Charging infrastructure issues continue to plague the widespread adoption of zero-emission, battery-electric commercial trucks. But a new report issued by Calstart says establishing electric infrastructure in a timely manner to meet those needs is possible.
Calstart is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization that works with member companies and agencies to help North America’s transportation industry transform to new technology that cuts air pollution, oil imports and curbs climate change.
In the report, “Phasing in U.S. Charging Infrastructure,” Calstart analysts said commercial vehicle infrastructure development can be managed through market-driven, overlapping, and concurrent growth of an integrated transportation-energy system. The report calls for prioritizing development in favorable launch areas first and using innovative deployment strategies that can accommodate capacity constraints during buildout.
From a very high level, this phase-in strategy enables:
- Faster deployment by focusing on priority launch areas: This will allow more zero-emission commercial trucks to be supported in less time than in linear, unphased growth scenarios.
- Cost-effective implementation: Costs can be shifted forward and less important areas left to future deployment, while total energy demand can be supplied through targeted upgrades and management strategies, sharing arrangements, public charging, and other onsite optimizations—reducing per-vehicle infrastructure costs.
- A clear vision that helps utilities, government, and investors target actions to integrate grid modernization and electric truck adoption, as well as maximize co-benefits.
- Coordination that leverages public funds and unleashes private investment.
A 6-Step Charging Infrastructure Strategy
To assess the feasibility of infrastructure buildout at a national scale, Calstart projected the infrastructure necessary to deliver the electricity needed to meet the zero-emission adoption rates for commercial vehicles in 2027, 2030, and 2035, as set by the Global Memorandum of Understanding on Zero-Emission Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles. The report focuses on electric infrastructure and leaves the deployment of other zero-emission refueling infrastructure for future studies.
Calstart advocates for electric infrastructure deployment concentrating first around return-to-base depot infrastructure and in regional recharging hubs within key areas supporting regional operations. This would be followed by development in key corridors enabling regional hub-to-hub operations. And then, finally, in built-out networks connecting corridors to each other and to other critical infrastructure along the larger surface transportation network.
This assessment breaks up the activity needed to reach full sales penetration into six overlapping stages, with smart infrastructure phasing as a critical, enabling component of five of the stages:
- Establish “beachhead” areas where zero-emission commercial vehicles are being used.
- Secure policy alignment for ambitious targets and policies.
- Establish priority zero-emissions long-haul corridors by 2025.
- Saturate cities to achieve 100% new zero-emission commercial vehicle sales by 2030.
- Build priority freight corridors by 2030.
- Complete a national electric infrastructure network by 2040.
The report also looked at areas with clear, publicly stated interest in green transportation policies, coupled with growing sales in zero-emission commercial vehicles. Using those criteria, Calstart identified the most likely candidates for priority freight corridors as being:
- West Coast (I-5 in California, Washington, Oregon)
- East Coast (I-95 in New Jersey, New York)
- The Texas Triangle (I-10, I-35, I-45)
- Southwest (I-10 in Arizona, New Mexico)
- Rocky Mountains (I-70, I-25 in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah)
- The Midwest (I-80 from Ohio through Illinois)
The report identified high-activity ZEV “clusters” in logistics and warehousing centers such as the San Bernardino Valley in California. But it also includes areas outside of major ports, including those in Oakland, the Puget Sound, and major East Coast ports such as those in Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York. Major logistics centers and hubs supported by intermodal travel appear as well in this analysis, particularly Chicago and Atlanta.
Major Action Required by All Stakeholders
In essence, Calstart advocates for focusing initial electric infrastructure investment and development first in freight depot hubs.
Once those areas are built out, develop would begin on “connective corridors.” These are essentially regional-haul routes between freight hubs that would enable point-to-point electric truck operations with guaranteed charging infrastructure on both ends.
The final step would be the build-out of a national electric infrastructure network allowing interregional trucking operations.
Based on this assessment, the report said, aggressive penetration rates for zero-emission commercial vehicles can be accommodated by a buildout of energy delivery infrastructure if a phase-in method and strategy is taken seriously for this deployment.
To accomplish these goals, Calstart recommends major coordinative actions among stakeholders in the transition to support electric infrastructure buildout. These actions include:
- Conduct road mapping and anticipate emerging demand.
- Develop competitive utility rate structures.
- Create favorable utility investment regulatory frameworks.
Calstart said this list can be extended to include the following:
- Forecast high-level energy needs using a phase-in approach sensitive to the anticipated distribution of energy needs in specific priority launch areas.
- Coordinate investments around priority launch areas that will accommodate vehicles first, designating them with specific prioritization factors including industry clustering, investment leverage potential, supportive policy, and energy system development potential and costs
- Encourage practices and policies to support coordination around higher charger utilization.
- Plan rapidly for grid modernization around transportation and energy system integration.