In early 2020, the electric truck market looked set to grow dramatically in prominence. Since that time, however, the coronavirus pandemic has interfered with development, and now industry analysts expect delays in implementation.
Interestingly, the main issue is not in the rollout of the technology itself - which is mostly already completed. Instead, it is the consultation with industry.
Dr. Michai Dorobantu of the Eaton Vehicle Group points out in an interview with Fleet Magazine that various stakeholders have not met in person to get a sense of what sort of solutions the industry wants. And so the leading cause of delay may be a lack of consultation, rather than anything more structural.
At the beginning of 2020, electric truck development was very much a partnership between various stakeholders and manufacturers. Companies were evolving their designs and prototypes in real-time communication with suppliers and other vendors, collecting feedback, and feeding them into their product iteration process. Dr. Dorobantu points out that that essentially came to a halt in mid-March and is still in a state of limbo.
Problems didn’t just come from one place - it was systemic. Truck developers themselves shut down but so did suppliers and customers too. The development cycle went into a kind of deep freeze, and it still hasn’t yet emerged. Thus, the electrification of truck fleets may take much longer than many imagined.
The digital side of the supply chain, however, saw much less disruption. For instance, companies were still able to get fast LTL freight shipping quotes even at the height of the crisis.
The physical side of things saw more problems, but industry insiders believe that they are now past the worst. Technicians are now back in the labs, moving forward with projects. And despite significant alterations to working practices, outputs are largely coming back online.
Tailwinds Helping Foster Truck Development
Dr. Dorobantu, however, points out that tailwinds are helping to foster electric truck development. For instance, in California, regulators are making it easier for companies to adopt commercial electric vehicles. These changes in the rules provide incentives for companies in the development arena to ramp up investment and plow more money into their schemes.
The electric freight business is also benefiting substantially in infrastructure. The I5 charging corridor, for instance, is being designed specifically to cater to the needs of freight charging instead of regular private vehicles. Similar things are happening in Europe.
Market participants, therefore, expect that, overall, progress toward electrification will actually accelerate. Both governments and regulators are putting their resources behind the infrastructure for the industry to develop. And now investors are reacting, putting money into projects many believe will inevitably replace gas-powered liners.
The policy backing for these schemes is also providing tailwinds. Everybody knows that governments, in general, are backing green policies. So the development of electric trucks will become more economically viable as they change their policies.
Finally, customers also want goods delivered via sustainable means, creating measurable customer pull. And that is only going to help the market overall.