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The trucking industry has started to go electric – but passenger cars will take a little longer

The Australian trucking industry is taking steps to go electric. The latest development – a system to use replaceable batteries instead of time-consuming charging stations for long-haul trucks between Sydney and Brisbane – shows how this transition is gaining momentum.

The move to electric trucks will bring clear socio-economic, environmental and health benefits for the general public as well as the trucking industry and trucking companies themselves. As EV researchers, we believe that replaceable batteries are good for trucks are suitable, but may be less suitable for everyday electric cars.

Electric truck

The electrification of truck transport offers many advantages. Companies like Woolworths and Ikea have already started switching to electric vans to take advantage of the environmental benefits (and a possible boost for their brands).

Many leading truck manufacturers such as Scania, Mercedes Benz and Volvo are currently making attempts and plans to make their trucks electric.

Trucks make up 20% of the vehicles in Australia, and transportation emissions in Australia are still rising.

Australia’s motor vehicles use more than 33 billion liters of fuel each year. The transport sector was responsible for around 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019.

Australia spent around A $ 31 billion importing oil in 2019, with half used for road transport. Not only does this affect Australia’s trade balance, but it also poses a risk to our freight industry (including supermarket deliveries) if geopolitical instability impacts fuel imports (which mostly come from a few countries).

Haulier Linfox seems to understand the benefits of moving to electric vehicles for their business and is one of the first to test them here in Australia.

Not just shipping companies

Many large companies are committed to reducing their carbon footprint, such as Fortescue Metals’ goal of zero operating net emissions by 2040. The operation of the mining fleet accounts for half of operational emissions.

The procurement of electric vehicles by government and mining fleets could not only help reduce transportation emissions, but also signal to the community that the transition from more polluting vehicles is possible.

Read more: net zero, climate neutral, climate negative … confused by all that carbon jargon? Then read this

Modernizing the fleet is a must that we need to prioritize. The corporate sector can play a key role in the success of the Australian government’s latest technology investment roadmap.

Thanks to innovative solutions such as the battery change system for trucks, not only large companies but also sole proprietorships can make the change by converting existing trucks and leasing batteries.

A typical articulated truck consumes 53.1 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers. A trip from Brisbane to Sydney can cost more than A $ 600 in fuel (which you as a consumer must pay when purchasing transported goods). Electric operation would not only cut these costs in half, it would also cut maintenance costs and emissions, even if the batteries were recharged from the grid.

Read more: Clean, Green Machines: The Truth About Electric Vehicle Emissions

Swap and go?

Replacing discharged batteries instead of stopping to recharge is a great solution for trucks: they regularly drive key routes with regulated rest areas for drivers so you only need battery swap stations at key points along the route.

Swapping batteries for regular passenger cars, however, can be a different story. It has been tried before but has not started.

A US-based company called Better Place, founded in 2007, has even set up test stations (one of which is even planned for Canberra). But the company collapsed in 2013.

One problem was that automakers agreed to use a common battery platform to facilitate the swap, and only Renault got on board. Another reason was that the cost of installing enough battery swap stations to please the wider community was huge.

Trucks that travel on major transport routes do not face this problem, so replacing batteries has a better chance of success.

Public charging stations like this one in the UK could make owning an electric vehicle easier.
Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

How to go electric

Our ongoing research into measures to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles has shown that electric passenger cars are mostly charged at home. This means we need solutions that will help those without off-street parking access convenient local chargers. This will help Australia alleviate its trade balance problems, lower our health care costs and help the environment.

We just have to hope that our government will put in place appropriate regulatory measures to help us all go electric. One step could be to follow the recent announcement by the US government to electrify its entire vehicle fleet. This will help automakers cut CO2 emissions, cut the country’s health budget, and help everyday people cut their transportation costs, which would be fairer and more sustainable.

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