Does Driving an Electric Truck Save Money?

Hybrid Electric Trucks MIT

If you knew that driving an electric truck could save money to your company’s bottom line, thus putting more money in your pocket, would you make the switch? Researchers at MIT are betting that local and regional truck drivers just might, based on what they found.

The big news? Using electric trucks can considerably reduce costs for fleets, from anywhere from 9% to 12% less when used to make deliveries on a daily basis in large cities. According to their models, diesel trucks can’t compete.

“We think it’s already a viable economic model, and as battery costs continue to drop, the case will only get better,” Jarrod Goentzel, director of the Renewable Energy Delivery Project at CTL and one of four co-authors of the new study, told MIT News.

The CTL study was conducted using data collected by the international office supplier Staples, as well as ISO New England, the nonprofit firm that runs New England’s electric power grid. Using that data, the researchers modeled the costs for a fleet of 250 delivery trucks, and examined alternate scenarios in which the whole fleet used one of three kinds of motors: purely electric engines, hybrid gas-electric engines and conventional diesel engines. Missouri's Smith Electronic Trucks

Based on the Staples data, the researchers modeled what would happen if diesel gasoline cost $4 per gallon. Trucks with internal-combustion engines averaged 10.14 miles per gallon, compared to 11.56 miles per gallon for hybrid trucks, while the electric-only trucks averaged 0.8 kilowatt-hours per mile. Staples currently has 53 all-electric trucks, manufactured by Missouri-based Smith Electric Vehicles, in use in several American cities.

Researchers also looked at the possibility of the trucks being part of a vehicle-to-grid system, where batteries could be plugged into the electric grid for 12 hours each night as an additional electricity source for consumers. In a setup such as this, truck owners would receive compensation from utility firms for providing the power service. The study found that from this setup, business owners stand to make $900 to $1,400 per truck per year in V2G revenues, reported MIT News.

Because of this, when V2G-enabled electric trucks take the place of internal-combustion trucks, operational cost decreases from 75 cents per mile to 68 cents per mile. Furthermore, as Goentzel told MIT News, “almost all these costs scale down to the individual vehicle.” That means fleets could be much smaller than 250 trucks and still see savings.

While this concept would provide many opportunities for urban commercial fleets, the study concluded it wouldn’t apply to rural or interstate deliveries. If the V2G concept does become a reality, urban commercial fleets will likely be the first vehicles used because they can be managed and controlled to connect to grids at regular times in the same locations.

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