet trucks.
The researchers further found that if the V2G trucks were substituted for diesel rigs, the operational costs per mile would fall from 75 cents to 68 cents. Jarrod Goentzel, one of the four authors of the study, stated, “almost all these costs scale down to the individual vehicle.”
In reality however, many commercial vehicle fleets don’t need 250 trucks to realize significant cost savings. Even by employing just several electric or hybrid trucks on city delivery routes, fleets can save significantly on operating costs as well as lowering emissions.
Actually, Staples has already adopted such a strategy, utilizing a fleet of some 53 electrically propelled Smith delivery trucks in various cities across the U.S.
In the commercial fleet business, companies are often open to new ways of saving even incremental costs, so assuming these findings prove true, they add to the already growing body of data that electrification and smart grids can be part of a viable long-term plan.