Electric trucks may become the driving force behind EV growth

Profit maximization will determine pace of change says analyst

“If there’s money to be made, you can expect companies to take advantage of it, and electric trucks offer a compelling argument,” noted energy market analyst Peter Tertzakian wrote recently in the Calgary Herald. “The reason is simple. Trucking companies — like any capitalist, profit-maximizing institution — make rational purchase decisions based on careful assessments of economic viability. Any capable Chief Financial Officer is algorithmically brain-wired to ask, ‘Is this thing going to make our company any more money?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ the switch is often fast.”

Tesla unveiled its electric truck offering on November 16, 2017 – a big, heavy-duty hauler it claims will have a range of 800 kilometers and a 640km recharge time of just 30 minutes. Some third party automotive number crunchers have questioned those claims, however, and say Tesla may be relying on advances in technology that are not yet available.

Still 2 years away from promised first-deliveries, orders for Tesla’s electric big rig have come from Canadian grocery giant Loblaws, U.S. trucking company J.B. Hunt, Walmart and others. Loblaw has also ordered electric semi-trailers from BYD Company – the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer. Old Dominion Freight Lines is a notable naysayer to Tesla’s electric truck offering, which one sector analyst attributed to skepticism towards the trucks' ability to fit their business models given untested claims about torque, hauling capacity and recharging stations.

Still, Tertzakian says the shift to electric trucks resembles the move from coal-fired steam driven locomotives to diesel power trains that happened between the 1940s and 1970s — a change that occurred because range, power and control improvements meant better productivity and lower operating expenses.

“… if you were a railroad operator still running steam engines in the mid-20th century, you were probably headed toward bankruptcy,” Terztakian says. “Your competitors with shiny new diesel equipment would have been stealing customers with better service and lower prices for hauling goods.

“And that’s the thing in the business world that drives faster transitions to newer products and processes: the threat of being uncompetitive, or outright bankruptcy. It’s a powerful force for change.”

How fast the change will come remains to be seen, but some note that electric vehicle adoption isn't happening as fast as some headlines have suggested.

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