Amazon made big news last September when it announced a deal with well-funded startup Rivian to deploy 100,000 medium-duty electric box trucks by 2030. There are a lot of incentives for companies to adopt electric fleets. Still, there are a lot of unknowns – which class of trucks will be adopted first, when will substantial market penetration occur, where and when charging will happen. What is clear is that electric trucks have larger batteries than passenger vehicles and need to be charged in a way that is compatible with their delivery schedules. It is not too early for utilities to start planning for the infrastructure for electric trucks. Oncor is doing just that with an in-house built planning tool.
Forecasts vary on the speed of electric truck uptake. There are many things that make electric truck fleets attractive – lower operating and maintenance costs, environmentally friendly marketing, the availability of zero emissions credits, etc. Utilities like Duke Energy and Southern California Edison are getting involved in providing incentives and charging infrastructure.
Still, there aren’t many medium-duty electric trucks in production. The heavy-duty truck numbers are even smaller. At a recent SEPA workshop, Rick Mihelic of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), provided insight into the cadence of deployment for local, regional and long-haul trucking. NACFE sees adoption of “return to base” happening first, followed “dedicated route”. The last to be electrified is heavy-duty long haul. By 2040, NACFE predicts a heavy penetration of electric trucks powered by clean energy.
That still seems like a long way off. But think about the early phase. For example, a company proposes building a warehouse with a charging depot for medium duty electric trucks. Ten medium-duty trucks charging overnight would require 70 kW. To charge those same trucks in 9 minutes with DC Fast Charging would 1.75 MW. If you double or triple the number of electric trucks at the depot, you get the picture.
What impact does this have on the local demand profile? What if the warehouse were in an area of limited electric capacity? Should the utility upgrade transformers? Will a new substation or major feeder be needed? Or could non-wires alternatives and managed charging meet the need? These questions have implications for distribution planning. Plus, constructing new capacity, acquiring land and permitting will take time.
Here’s why and how Oncor is tackling the issue. “The Dallas and Fort Worth area has four pockets of high concentrations of logistics and distribution centers all proximate to the intersection of interstates airports and rail intermodal facilities, so that is an area of potential growth we are preparing for,” said David Treichler, Director of Strategy and Technology for Oncor Delivery. These are high density of electric use areas, so addition of a large charging depot could overwhelm existing infrastructure.
After a customer proposed building a large logistics facility in the service territory, Oncor decided to build a tool to identify clusters of load growth and inform the timing of capital investment. The concept for EV Planning Charging Tool involved team members from distribution planning and new customer construction management. Built in Tableau by engineering interns and data scientists, the tool brings together geo-referenced internal data on substation load, with external data on growth rates, regional fleets, large buildings, Municipal transit and school bus garages. The forecast model, also built in-house, calculates load growth impacts through 2050. The model improves as customers’ plans solidify.
The EV Planning Charging Tool will not be used in a vacuum. Oncor plans to validate visualization with fleet operators that are planning for electric truck charging. The tool could also prove valuable in educating regulators on the scope of potential changes needed. Refining predictions will depend on building relationships within the ecosystem to facilitate information sharing.
Find out more about Oncor’s EV planning tool and more at the Utility Analytic Summit. Oncor’s David Treichler, Director of Strategy and Technology; Robert Jones, Algorithmic Architect; and Eric Daniels, New Construction Management will present Growing Your Utility Through Green (EV) Fleets on April 16.
 To see a mock up – Amazon reveals design of its Rivian-powered electric delivery van, February 2020
 The truck returns to its home base.
 A trucking company serves the same location or customer regularly.
 To serve heavy-duty (class 8) trucks with DC fast charging will likely take at minimum substation upgrades which take two to four years, according to April Buldoc, founder of SCurve Strategies.