Mark Skogen, for Haskayne School of Business
March 31, 2022
It’s time for corporations to invest in electric trucks
As the world continues transitioning to more renewable sources of energy, and oil and gas prices reach record highs, it’s time for corporate fleets to think more seriously about integrating electric trucks into their fleets and creating their own charging infrastructure, says Dr. Osman Alp, PhD, associate professor and area chair in operations and supply chain management at the Haskayne School of Business.
In research published in Omega, The International Journal of Management Science, Alp and his colleagues, Tarkan Tan of the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands and Maxi Udenio of KU Leuven in Belgium, develop a strategic framework to help companies make decisions about integrating more electric trucks into their fleets to save money and carbon emissions.
“Companies are interested and intrigued about electric trucks,” says Alp. “This research is important because they are very reluctant.”
To date, companies have been cautious about investing in electric trucks because of the cost and “range anxiety” — concern there aren’t enough charging stations available to keep the trucks moving.
“The general verdict is that it is not the time yet because of lengthy charging times and lack of infrastructure,” says Alp. “But we show that it is actually is time, if they adopt the right approach and invest in their own charging infrastructure and integrate their fleet and charging infrastructure investment decisions.”
Alp and his colleagues in Europe studied five large companies with in-house or for-hire fleets. Some companies have bought a few electric trucks “just for the fun of it…to play around,” he says, but generally, companies are reluctant to invest heavily in electric trucks because it’s a new technology, they have questions about charging infrastructure and time, and it’s expensive.
“They’re hoping that the costs will go down, but actually the life cycle costs are already down,” says Alp. “With maintenance and fuel and everything, electric trucks are already lower, but I don't think they're even aware of that.”
Providing insights to transition to greener fleet
The researchers provide insights to help companies overcome their caution and make the move. “Nobody's thinking of creating their own charging stations because they think it'll be too costly. But if they optimize together, it's not,” says Alp.
“They're waiting for somebody to make those charging stations available to them. But if they make a gradual transition plan to a greener fleet supported with an optimized density of in-house charging stations, then it’s reasonable for them to do so, but they are not aware of this.”
When thinking about purchasing electric trucks, companies shouldn’t necessarily buy the largest battery and longest-range vehicle, the researchers say. The decision should be made based on the available charging infrastructure — companies can reduce costs by investing in smaller battery ranges and designing their charging infrastructure accordingly.
The researchers also show how subsidies, renewable content in the energy mix and carbon costs and taxes can speed up the transition for the transportation sector, one of the highest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. Governments and regulators can adopt these insights to motivate companies to transition from diesel to electric vehicles, creating more sustainable fleets.