ChatGPT & DALL-E generated panoramic scene showcasing a futuristic electric freight truck, vividly colored, parked on a large, industrial scale with a consultant forcing a different result

Anti-Electrification Trucking Lobby Buys Consulting Study That Finds EV Trucking Expensive

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Consulting firms have to make money. Lobbying groups have money. Put the two together and you get professional looking reports that make black look white, hard look soft, or that the Moon really is made of green cheese. The most recent entrant is Forecasting a Realistic Electricity Infrastructure Buildout for Medium- & Heavy-Duty Battery Electric Vehicles by consultancy Roland Berger, bought and paid for by the ironically named Clean Freight Coalition.

Let’s start with clarifying that there’s almost nothing in this report that stands up to scrutiny. It’s like the DNV offshore hydrogen via pipelines vs electrons via HVDC study I assessed that the European pipeline association paid for last year, full of deep degrees of nonsense and designed to make only the customer happy. In this case the client is an anti-EV lobbying group set up by several organizations: the American Bus Association, American Truck Dealers, American Trucking Associations, National Association of Truck Stop Operators, National Motor Freight Traffic Association, National Tank Truck Carriers, and Truckload Carriers Association.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) came under my scrutiny last year as well, as one of its executives went before Congress and said an awful lot of things which didn’t bear the slightest resemblance to reality. Batteries were too expensive, too heavy, took ten hours to charge, trucks would cost $500,000, trucks couldn’t get cheaper. This was all in aid of trying to get Congress to block California’s drive to low-carbon trucking, or at least to get Congress to prevent other states or, FSM forbid, the federal government from being sensible and driving battery-electric trucking quickly. The US trucking industry’s owners really just want to keep burning diesel and don’t want to be forced to spend money on new trucks or slight operational changes.

The Clean Freight Coalition was set up around the same time in the first quarter of 2023 to tell porkies and lobby hard for the status quo. And lo, it has now shelled out some consulting dollars to a firm which needed to get junior staff off the bench, gave them a mandate to make electrification look impossible and are now promoting the ripened gourd of disinformation.

The head of the ATA, one Chris Spears, a long term lobbyist in the industry, had this to say:

“… this mad dash to zero exposes the supply chain to a $1 trillion unfunded mandate. This is not included in the latest Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This is a $1 trillion unfunded mandate that the supply chain, including our industry, is going to have to invest. … Going all in on electric, at this pace, it could be catastrophic, not just for our industry, but for the economy and what consumers pay.”

Yup, no uncertainty about how Spears feels about it. More of the same from the US logistics industry, which seems to think that batteries and grid ties are impossible and that innovation must be allowed to flourish. As I noted, also last year, the American Association of Railroads has come down hard against rail electrification, something that the rest of the world is just getting on with, including India, which expects to reach 100% this year.

The Roland Berger senior partner, Wilfried Aulbur, is supporting the study publicly, but he’s required to because he sold his rights to diss it when he took the money and agreed to the frame that the lobbying group wanted.

Does the lobbying group even acknowledge that climate change is a problem?

  • No results found for site:https://www.cleanfreightcoalition.org/ “climate change”.
  • No results found for site:https://www.cleanfreightcoalition.org/ “global warming”.

Not that Google can see.

The ATA at least announced that it was going to form a Climate and Clean Energy Advisory Committee in 2021, but there’s been zero evidence reference to it since publicly. Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s certainly not letting anyone outside of the ATA know what it thinks. One presumes that if it was indeed formed, one of the things it recommended was to set up the Clean Freight Coalition lobby group to delay action even further.

Let’s put this in context. Big rigs produce about 7% of total US climate change-causing CO2 emissions. That’s exactly the patch Spears and the ATA are in, they didn’t bother to form a committee that had responsibility for climate change until 2021 and are continuing to fight actual progress tooth and nail.

On to the report itself.

