The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has released a draft technology assessment finding that battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) are beginning to penetrate the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle markets.
The new report notes that electric transit buses, shuttle buses and delivery vehicles are increasingly available from a variety of manufacturers, and some school buses are starting to show up. Class 8 heavy-duty trucks remain a significant challenge.
Around 40 BEV transit buses are currently in service in California, and over 2,500 worldwide. There are three models commercially available in the US. Despite limited commercial availability, over 300 medium-duty trucks, mostly delivery vans, are in service. Only 4 electric school buses are on the road in California, but a few more have been ordered for pilot programs.
Heavy-duty electric trucks remain in the demo phase – a few drayage and refuse collection trucks are currently being demonstrated. ARB anticipates that the number of electric drayage trucks will increase – there are several pilot projects underway, including ARB’s own $25-million allocation to zero-emission drayage truck demos.
The main barriers to market acceptance are the same as those that dog all EVs: battery cost and limited range. ARB finds that battery system costs for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are currently in the $500-700 per kilowatt-hour range, substantially more than costs for legacy diesel powertrains.
ARB also notes that standardization of vehicle charging connectors and protocols would be helpful, allowing BEVs to charge away from their home base, increasing daily range and possibly allowing for smaller battery packs.