On Could 10 on the 2022 Superior Clear Transportation (ACT) Expo, college bus producer Blue Hen unveiled a brand new electrical platform for Class 5-6 automobiles. Blue Hen joins a bunch of at the least two dozen OEMs serving the business electrical car market.
Photograph: GNA/ACT Expo
This was the ultimate 12 months the ACT Expo convened on the Lengthy Seashore Conference Middle south of Los Angeles. With a report 8,000 attendees, the commerce occasion has outgrown its environs and can transfer to the Orange County Conference Middle for 2023.
The expansion of the ACT Expo mirrors — to a big extent — the expansion of “Superior Clear Transportation” within the business car business. Remembering my first ACT Expo some 11 years in the past, the spartan present ground was full of suppliers of compressed and liquified (CNG/LNG), propane, and different biofuels.
Since then, whereas a few of these alt-fuel distributors nonetheless exhibit, the present has pivoted with the market to electrification. “We’re an electrical present this 12 months,” mentioned Erik Neandross, ACT Expo producer and CEO of Gladstein Neandross & Associates, to open the 2018 present. On this fast-moving river, 5 years in the past feels just like the Darkish Ages.
Evolutions are exhausting to measure, significantly once you’re in the midst of them. At that same 2018 show, Paul Rosa of Penske Truck Leasing mentioned, “It’s simply not within the dialogue that we’ll put (fleets) in an electrical truck subsequent month.”
Flash ahead to 2022: Penske Truck Leasing is within the means of fleeting 750 Ford E-Transits, mentioned Penske’s Artwork Vallely in a seminar. The river is popping right into a flood — and with so many new gamers and shifting components, it’s exhausting to make sense of all of it.
BrightDrop’s Steve Hornyak (left) and Brad Beauchamp stand in entrance of the Zevo 600 supply van, which is already in FedEx fleets, with wider deliveries by the fourth quarter of 2023. BrightDrop is planning to supply 50,000 items by 2025 — a manufacturing run that may transfer markets with its sheer measurement.
Photograph: Chris Brown
Strolling this 12 months’s present ground, it felt just like the Gold Rush for business electrical automobiles. By my unofficial depend, there are actually at the least two dozen unbiased producers of EVs trying to serve the Class 2b to Class 6 market — considerably eclipsing the incumbent OEMs within the ICE market. Throw in one other handful (at the least) for Class 7 and eight. Many have been in Lengthy Seashore, some weren’t. Some will prevail, others gained’t.
Ought to fleets trying to electrify take an opportunity on an unbiased OEM? The incumbents have a built-in benefit on the subject of funding, manufacturing capability, gross sales footprint, timelines to market, and skill to service the automobiles.
However on the subject of car engineering, my take has advanced: I’m not essentially defaulting to the incumbent OEMs as the higher alternative, each time. There are unbiased makers constructing their very own battery methods with the effectivity and power density that rival and even surpass the know-how of the majors. Some independents personal their provide chains whereas some incumbents are outsourcing to hurry EVs to market.
In fact, this solely makes fleet managers’ jobs that rather more tough. They by no means needed to make these robust selections with ICE automobiles, because the know-how and the automakers have been confirmed. Add new uncertainties to the combination — provide chain disruptions and rising uncooked materials prices are driving battery costs up after a decade of declines.
Along with value will increase, developments in battery capability have slowed, mentioned Paul Seashore, president of Octillion Energy Techniques, a worldwide provider of EV battery packs for vehicles, vans, buses, and energy-storage methods. He isn’t relying on solid-state batteries as the large breakthrough to escalate EV adoption. “Battery costs aren’t coming down that a lot, so different issues want to vary,” Seashore informed me.
Eric Fisher of Blue Arc EV Options, a brand new division of Shyft Group, exits the corporate’s new Class 3 supply walk-in van. Along with the van and a modular chassis for varied purposes, Blue Arc is advertising Energy Dice, a cellular EV charger that may cost as much as 30 automobiles a day. The Energy Dice may very well be a second-life residence for batteries from electrical automobiles.
Photograph: Chris Brown
One answer is to monetize the whole lifecycle of the battery — from its first life within the car, to a second life as a stationary energy supply, to the recycling means of extracting treasured metals. House owners of the lifecycle can earn money in every part, and in flip provide a lower-priced car lease within the first life, he mentioned.
For fleets trying to electrify, the robust selections start effectively earlier than buying the car. Fleet managers will first have to exhaust grant alternatives, perceive energy wants, arrange charging infrastructure, and work out new software program methods to handle all of it.
