In the fast-approaching future, fleet operators looking to save on fuel costs, reduce maintenance expenses and diminish environmental impact should embrace electrification.
Dealing with the fluctuating petrol and diesel prices can require a lot of additional planning in order to stay profitable. On top of this, you’re also faced with rising maintenance costs, as truck parts become more expensive due to economic pressure on the rand.
As you look to the future of your business, and to mitigate these uncertainties within your transport business’ profitability, you may need to look at a cost-effective alternative mode of transport. An electric fleet can offer you a low maintenance, energy efficient and environmentally friendly solution, but you’re probably wondering if it’s a worthwhile investment for the South African market?
Related: Daimler tests electric trucks
Electric vehicles continue to feature prominently in the news with Uber adding 50 electric vehicles to its fleet, and China launching 100 000 electric buses late last year. Given the amount of investment in the subject matter, your transport business should consider moving to full electric if you’re mainly operating in urban environments. Being a first adopter could give you a competitive edge – so talk to your truck dealer about what electric options truck makers are investigating for the South African market.
“While posing new challenges, this trend [electric trucks] offers many opportunities for automotive evolution and improvement,” says Bosch president Mike Mansuetti. “The needs of commercial vehicle fleets are changing. Trucks are not only expected to carry large payloads and produce large amounts of power, they also need to be greener, smarter and [more] efficient.”
Market forecast for electric trucks
Although there is growing interest in electric trucks around the world, according to Automotive future now report 2016, Full-electric trucks won’t see South African shores in the mainstream for some time still, even though the technology is available. However, there is a growing demand for this cost-effective, fuel efficient technology and you could gain a competitive advantage by being one of the early adopters.
Isuzu Truck South Africa and Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles have already undertaken local testing of electric trucks with a select group of customers. Last year, Isuzu Trucks invited South African trucking press representatives to sample its latest N Series medium-sized electric truck at the Gerotek automotive testing facility near Pretoria. The truck maker said it’s testing the truck with urban delivery businesses to see how driving range is affected by South Africa’s hilly topography.
Here are a few elements you should consider when adopting electric fleet technology in your business:
What’s the truck’s range?
The range for an electric vehicle can vary widely, but you can use these battery-electric vehicles for many different applications. Battery-driven trucks with a 200km range already exist, but the automated charging stations and supporting infrastructure aren’t developed in South Africa just yet.
A possible solution could be for your company to invest in the infrastructure and charge other businesses to use it to boost their trucks.
Another possible solution to increase the range of electric trucks is to create various truck-stops on your busiest routes and exchange cargo to a new vehicle when the initial one losses charge. Lateral thinking will be required when using electric trucks, but as businesses and consumers become more discerning about their impact on the environment, greening your fleet can place you in a prominent position amongst the competition as an eco-focused logistics business.
Related: Government to incentivise electric car makers
What’s the maintenance costs?
“An electric [truck] is still an automobile with parts that inevitably wear out or break,” explains Eric Loveday, executive senior editor at Inside EVs. “For example, an electric vehicle will [still] need suspension work as those bits including tie rods, ball joints, and shocks; wear. On the inside, EVs differ even less, buttons still break or malfunction. Air-con systems will still break down from time to time and electric seats will fail to move to your preferred setting. A window may even remain stuck open. Therefore, service at routine intervals is still required for electric vehicles.”
Electric vehicles, however, only require battery changes every 100 000km, and many batteries are still in good condition after five years. The maintenance cost, compared with petrol or diesel trucks, is less too. Instead of your trucks needing to visit the dealer for an engine and drivetrain service every 10 000km, the distance between pit stops can double or even triple depending on the harshness of the environment you operate in. Wouldn’t you prefer spending less on maintenance and improving your uptime at the same time?
- Although South Africa doesn’t offer the infrastructure for electric long-haul trucks yet, the technology exists and the demand is growing for urban delivery applications.
- Electric vehicles have a restricted range, but there are multiple work arounds for this limitation – you could install charging stations and let other businesses or individuals use the facility for a fee.
- Even though an electric vehicle will undergo usual wear and tear too, it will still offer lower maintenance costs than a comparative petrol or diesel truck.