Penske's involvement with the Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet has taught it a lot about...

Penske's involvement with the Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet has taught it a lot about electric truck charging.

Photo: Penske

Penske’s journey into the complex world of figuring out charging for medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks began a little over two years ago when it teamed up with Daimler Trucks North America for the Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet of eCascadia and eM2 106 trucks. The keys to the first truck in the fleet were delivered in late 2018.

Mike Barnes, senior regional facilities manager for the western region for Penske Transportation Solutions, recently shared some of the lessons learned during an electric charging panel as part of the ACT Virtual event.

“We had to develop EV charging for 20 trucks in southern California,” he explained. “Space was limited at our existing facilities, so we had to find a site, it had to be in close proximity to our customer base, and the biggest challenge was locating a facility that had 480-volt three-phase. Most sites were built with 208-volt.”

Barned said it’s important to engage the utility company early in the process and keep them involved as much as possible. Do you have enough power to your facility for current and future growth?

“I can’t stress enough the importance of a strong engineer and contractor with experience working with cities and utilities,” Barnes said. The design took about eight weeks, permitting eight to 10 weeks, and utility and construction seven to 10 months. “You really want to plan ahead with the design team and contractors to avoid costly delays.”

Penske opted for angle-in parking at its southern California electric charging facility.

Penske opted for angle-in parking at its southern California electric charging facility.

Photo: Screenshot of Penske Presentation during ACT Virtual

He also recommended designing your facility for growth. That doesn’t mean you have to build out the full infrastructure up front, but properly sizing the main distribution panel for adding conduits for future growth will save costs in the long run, he said. “Communicate with the utility company on your planned growth 10 years out,” he said.

Penske added a battery storage unit, which will give it the ability to charge all hours of the day while keeping costs down.

The company worked with three different charger vendors to test out what was available. While there were challenges and downtime problems with all of them, “at the end of the day, each performed to the capabilities we were told," Barnes said. It’s very important to maintain a close working relationship with those vendors, he added. “We found sometimes a charger would quit charging after they performed some sort of an upgrade.”

“We chose angle parking vs. pull through; the cables are 25 feet... and you want to get the truck as close as you can to that [charging] equipment. It has to plug into the charge port in back of the cab. Know where your truck charge port is, the length of chargers you need, the charger location, and plan for that.” Penske installed a cable-management system to keep the cables off the ground and avoid trip hazards.

Networking and software is another important area to consider. “When you charge will dictate how much you spend and how fast you charge,” he said. “You really have to think through network and scheduling (to avoid peak hours).”

The software that provided charging analytics helped identify trucks that were coming back in with less of a charge left than others, Barnes said. “We found that certain drivers had different behaviors, like not using regenerative braking, so the battery would have less of a charge than someone using it correctly.” Identifying those drivers provides an opportunity for coaching in proper electric-vehicle driving techniques.

Don’t forget maintenance and repair, Barnes said. “When those chargers go down, you need a vendor on standby to service those chargers,” he said. One area that still somewhat unknown when it comes to maintenance, he said, is the availability of replacement parts. “A lot of parts are coming from overseas; how much inventory of things like cables, fans, DC power supply, do you need to have on hand?”

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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