ACT Expo 2021 – EV Adoption is Now!
Rick Sander, CEO, Wednesday Sept 1, 2021
The rapid pace of EV adoption across the spectrum of vehicles was clearly evident at this year’s Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo. Whereas half a decade ago the “green technology” nearly everyone was looking at was compressed natural gas (CNG) fueled vehicles (yes, cleaner than diesels), this year the vast bulk of the companies with vehicles were showing battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Nearly 40 companies had BEV-powered vehicles at the ACT Expo this year! And while some of these were cars and light trucks, the majority of them were medium- and heavy-duty (M/HD) vehicles – buses, delivery trucks, refuse trucks, and drayage tractors. There was even a BEV fire engine and concrete truck at the show this year!
BEV technology has a lot of positives for M/HD vehicles, one of the most pronounced being incredibly low maintenance costs. After all, BEV drivetrains are inherently simple – they don’t have the complexities of competing technologies such as diesel, hydrogen fuel cells (yes, there were a few companies with fuel cell vehicles at the show), or other combustion engines. The other traits that make BEV technology popular for these vehicles such as “instant-on” torque (BEV bus drivers are amazed at how fast they can accelerate vs diesel buses, for instance), generally lower centers of gravity (better stability), and the obvious environmental benefits just make these even more attractive. On the flipside, BEVs are more expensive, but as battery prices continue to drop (both from technology advances and from economies of scale), this difference should go away in the next five years or so. The last real hurdles to BEV adoption are the combination of range anxiety/charging infrastructure gaps and the ability of utilities to provide enough electricity when BEVs are charging. Like battery cost, battery range will continue to improve on its own, and we continue to see the number of charging stations in exurban areas continue to increase, addressing the infrastructure gaps. Getting the electric utilities to be able to supply the power is a much harder problem, and is part of the problem of electrifying the larger economy (after all, transport only consumes 40% of the energy used in the US). However, there are forward-thinking utilities that are taking this challenge head-on, and when combined with distributed energy resources (DERs) such as PV solar, battery energy storage, and vehicle to grid (V2G) this is a problem that can be solved. Vehicle electrification is definitely here, and it is great to see vehicle companies getting onboard!
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