How Much Does it Cost to Operate a Battery Electric Truck?

<p><strong>Determining the operating costs for electric trucks can be difficult because&nbsp;electric equivalents to &ldquo;fuel economy&rdquo; ratings are not published for commercial vehicles.</strong> <em>Photo: TransPower</em></p>

If figuring out fuel costs and operating costs for your diesel trucks makes you sweat, you won’t look forward to figuring out the cost of operating a battery electric vehicle (BEV).

The price of diesel is pretty stable compared to electricity prices and while diesel can fluctuate week to week, electricity can fluctuate hour to hour.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration report for May 2017 shows the U.S. average price for industrial consumers as 6.67 cents per kilowatt/hour. But like diesel, there are some significant swings in regional pricing. Parts of New England and California have the highest prices. The New England average for May 2017 was 12.33 cents, while California was 10.97. Washington State enjoys a price of just 4.58 cents per kWh.

Determining the operating costs requires that you know the vehicle’s kWh/100 mile figure. That might be challenging, as electric equivalents to “fuel economy” ratings are not published for commercial vehicles. The alternate method is to determine what it will cost to charge the batteries. You simply multiply the battery’s capacity by your local kW/h charge. For example, the battery capacity in the new Chanje V8070 is 70 kW/h. In Washington, it would cost $3.20 to charge a Chanje from zero. In Connecticut, where the industrial price is 13.2 cents, it would cost $9.24. 

Earlier this year, Cummins announced plans to enhance its efforts to commercialize its electrification capabilities. The company has long been associated with power generation and motive systems for the rail industry. It has more recently been working to develop power systems for trucks, and in the course of that research, it has been modeling the cost of electricity at between 8 and 12 cents per kilowatt hour.

“In Europe, where diesel is very expensive, it’s a pretty easy case to make,” says Julie Furber, executive director of electrification business development at Cummins. “Here, [electricity pricing] is a variable that comes into the total cost of ownership calculation. For some fleets it will make sense, but it won’t work everywhere.”

Even with regional price fluctuations, in general, electricity is still cheaper than diesel. Bryan Allen, marketing manager for Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America, says the company’s soon-to-be-released eCanter will reduce energy costs by 40% to 50% compared to diesel. Based on New York City energy prices, the yearly cost savings in fuel of the eCanter ($2,265) compared to a same-size Fuso FE160 diesel truck ($4,660) are 51% lower, he says.

Much of that savings may depend on the time of day you decide to plug it in.

“Many of the utilities have started offering off-peak pricing for charging of BEVs,” notes Scott Perry, chief technology and procurement officer, Ryder Global Fleet Management Solutions. “And as with most things in the commercial space, everything is negotiable. Big industrial users also have the ability to leverage their existing procurement power for this new source of demand.”


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