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As EV Sales Pick up Pace, Electric Commercial Fleets Lag

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Shortly after purchasing a Ford E-Transit van for a plumbing job last November, Mitch Smedley grabbed a receipt and a calculator to figure out how much fuel an electric car could save. .

After a few minutes of math, I found that he spends about $110 to $140 a week on fuel for his four old diesel transits. We then calculated how much power it would take to charge the electric model to drive the same distance, about 300 miles a week. It costs him about $9 a week.

“Electricity is very cheap here, so we thought we would be able to save some money,” said Smedley, who is based in Blue Springs, Missouri, just east of Kansas City. “But when we actually did it, we were amazed.

Passenger cars are leading the way in the automotive industry’s transition to electric vehicles. In the first quarter of 2023, EV sales ratio was 45% According to research firm Cox Automotive, sales of passenger cars and trucks increased year-on-year to 259,000 units. While Tesla remains by far the biggest seller, General Motors, Ford Motor, Hyundai, Volkswagen and others have multiple electric models. Cox expects annual EV sales in the U.S. market to top 1 million units for the first time this year.

So far, light commercial vehicles represent a small percentage of all electric vehicles and trucks sold, but in many respects battery-powered vehicles are well suited as work vehicles. Trucks and delivery vans often travel limited distances and fixed routes every day, so they don’t need large and expensive battery packs. Most people can live with enough energy to travel about 160 miles before needing to recharge. One of the factors that make electric vehicles significantly more expensive than internal combustion engine models is that consumers fear being stranded far from where they plug in an electrical outlet, and he can go 250 miles or 300 miles on a single charge. I want the ability to run miles.

Commercial vehicles are typically parked overnight in parking lots where they can be easily recharged so that in the morning the batteries are fully charged and ready to go. Electric trucks also require less maintenance than conventional vehicles. No oil changes, no transmissions, mufflers or fuel pumps to wear out or fail. And it doesn’t consume fuel when idling.

Commercial vehicle owners are more closely watching the total cost of owning and operating a vehicle over several years than consumers are. This means that if you buy an electric truck, you tend to be willing to buy it even if the initial price is high because it saves you money in the long run with lower fuel and maintenance costs.

However, sales of commercial EVs have lagged behind. One of the reasons is due to troubles with several companies that wanted to manufacture commercial EVs. Startups such as Lordstown Motors, Arrival and Canoe have struggled to start or ramp up production, as has Workhorse, a small manufacturer of commercial trucks. Amazon-backed startup Rivian has so far hoped to sell thousands of electric vans to online retailers, but has fallen far short of that goal.

The delay created an opportunity for Ford and GM, the nation’s biggest automakers, to introduce their own battery-powered work trucks. A derivative of Ford’s Transit commercial van, his E-Transit comes in various sizes and is used as a delivery van, shuttle bus or work truck for contractors, repairmen, plumbers and other small businesses. can.

Ford sold about 6,500 E-Transits last year. In March, the U.S. Postal Service placed an order for 9,250 e-transit that are expected to be in service by the end of 2024.

GM created a separate division, BrightDrop, to build heavy-duty vehicles suitable for delivering packages and freight. BrightDrop built about 500 battery-powered van test vehicles, which will be delivered to customers in 2022, and this year at his Ontario plant, he began commercial production of the Zevo 600 model.

In addition to the truck, BrightDrop has developed an electric cart that allows the driver to carry more loads from the truck, reducing the number of trips for the driver. His one version of the cart is refrigerated for produce and grocery deliveries.

Merchants Fleet, a company that manages vehicles used in delivery services in Hooksett, New Hampshire, has used 150 BrightDrop vans in the past year and wants to add more.

Brad Jacobs, the company’s vice president of fleet consulting, said the depreciation and interest costs of the capital used to buy electric vans are about the same as internal combustion trucks.

“What we’ve learned from vehicles on the road is that electric vehicles save $10,000 to $12,000 a year because fuel and maintenance costs are much lower,” he said. “If companies are planning for his five-year useful life, he’s saving $50,000 per vehicle. That’s pretty compelling.”

Jacobs said the merchants fleet has an additional 750 BrightDrop trucks on order, with another 17,000 on order.

Big delivery companies have been pushing for electric trucks for years. Amazon wants to buy up to 100,000 vans from Rivian, and is considering an electric Ram Promaster van that Chrysler’s parent Stellantis will start producing this year.

UPS has ordered 10,000 electric vans from Arrival, a Luxembourg-based start-up with operations in the UK. The arrival was hit by financial difficulties and production delays. FedEx plans to buy only battery-powered vans from 2030 and hopes to have an all-electric fleet in operation by 2040. The company is testing 150 of his BrightDrop trucks, with another 350 taking delivery and another 2,000 on reserve.

Nelson Granados, a FedEx delivery driver in Inglewood, Calif., has been using Bright Drop vehicles for the past year. The vehicle is a white van with an orange and purple FedEx logo next to a photo of bright green plugs and electrical cords.

Granados gives the truck a thumbs up. The truck has comforts not found in diesel vans, such as a stereo and heated seats, and a low floor for easy entry and exit. “You’ll be in and out all day, so it’s worth it,” says Granados. “It’s like a luxury delivery truck.”

Mr. Smedley, a plumber in the Kansas City area, saw benefits of E-Transit beyond fuel savings. On the job site, trucks can power equipment such as drain cleaners, eliminating the need to carry generators. Because he has a season ticket, he can now drive a van to Kansas City Chiefs games and use the van’s outlet for tailgating parties. The truck will also secure a special parking spot in Arrowhead Stadium’s dedicated electric vehicle space.

This year, Smedley decided to add a second electric model to his fleet, the Ford F-150 Lighting Pickup Truck. He also keeps track of savings from E-Transit.

“Given the cost over five years, it’s like getting a free van,” he said with a laugh.

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