Electricity beats diesel for heavy goods

Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden research points to electricity being a cheaper way to run heavy goods vehicles than on diesel.

‘I myself am surprised by the results and hope that more haulage companies and heavy goods vehicle manufacturers will be willing to invest in electrification now that we have shown that it can be cost-effective,’ said Johannes Karlsson, doctoral student in Automatic Control Engineering at Chalmers.

In the study, the researchers created a model based on data from a real haulage company in the town of Helsingborg, which was chosen because it can be considered to have typical tasks and operating conditions for a haulage company in that part of Sweden covering long distances. The study compared a large battery that did not need to be recharged on the road, only at the company’s own depots, and a smaller battery that needed quick charging on the road but did not restrict the load capacity as much. The results showed that running on electricity was profitable for the haulage company in the study.

The conclusion is that with the right battery size, it should be possible to electrify heavy goods vehicles so that the cost is the same or lower than if they were powered by a diesel engine.

Investing in batteries and charging equipment comes at a cost. To make the investment worthwhile, researchers have shown in a previous study that the battery of an electric HGV needs to be charged and discharged at least 1,400 times, which is something that most commercial vehicles exceed in their lifetime.

"We have shown that a heavy goods vehicle fleet can be electrified in a cost-effective way. This should lead to companies having the incentive to invest in the transition. Financial incentives usually mean that changes can be made quickly, and our study is realistic for many transport operations," concluded Anders Grauers, associate professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at Chalmers.

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