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Study Finds Total Cost of Ownership Similar for Electric and Diesel Delivery Trucks

July 2013, TruckingInfo.com - WebXclusive

by Truckinginfo Staff

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A research team from Georgia Tech compared medium-duty electric and diesel urban delivery trucks for a range of scenarios and discovered the total costs of ownership were very similar – but the cost-competitiveness of the electric truck drops in drive cycles with higher average speed.

Researchers tested a 2011 Smith Newton model with GVW of 7,490 pounds, curb weight of 4,260 lbs. and payload of 3,230 lbs. The truck was powered by a 120 kW electric motor traveling an average of 31 miles per day at an average speed of 32 mph while making an average of 1.7 stops per kilometer.

That was compared with a 2006 Freightliner package delivery truck with a Cummins engine with a GVW of 7,260 pounds, curb weight of 4,400 pounds and payload of 2,860 pounds. It traveled 41 miles daily at an average speed of 32 mph making 1.9 stops per kilometer.

Overall, researchers found the life-cycle energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of the electric truck are lower than that of the diesel truck, particularly for the frequent stop and low average speed drive cycles such as would be found delivering in New York City. Over an array of possible conditions, the median total cost of ownership of electric trucks is 22% less than that of diesel trucks on the New York City cycle.

On that NYC cycle, electric trucks emit 42% to 61% less GHGs and consume 32% to 54% less energy than diesel trucks, depending on vehicle efficiency.

For a drive cycle with less frequent stops and high average speed, such as the City–Suburban Heavy Vehicle Cycle used in the study, electric trucks emit 19% to 43% less GHGs and consume 5% to 34% less energy, but cost 1% more than diesel counterparts.

Battery replacement along with electrical generation figures will also greatly affect the relative TCO of the electric truck, researchers said.

To maximize the benefits from electric trucks, the durability and reliability of the automotive Li-ion battery are crucial, which might be advanced with technological development, note the study authors. Recycling of the EV Li-ion battery could also improve life-cycle energy consumption and GHG emissions.

The Georgia Tech team consisted of Dong-Yeon Lee, Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. student, Valerie Thomas, Anderson Interface Associate Professor of Natural Systems in the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering, and Marilyn Brown, professor in the School of Public Policy. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The full study can be purchased here for $35 for 48 hour access.


  1. 1. G. V. FOREMAN [ July 19, 2013 @ 02:53PM ]

    It is a shame the Georgia Tech study didn't compare effectiveness efficiency and environmental effect related to diesel-electric and propane-electric powered trucks utilizing mini turbine engines as the main power source. Such a study would provide the trucking industry much needed information.

  2. 2. Dawn [ July 26, 2013 @ 08:31AM ]

    Would be more interesting if they had used a 2011 Freightliner model instead. A 2006 has old emissions standards, so of course the GHG emissions are higher. An EPA 2010 compliant diesel truck model should have been used.

  3. 3. Louis Pastras [ July 31, 2013 @ 07:48AM ]

    Folks, why bother wasting any time on comments? The Freightliner configuration represented in the "study" does not exist as an OEM regular production chassis. I also doubt it was a prototype.
    "...2006 Freightliner package delivery truck with a Cummins engine with a GVW of 7,260 pounds, curb weight of 4,400 pounds and payload of 2,860 pounds..."
    Add the other comments noted, and this is just another flawed "study" prepared for some illogical reason.

  4. 4. Stan [ August 02, 2013 @ 06:30AM ]

    @Louis--you hit the nail right on the head! The vehicle description is incongruent, even the Sprinter model didn't go down to Class 2C. I also take exception to the description 'medium duty' since the vehicle dexcription is definately not. Being a cheap bastard I won't spend to $35 to read the whole article, expecially in light of the additional inconsistencies in this abstract--The Newton only goes down to 14K GVWR, and the Edison (which goes down to 2C) is not available in the U.S.; vehicle operational profiles were diifferent; and, they apparently skimmed over the cost impact of battery replacement to vehicle life TCO. All in all, completely suspect and void of any real value.


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