Sustainable vehicles are not a one-size fits all.
When selecting the best work trucks for specific regions, a mixed-fuel fleet might be your answer.
Different geographic areas pose unique challenges and requirements that demand tailored solutions for efficient and effective work truck usage.
From rugged terrains and extreme weather conditions to specific industries prevalent in each region, understanding the diverse needs is crucial in determining the ideal types of work trucks.
Whether it’s the snowy landscapes of the northern regions, the expansive agricultural fields of the Midwest, or the bustling urban environments of metropolitan areas, we’ll explore the best types of work trucks based on various regions for optimal performance.
Mapping the Future: EV Adoption for Work Trucks
It’s important to note that EV performance can vary greatly depending on the specific make and model of the EV, as well as driving habits, road conditions, and other factors.
Some EV examples include:
- Isuzu NRR EV — A class 5 truck with a 235-mile range, AC and DC fast charging, and 19,500 lbs. GVWR.
- Lightning eMotors Lightning ZEV4 — A Class 4 flat/stake bed truck with a 130-mile range and 14,200 lbs. GVWR.
- Ford F-150 Lightning — A pickup truck with a 240-mile driving and 5,000 lbs. towing range.
Ideal EV Performance: Cities Vs. Suburbs
What type of regions do your work trucks provide service in?
If it is cities and suburbs, you will benefit long-term by saving on fuel and maintenance by adding EVs to your fleet.
EVs perform best in regions with well-developed charging infrastructure, including a network of fast-charging stations for longer trips.
This ensures that EV owners have access to convenient and reliable charging options, reducing range anxiety and allowing for efficient long-distance travel.
Tim Reeser, Lightning eMotors co-founder and CEO, stated, “Today’s EVs work well in nearly all environments, and they’re getting better every day. However, EVs perform at their peak in cities and suburbs, where speeds are relatively low, and the vehicle can take advantage of regenerative braking for stop signs and stop lights. EVs also perform best in mild climates, as the range will be affected in extreme heat or cold. Despite this, the EVs of today still offer significant benefits and appropriate capability in warm and cold climates.”
One downfall is whether drivers will bring their work truck home. Those living in apartments with shared parking lots don’t always have access to EV charging. But that development is quickly changing. Amperage Capital is funding to accelerate EV charging deployment nationwide for apartment communities and residents.
As for urban and suburban areas, EVs are well-suited for urban and suburban areas where daily driving distances are typically shorter and charging infrastructure is more accessible.
Shorter driving distances make it easier for EVs to meet their range requirements, and the availability of charging stations can provide convenient charging options for longer trips.
Electric motors provide instant torque if your fleet is in mountainous areas, which can be advantageous when navigating steep inclines or mountainous terrain. EVs can offer excellent acceleration and responsive performance in these challenging conditions.
As for areas in the U.S. rapidly adopting, Lightning eMotors named the following areas that could make a particular region an EV fleet leader:
- Intelligent, targeted incentives for fleet owners.
- A near-future support for on-and-off-premise charging infrastructure.
- Climate and geography are less important, but a mild climate and deployment with relatively low route mileage in suburban or urban areas help.
Reeser explained, “The region with the best EV adoption potential isn’t yet clear, and it could be anywhere. Currently, California leads that, and I suspect it will move forward. Other states with excellent incentives and mandates include New York, New Jersey, and Colorado, but others are coming along quickly.”
Optimal Climate for EVs
As extreme temperatures can affect battery performance, EVs tend to perform best in regions with moderate temperatures, typically between 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 30 degrees Celsius).
High temperatures can cause battery degradation and reduce range, while very low temperatures can also decrease battery efficiency and capacity.
Reeser explained, “Extremely cold winter temperatures affect the range of EVs due to the slower chemical reactions and reduced performance of the batteries. While EVs are more energy-efficient than traditional ICE vehicles, they also can’t use the heat generated during engine combustion to warm the cabin, unlike ICE vehicles. Still, these tradeoffs are relatively minor when the full benefits of electric vehicles are considered.”
It is crucial to acknowledge that effectively managing battery systems in extreme temperatures helps mitigate efficiency loss, minimizes strain on the battery, and has the potential to extend its lifespan.
When choosing EVs for your fleet, it comes down to location, location, location. Lightning eMotors has had successful deployments across North America. Still, there are a few highlights where the right combination of use case, route, charging support, and grants have made their vehicles particularly successful.
Reeser said, “Our San Diego Airport fleet recently surpassed 1 million miles transporting passengers from ACE Parking to terminals with zero emissions. In contrast, our DHL fleet in Manhattan shows how small battery EVs are ideal for short-route urban fleets. Our vehicles in Porterville, California, and Southern Florida have also been great case studies for us.”
Evaluating Alt-Fuel Choices for Fleet Sustainability
Interested in fueling your fleet with an alternative to gasoline or diesel? Luckily, there are many options available to fleet operators, such as:
- Renewable diesel.
- Compressed natural gas.
But which one will be the best fit for your fleet? The most important thing to consider is if the refueling infrastructure is available, usually in big cities and metropolitan areas.