“Over the next two decades, a full transition to BEVs would require a substantial and direct expenditure shared by both fleets and utilities, with unknown consequences for the American consumer and ratepayer. Rather than mandating BEVs, policymakers should examine ways to incentivize these vehicles over realistic and reasonable timelines. At the same time, governments should encourage and incentivize the adoption of more efficient clean diesel and alternative-fueled vehicles.”

Unknown consequences. Realistic and reasonable timelines. Create fear. Ask for decades longer to make changes.

Clean diesel? What’s that in trucking lobbying group speak? Fossil diesel that’s low sulfur, something that they were forced to fix a while ago. In fact, Spears made the phantasmagorical assertion that “emissions coming out of the tailpipes of trucks have been reduced by 98.5% over the past four decades,” which has virtually nothing to do with greenhouse gases and almost entirely to do with sulfur emissions.

1. Current technology scenario: This scenario assumes the continuation of existing technology and performance characteristics. We assume a maximum Class 8 usable vehicle range of 180 miles and a maximum fast-charging capacity of 350 kW supported by real world fleet mileage.
2. Improved technology scenario: This scenario assumes advancements in battery density and charging speeds over the medium term. Due to an improved battery density of 40%, we assume an increased range for Class 6-8 vehicles. The maximum Class 8 usable vehicle range increases to 250 miles. Maximum fast-charging capacity increases to 500 kW for locally operated vehicles and up to 1MW for highway vehicles.

So, the Tesla Semi has 500 miles of range. The Nikola BEV has 330 miles of range. Volvo’s entrant had 275 miles of range in 2022. Daimler’s eCascadia has 330 miles. But those ranges are only going to be possible in the future.

The improved battery energy density that’s supposed to enable ranges that trucks can already deliver is proscribed to 40%. That’s when CATL is delivering batteries with 100% greater energy density in 2024. It’s not like that announcement was prior to the report being published, as the report is hot off the presses and CATL announced the battery in 2023.

For that matter, NACFE’s Run on Less study in September of 2023 had multiple trucks deliver 500 miles of duty in a single day and Tesla Semis delivered over 1,000 miles with a couple of brief charges. Oh, and that wasn’t even with Tesla Megachargers. Those are part of the v4 standard for Superchargers, and Tesla has announced freight corridor deployments already.

It’s almost as if the trucking lobby group told Roland Berger “Ignore anything which contradicts our firm belief that battery electric trucks have crappy range.” Or maybe Roland Berger read between the lines on customer sensitivity.

Let’s ask why the range matters to finding that a trillion dollars in infrastructure is required. Let’s take the Tesla Semi with 500 miles range. Let’s double that to 1,000 miles range with the CATL chemistry. Let’s take the maximum 250-mile range Roland Berger assumed. Does that mean only a quarter as many chargers are required on the highway network? No, because it’s the square. It multiplies the number of chargers by around 16, all else being equal.

In reality, you’ll need more than the sparsest number of chargers, but it’s going to be an order of magnitude less than Roland Berger’s study found. Even with Tesla Semi ranges, something accessible to all manufacturers if they would simply build a freight tractor from the ground up for battery-electric instead of shoving batteries and motors into a standard ladder frame instead of diesel, it’s only a quarter the number of chargers.

To be scrupulously fair to Roland Berger, they did use 20% to 80% charge as their argument for ‘usable’ range, constraining range to 60% of maximum.

The average usable range was computed with a charge range of 20 to 80% per the recommendations from battery manufacturers.” 

But even there, low-balling the initial range and ignoring CATL’s range delivers nonsense results where current trucks can only be driven two hours before recharging. NACFE just didn’t find that.

Assuming again the Tesla Semi with CATL batteries that’s still 600 usable miles of range, and the maximum that Roland Berger permitted in the study was 250 usable miles of range.

By heavily constraining usable range, Roland Berger was able to find that over half of all Class 7 and 8 trucks would require fast charging on route to do their jobs and that 7% of smaller trucks would require it too.

Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!

