July 13, 2008
Electric Trucks Cheaper In Port Of Los Angeles

The ports around LA have been under regulatory pressure to pollute less. They use a lot of older diesel tractor trucks that are especially polluting because those trucks aren't considered reliable enough for long range driving but are still reliable enough for shorter trips within the ports and to nearby warehouses. Well, custom electric trucks built for the Port of Los Angeles cut pollution and lower fuel costs at the same time.

The electric truck, which takes about three hours to charge, has a range of about 30 miles while pulling a 60,000-pound cargo container, and about 60 miles empty. Although that distance may not sound useful, much of freight hauling within the port complex is from terminals to nearby train yards.

It costs about 20 cents a mile to operate, or about four to nine times less than a diesel truck, depending on fluctuating fuel costs and operating conditions.

I do not find these results surprising. Electric vehicles lack range. But in applications where only short range is needed but where the vehicles are used heavily the cost per mile for the electric power is less than that of liquid hydrocarbons by a pretty substantial multiple.

What I wonder: How long does it take to run down the batteries on these trucks? The frequency and length of time needed to recharge reduces the number of hours per day available to operate the trucks.

I expect we will see the vehicle fuel market fragment with many more vehicles powered by batteries and natural gas than is currently the case. Fuel costs rise as we go from electricity to natural gas to diesel to gasoline. That slope is getting steeper from electricity to the other power sources. But the cost advantage of diesel over gasoline has shrunk some and it is not clear to me whether it will shrink further. You can track the trends in diesel versus gasoline prices here.

Of course, fuel cost is not the only cost in vehicle operation. Battery costs are still a big obstacle in the way of wider spread use of pure electric and pluggable hybrid electric vehicles. How fast battery costs fall will determine in very large part how easily we can adjust to the coming decline in world oil production. Battery technology is more important than wind or solar or nuclear technologies. Though the combination of wind, solar, and nuclear technologies matter more than battery technology.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 July 13 12:44 PM  Energy Electric Cars

HomeBoy said at July 13, 2008 4:02 PM:

From the first line that you quote: "The electric truck, which takes about three hours to charge,".

Later you question how long it takes to charge? Did I miss something?

Brett Bellmore said at July 14, 2008 9:31 AM:

I suspect that was badly worded, and what he really meant to ask was, "How many charge/discharge cycles are the batteries good for?"

Randall Parker said at July 14, 2008 6:15 PM:

I did word it poorly and improved it some in response to HomeBoy's helpful comments.

A more developed version: Electric vehicles have a few costs that need consideration:

1) Initial costs.

2) Number of charging/discharging cycles.

3) How badly is the battery type affected by partial or full discharges?

4) What is the efficiency of charging in terms of heat lost while charging?

5) How long does charging take?

6) How long can the vehicle operate once charged?

Depending on the answers to these questions the economics of it can vary considerably.

tomato said at July 15, 2008 6:27 AM:

had the truck since january
27 weeks and has gone 360 miles so far

360/27 = 13.3 miles a week?

Like the article said - they are not driving far.

I would assume that guy is the only guy using it for the shift. I assume that the shipyards run 24/7.


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