September 22, 2023

Tech advocate: Careful planning key to avoiding electric truck pitfalls

One of the biggest challenges to the widespread adoption and implementation of electric and fuel cell-powered transportation is infrastructure, according to Dan Raudebaugh, executive director of the Center for Transportation and the Environment.

Raudebaugh joined FreightWaves’ Net-Zero Carbon Summit on Thursday to discuss how his organization has used planning strategies to execute electrification/alternative fuel projects for commercial transportation providers across the country.

“The long pole in the tent for the transportation industry is always infrastructure. Whether that’s charging infrastructure or hydrogen infrastructure, getting that in place, getting it working before we deliver the vehicles is one of our prime marching orders,” Raudebaugh said.

Having the infrastructure available before a carrier or other organization gets electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles is critical for the commercial transportation industry, according to Raudebaugh.

“For example, transit agencies and bus manufacturers are used to being paid when they deliver the vehicle,” Raudebaugh said. “But if they deliver the vehicle six months before there’s charging infrastructure in place, you pay for a vehicle that you can’t operate for six months.”

The Atlanta-headquartered Center for Transportation and the Environment is a nonprofit that develops, promotes and implements advanced transportation technologies, vehicles and fuels that reduce environmental pollution and fossil fuel dependency.

The organization, which was founded in 1993 and has about 70 employees, has worked on initiatives such as the NorCal ZERO project, helping with the deployment of 30 Hyundai Xcient Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks in Northern California earlier this year.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is America’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 28% of total emissions each year.

Raudebaugh said transit buses will likely be the first major industry to switch completely to zero-emission transportation, whereas commercial trucking will advance more slowly.

“For trucking we’re starting to see for drayage truck applications, hydrogen and battery electric are starting to play a little bit of a role,” Raudebaugh said.

“For long-haul trucking, that’s going to have to be hydrogen fuel cell to make sense because not just refueling times but the demand charges that would be incurred if you try to fill large battery packs very quickly, that could become cost-prohibitive for battery electric to be able to meet that duty cycle. So we do see fuel cells and hydrogen are playing a really big role in the long-haul trucking world.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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