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2020: The Year of Electric Vehicles

By Mansi Aneja January 19, 2021

Electric vehicles are not new in the consumer automobile industry; but their application in the transportation and trucking industries has been a slower, ongoing process. This year, medium-duty fleet owners may find that elusive point where benefit meets cost and make the commitment to move toward implementing an electric fleet.

Jim Mele, a commercial vehicle analyst for Wards Intelligence, predicts that 2020 will be the year of the electric vehicle in a number of industry applications. He believes we will see widespread electric adoption for last-mile, city and local delivery trucks for two reasons: the positive impact that electric vehicles can make on total cost of ownership amid the heightened need for short-distance delivery, and their ability to meet new emissions regulations in many regions.

"Electric trucks don't require much maintenance, obviously no fuel, and in the right operations, they can be quite cost-effective," Mele says.

Factors driving the adoption of electric vehicles in trucking

According to Mele, regulatory concerns will be a major factor in the broad industry move to electric vehicles. “What I expect to see in 2020 is a more wholesale use of electric vehicles in the medium duty truck side. We're beginning to see zero emissions regulations in regions. Those are the only trucks that meet zero emissions,” he says.

Two important emissions regulations developments bear watching: California and its alliance of states are currently fighting the federal government in court to set higher emissions standards than the federal government. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency’s rollback of emissions standards is raising questions about long-term requirements.

Mele also noted, “The speed of adoption in trucking can be fairly quick. And, that's really going to be important as we talk about electric trucks, electric vehicles and more autonomous systems. Those are true technologies that in the right applications will have a real impact on cost.”

He likened the adoption rate of electric vehicles to automated technologies such as blind spot monitoring, intelligent dash cameras and smart cruise control, where adoption was quick because of the cost savings realized.

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Automated technologies will help optimize driver time, boost productivity

Mele believes that technological advances such as automation are helping to address the daily challenges faced by drivers and save companies money in a number of key ways.

“Anything that keeps the vehicle in service longer impacts productivity. Anything that helps drivers spend the most time they can on the road and not doing other things that aren't moving down the road or their primary job impacts productivity,” Mele says.

This is where he foresees applicable advancements as fleets move to level-four autonomous vehicles, performing driving tasks under certain conditions in a geofenced area.

The potential real-world application in trucking? The driver arrives at a terminal, gets out of the truck and goes on mandated time off. Meanwhile, the truck takes itself to its dock, is unloaded, reloaded and comes back to wait for the driver. Or, at a truck stop, the driver can get out and immediately go on break while the truck takes itself to be refueled then drives to its assigned parking spot.

This is particularly relevant because good labor is often scarce, as demonstrated by the ongoing truck driver shortage—meaning that it’s critical to provide drivers with the tools they need to get their jobs done quickly and effectively.

Mele noted, “The driver is the point. They're the service deliverer, they're the point of contact in a retail distribution, they have jobs other than driving that truck.”

How technology will help keep drivers safe, lower liability

Technology can also help keep drivers safe. According to Mele, “The way autonomous systems may help is not necessarily getting rid of a driver but being used as advanced safety systems. You prevent a driver from having a front-end collision, and those are liability costs you're not going to incur. And, the driver can be more relaxed.”

Low-level automation is already underway in many newly produced vehicles. Smart cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, automated emergency braking systems and lane-keeping systems are all being adopted very quickly. The use of integrated video, which combines the power of HD video, AI and driver data, can also offer companies a host of safety-related benefits.

Using smart dashcams, managers can essentially “ride shotgun” on each trip by collecting a permanent visual record of each vehicle’s travels—including weather incidents, harsh driving occurrences, collisions, other accidents and basic vehicle operation—so they can coach drivers and take corrective action without sifting through hours of video. Prevention of a single accident reduces overall liability costs, potentially paying for the system, and reduces stress on drivers.

Helping the fleets of the future meet regulations and cut costs

Ultimately, electric vehicle adoption and technology investments will only grow for fleets in the future because of their ability to do two things: meet new regulations and help significantly reduce costs. Visit www.verizonconnect.com to learn more about how your fleet can lower costs using the right technology.

Jim Mele has studied and written about the trucking industry for 35 years at Fleet Owner/American Trucker magazine. He has spoken at leading industry events including Connected Fleets USA that brings together the trucking industry for knowledge exchange.

Mansi Aneja

As Verizon Connect Content Strategist, Mansi's mission is to create content that helps on-the-go business owners and fleet managers realize the benefits of digital transformation to drive their business forward, keep their teams productive and safe, and provide outstanding customer service.

Tags: Fleet utilization

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