U.S. Cities Foster Alt-Fuel Refueling Infrastructure
Steve Whaley, the director of autogas business development for the Propane Education & Research Council, stated, “Propane autogas vehicle adoptions happen every day across the country. Thousands of propane autogas vehicles in metropolitan areas move people or goods because the energy source is ideal for businesses with multiple vehicles running regional routes and returning to base daily.”
According to PERC, when transitioning to propane, the fuel cost is up to 50% less than diesel, making it a cost-effective solution for larger fleets in these areas.
As for compressed natural gas as an option, you’re in luck if your fleet is in coastal states. A spokesperson from Mack said, “CNG adoption is the most prevalent in the west (CA), southeast (FL), and the northeast (NY, NJ, and PA). The Texas Triangle and Ohio have the next highest adoption rates.”
Several cities nationwide have alternative fuel refueling infrastructure to support adopting and using alternative-fueled vehicles. While this list is not exhaustive, here are some notable cities known for their alt-fueling infrastructure:
- Los Angeles.
- New York City.
- Salt Lake City.
- Portland, Oregon.
Natural Gas Vehicles for America and Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas have succeeded with renewable natural gas-fueled refuse and recycling collection vehicles throughout California.
According to California Air Resources Board data, the bio-CNG vehicles' annual average carbon intensity score was -98.98 gCO2e/MJ.1.
Beyond the Metropolis: Alt-Fuel Work Trucks Can Also Thrive in Rural Regions
Metropolitan areas are not your only option for using alt-fuel for work trucks.
Rural regions with agricultural activities can benefit from alternative-fueled work trucks, particularly bio-fueled ones. Biofuels derived from agricultural waste or dedicated energy crops can offer a sustainable and locally sourced fuel option for work trucks in farming, forestry, and other rural industries.
Propane autogas excels in regions with limited energy alternatives, such as rural and tribal communities.
Whaley added, “Propane autogas is an ideal energy source for fleets that need to travel up to 400 miles before refueling while still prioritizing performance. In rural areas with limited refueling stations or chargers, propane autogas’ long-range ensures fleets can complete routes and return to base without issue. And because propane autogas is a portable energy source delivered on demand by a propane fuel delivery truck fleet, owners in rural areas can have peace of mind knowing their next delivery will show up when they need it. Propane is widely used in rural areas for home heating, cooking, powering farms, and other applications. Using it for fleets is another way to take advantage of an energy source already powering rural communities.”
Weather-Ready Work Trucks: Finding the Best Alternative Fuels for Any Climate
Different types of alternative-fueled work trucks can perform optimally in varying weather conditions. Here's a breakdown of how other alternative fuels may fare in specific weather conditions:
- Propane: Propane-fueled work trucks are versatile and perform well in various weather conditions. Propane is not as sensitive to temperature changes as gasoline or diesel, making it suitable for hot and cold weather. Propane-powered vehicles can start reliably in cold temperatures and maintain consistent performance in warmer climates.
“Propane autogas vehicles have an extensive bandwidth for operational duty cycles on both sides of the climate. From the 120-degree weather in Arizona to the -50 degrees in Minnesota, propane autogas fleets still operate with the same performance and energy efficiency. Drivers can run all their heating and air conditioning to stay comfortable during those times, and it still won’t impact the range of the vehicle,” said Whaley.
- Natural Gas: Natural gas-fueled work trucks, such as those powered by compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas, are well-suited for moderate weather conditions. They can handle both hot and cold temperatures effectively.
- Biofuels: Biofuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol, can perform well in various weather conditions. Biodiesel is more tolerant of cold temperatures than regular diesel, as it has a higher cold-weather operability. Ethanol can also handle weather conditions but may have slightly reduced fuel efficiency in extremely cold weather.
- Hydrogen: Hydrogen-fueled trucks powered by fuel cells are not significantly impacted by weather conditions. They can perform well in hot, cold, and moderate climates. However, extreme temperatures can affect the efficiency and range of hydrogen fuel cells, requiring appropriate thermal management systems for optimal performance.
It's important to note that alternative-fueled work trucks are designed to handle various weather conditions.
However, specific factors such as temperature extremes, humidity, and altitude can affect the performance and efficiency of these vehicles.
Choosing the Right Sustainable Work Truck
Deciding on sustainable vehicles for your fleet's location requires a thorough understanding of different geographic areas' unique challenges and requirements.
From rugged terrains to extreme weather conditions and specific industries in each region, tailoring your work truck selection is crucial for efficient and effective operations.
For fleets operating in cities and suburbs, EVs offer long-term benefits in terms of fuel and maintenance savings. They perform best in regions with well-developed charging infrastructure, providing convenient and reliable charging options for efficient long-distance travel.
Alternative fuels are also advantageous in different weather conditions.
Ultimately, while building your alt-fueled fleet, consider the availability of refueling infrastructure and the specific needs of your location.
By understanding these nuances and tailoring your choices, you can build a sustainable work truck fleet that meets the unique demands of your region.