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Different Drives for Different Trucks

(Joseph Gottlieb, CTO, Thursday March 5th, 2020)

As Rick stated in his blog on Tuesday, the WorkTruck Show 2020 (WTS20) is underway in Indianapolis, IN this week, and I thought I would take the opportunity to educate our blog readers on the different classes of vehicles, and why different drive solutions are relevant for them. Vehicles (regardless of their drive system) are rated based on their weight according to a US Department of Transportation (DoT) “class” system.

In most cases, the “right” drive system depends on the use case: range requirements, where the vehicle operates, and the availability of charging infrastructure. Here is an overview of those classes, the use case for those classes, and what drive systems are being considered as vehicles become “green”:

DoT Class 1 (6,000 lbs. or less): This is where automobiles, light trucks, and SUVs (ALTS) fit, as well as some smaller utility vans. Currently gasoline, diesel, or hybrid powered, these vehicles are moving towards electric vehicle (EV) drivetrains. The main impediments to EV adoption have been battery range (largely gone), recharge times (mostly gone with DC fast charging), and availability of fast charging stations outside of metro areas (getting better).

DoT Class 2 (6,000-10,000 lbs.): These vehicles have historically run on gas or diesel, though some utilize compressed natural gas (CNG). The use cases for these vary significantly, from long-range/rural use (full-size pickups) to metropolitan (metro) day use (vans); the former will likely stay on gas or diesel, while the latter will likely become EVs.

DoT Classes 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 (10,000-33,000 lbs.): These vehicles are used in metropolitan areas (with some exceptions), and have historically run on gas, diesel, or CNG, though there are some hybrid drive vehicles as well. Because of their typical 8-hour duty cycle and short-medium ranges, these are well-suited to today’s EV and charging technologies.

DoT Class 8 (33,000 lbs. or greater): When people think of Class 8 vehicles, they tend to think of long-haul semi-trailer trucks, but they are not the only vehicles in this class – it also includes fire trucks, tour buses, and large industrial vehicles such as dump trucks and fuel trucks. Nearly all of these vehicles are diesel today; for those vehicles that are long-haul (semis, tour buses, etc.), hydrogen fuel cells seem to be the alternate energy of choice. For others with intermittent/short duty cycle use cases such as fire trucks, cement trucks, and dump trucks (for certain use cases), battery-based EV technology could be feasible.

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