“Get EV infrastructure accomplished” was a rallying cry at this 12 months’s present, recognizing that the footprint of charging stations must develop by a a number of of seven. Shell — sure, the oil and gasoline conglomerate — is collaborating in that progress. Shell operates 80,000 cost factors globally immediately and is planning 500,000 by 2025 and a pair of.5 million by 2030. With a giant presence at ACT, Shell has rolled out fleet programs for public charging in addition to software program for depot charging. All of it ties into current fueling packages.
After charging infrastructure, fleet managers might want to contemplate software program to handle charging, power prices, and operational information. For fleets already coping with telematics, FMIS (fleet administration data methods), and upkeep packages, that is yet another integration and one other studying curve.
Virtually all EV producers have proprietary software program methods to handle their automobiles, they usually promise — at the least in concept — to hook up with legacy packages by means of APIs. However in case you’re fleeting EVs from varied OEMs, you’ll nonetheless have to fret about a number of software program packages. And in case you determine to de-fleet from one EV model and select one other, you’ll have to implement and be taught one more system.
Lisa McClung, Motiv’s new president and chief business officer, mentioned the corporate is broadening its scope to seek the advice of with fleets on the method of electrification, together with interactions with the C-suite and different departments equivalent to procurement. Motiv, which has been round since 2013, simply launched its six-generation battery with the next torque motor and 150-mile vary.
Photograph: Chris Brown
Third events are seizing the chance. EV Join presents an open-source system that connects chargers, software program, automobiles in a single system and one app, with APIs to combine with different fleet methods. “We’re going to ensure the entire thing works,” mentioned Jon Leicester of EV Join in an interview on the present ground. “Whether or not that’s charging at residence, the depot, or within the wild, the concept is to attach all of them.”
Bear in mind the phrase “information is the brand new oil?” It’s been round for years, although we’re nonetheless simply starting to know the right way to extract information from automobiles to utilize it. New options are coming on-line because the business migrates from aftermarket modems to OEM modems put in on the manufacturing facility.
I met with the group from Sibros at ACT. “We’re the safe pipeline from the car to the cloud,” mentioned Mayank Sikaria, cofounder and president of Sibros, a related platform for fleets and automakers.
Zeus Electrical Chassis (with Robert Grinstead, founder and COO) goes after the vocational medium-duty market with its Class 4-6 electrical chassis.
Photograph: Chris Brown
That pipeline permits the switch of knowledge that’s then aggregated and normalized to be used in car diagnostics, fleet analytics, driver scoring, and safety packages to guard from malware hacks. Knowledge switch is a two-way avenue, as Sibros permits over-the-air (OTA) updates to repair defects and ship new related providers at mass scale.
Right here’s one other indicator of market evolution — autonomy has labored its manner into the conversations at ACT Expo. Whereas the final media fixates on robotaxis, the transportation business sees extra mundane makes use of for autonomy that remedy large issues.
There’s extra rapid alternative in fenced-in industrial areas with forklifts and yard tractors, and even depots wherein the motive force exits the bus or truck and permits the car to park and cost. This leads the best way to on-road, extremely scheduled routes and lengthy haul, hub-to-hub deliveries.
To not be misplaced in these conversations is the “human within the loop of autonomy.” And that is, once more, the place the fleet supervisor’s job will develop.
Drivers are historically accountable for driving, communication en route, journey reporting, and car loading and unloading. In an autonomous setting, the pc takes over most of those capabilities however the fleet supervisor might be accountable for oversight and accountability, mentioned Sam Saad of Gatik, an autonomous startup specializing in short-haul logistics.
Journeys will should be deliberate extra exactly, together with the method of domiciling the automobiles. “The concept will not be for the human to take direct management, however to watch remotely with a dashboard, and to approve automobiles’ suggestions when vital,” Saad mentioned.
Dakota Semler, cofounder and CEO of Xos, broadcasts the corporate’s new medium-duty MDXT and heavy-duty HDXT at an offsite occasion. The affair matched the grandeur of any incumbent producer’s launch get together.
Photograph: Chris Brown
Reimagining logistics round autonomy can ship tangible advantages round extra frequent deliveries, equivalent to close to real-time achievement of products, avoiding inventory outs, and allocating area away from storage to retail, Saad mentioned.
Lastly, again to the evolution: In his closing keynote handle, Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger appeared to echo Rosa of Penske’s feedback 5 years in the past. “We are able to’t offer you a (Class 8) battery electrical truck with the vary you need now,” Linebarger mentioned, although he harassed the significance of actively growing and implementing “partial options” equivalent to hybrid know-how immediately.
We’ll revisit that assertion 5 years from now. For now, Linebarger summed up a prevailing business sentiment: “We expect we’ll develop and be worthwhile as a result of we’re leaning into decarbonization, even when the maths isn’t clear.”