Roland Berger isn’t alone in this weird parallel universe where battery prices aren’t plummeting while energy density is sky rocketing. Many transportation studies I’ve looked at in the past few months share it. The International Council on Clean Transportation didn’t think CATL-level energy density would arrive until 2050. Meanwhile, multiple vendors are now offering the 40% higher energy density that Roland Berger thinks might be possible in the medium term.

Charging infrastructure costs are another remarkable set of numbers.

“Fleet investment can range from $150,000 to $600,000 per vehicle depending on on-site utility service upgrades.”

Per vehicle. For context, Level 3 fast DC chargers cost $30,000 to $80,000 per charger and you don’t need one per vehicle. Beefing up grid connections to depots doesn’t cost millions.

This number is supported by exactly nothing. Indeed, there are exactly three external references to reports or tools used in the analysis. There is no cost workup for the figure of up to $600,000.

So the study massively multiplies the number of charging sites. Then it creates very expensive charging out of whole cloth. Then it multiplies the two together to come up with absurdly large numbers.

“To electrify higher mileage MD or longhaul HD trucks, a reliable and robust on-route charging network needs to exist before these trucks can operate.”

Chickens and eggs. All of those massive costs need to be spent before anyone can drive an electric truck outside of sight of its depot in the world of this report, when Tesla Semis run by Pepsi are running close to 500 miles one way fully loaded with flats of fizzy sugar water. No, two or more charging stops are required for those kind of distances, with hours of drivers twiddling their thumbs.

Even in their extended range scenario, which remember has lower range than the Tesla Semi has today, they find that a remarkable 31% of trips require en route charging. The vast majority of distances for those trips, up to 425 miles (if you do the math) from their chart on page 11, are within the range of the Tesla Semi today.

Of course, all of the chickens come home to roost in the charging infrastructure build-out. An order of magnitude more chargers, all requiring maximum power, all of which must be built before any trucks can role, turns into a trillion USD of investments.

And that’s the number the lobbying association is trumpeting. Given inflation, it’s quite probable that they instructed Roland Berger to get as close to a trillion as possible for marketing purposes and Roland Berger delivered.

Will trucking electrification be trivially easy? No, of course not. Will it be cheap? No, of course. But they won’t be anywhere near the costs this skewed study projects and they are relatively straightforward to do incrementally, fleet by fleet and along major corridors. For long haul trucking along interstates with long haul trucking daily ranges of 600-800 miles, you probably only need overnight sleeping stops every couple of hundred miles along some interstates initially, starting with a couple of cross-country and coastal corridors, possibly the same ones Tesla put its original Superchargers on.

Get the coasts and one cross-country corridor built and that’s only perhaps 36 stations. Flesh out the grid and that’s probably only a hundred or so stations for full initial coverage. Add more as battery-electric trucking penetrates more and more.

Much of the discussion around battery energy density and range reminds me ever so much of the early 2000s when the smart money was betting on bandwidth and the stupid money was trying to optimize for bandwidth. The trajectory of battery energy density isn’t as absurd as bandwidth increases, especially multiplexing lasers in fiber optic cables, but it’s vastly faster than transportation studies allow. Similarly, studies like this one ignore battery buffering at recharging depots and stops as an obvious way to minimize grid upgrades, once again refusing to bet on batteries.

Frankly, Roland Berger shouldn’t be proud of this bought and paid for result. The Clean Freight Coalition and ATA are happy with it, but it does a disservice to the discussion.


Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Videos

Advertisement
 
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Michael Barnard

is a climate futurist, strategist and author. He spends his time projecting scenarios for decarbonization 40-80 years into the future. He assists multi-billion dollar investment funds and firms, executives, Boards and startups to pick wisely today. He is founder and Chief Strategist of TFIE Strategy Inc and a member of the Advisory Board of electric aviation startup FLIMAX. He hosts the Redefining Energy - Tech podcast (https://shorturl.at/tuEF5) , a part of the award-winning Redefining Energy team.

Michael Barnard has 722 posts and counting. See all posts by Michael Barnard