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In the ongoing battle between electric vehicles and traditional combustion engines, the argument for electric vehicles seems to have the upper hand, as places like the EU have agreed to ban new combustion engines by 2035. However, traditional petrol heads and sceptics point out disadvantages in EVs such as their lack of range and long charging times, certainly points which need to be addressed in the near future by EV manufacturers like Tesla. One of the arguments against electric vehicles is that often the power used to charge them still comes from fossil fuels of some kind, with claims that this makes them just as bad for the environment as combustion engines. However, combustion engines have an energy conversion efficiency of 20-35% with most energy dispersed as heat energy, while the efficiency of power stations is higher – from around 35% to 46% (according to ECOFYS). This means the fossil fuels used to propel an electric vehicle are more efficiently utilised than fossil fuels in a combustion engine.
One area where combustion engines still have the advantage is trucking. As no practical competitors have appeared to take on the road freight industry, Elon Musk’s automotive company, Tesla, is looking to provide the competition in this field. In the article below, Alex Gayer, a durability test operator at Tesla, compares the cost of traditional trucking to the cost of trucking with a Tesla Semi. These calculations are based on an American market where superchargers are widely available. – Ross Sinclair
The jaw-dropping economics of electric trucking
By Alex Gayer
The retail price of a semi-truck is often discussed when comparing diesel vs electric, however the potential disparity becomes far less relevant when the economics of operation are concerned.
Take a typical diesel truck, hauling a typical load, with typical fuel prices. Currently, the average cost of diesel in the US is $4.993 per gallon, including taxes.
Let’s say you wanted to move a truckload delivery at gross vehicle weight 200 miles. The average diesel truck will consume approximately 34 gallons to accomplish this, achieving nearly 5.9 miles per gallon.
34 gallons consumed * $4.993 per gallon = $169.76 fuel cost for this delivery. This is about 85 cents per mile.
Now consider an electric truck, like the Tesla Semi. It will haul the same load, the same distance of 200 miles.
It’s rated consumption is less than 2 kWh per mile. Through the deployment of Tesla Megachargers, Megapacks, and on-site solar generation, Tesla can establish an energy cost of 7 cents per kWh.
For the sake of this example, we will put the Tesla Semi at a slight disadvantage and say that the consumption is a full 2 kWh per mile, not less. Now let’s crunch some numbers…
200 miles * 2kWh per mile = 400 kWh consumed.
400 kWh consumed * $0.07 per kWh = $28.00 fuel cost for this delivery. This is about 14 cents per mile.
Diesel cost to move freight 200 miles = $169.76
Electric cost to move freight 200 miles = $28.00
In fuel costs alone, the savings are over 83%! Then consider the cost of regular maintenance like oil changes, emission control equipment, brakes, and breakdown time.
Also consider the environmental and societal impact of moving freight with no exhaust emissions and lower noise pollution.
Finally, consider the improvement of the driver’s quality of life with smooth, clean acceleration, ample torque, and the ability to keep up with much smaller vehicles in traffic. How much would you pay for a truck with these benefits?
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