Battery and electric motor technology are advancing more quickly than most of us think .

Battery and electric motor technology are advancing more quickly than most of us think .

Photo via Thor Trucks

You won’t catch me at the wheel of a plug-in electric car any time soon. Like most everyone else who considers but then rejects going that route, the issue is range. Which means the base issues are battery strength and electric motor efficiency. If I drove strictly in the city, it would be a maybe – but only if I could somehow attach the sound of a burbling V-8 through Flowmaster mufflers to an otherwise soundless car. And I’m only partly joking. The fact is, most of my driving is done well outside the urban limits, on roads where charging stations of any useful sort don’t exist. So electric locomotion is just not on.

It’s obviously different for local or short-haul trucks, where many run predictable routes and cover relatively few miles. They’re about to come on strong. But greater range, meaning better batteries and motors, would expand that market considerably.

Well, vacuum-cleaner star James Dyson offers evidence that battery and electric motor technology are advancing more quickly than most of us think, according to an article by Nathaniel Bullard on Dyson Ltd., with real expertise in electronics, motors, and batteries, has said it’s ending the production of corded vacuums because cordless models are just as good, maybe better.

Why? As Ballard writes, “Twelve years ago, the company’s digital motor weighed about one-third of a pound and produced 85 air watts of suction power; today, the motor weighs a little more than a quarter of a pound and has more than three times the power at 290 air watts.”

That’s a mighty big advance, and the development pace is only going faster still.

Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood

Which leads me to an interesting research report done by UPS in collaboration with Greenbiz, entitled Curve Ahead: The Future of Commercial Fleet Electrification. It says electrification is leading the way in making the transition to a clean energy future. This shift is driven by various factors, including a technology and market evolution, renewed attention on global climate risks, and the improving economics based on a more favorable total cost of ownership.

Electric options are increasingly becoming more cost-competitive, offering features comparable (or even favorable) to their diesel alternatives, and becoming more widely available from a range of manufacturers. While curves are ahead in the road to widespread electric adoption, more and more fleet operators are seeing opportunities and challenges. Overall, says the report, signs indicate progress is being made and we’re moving in the right direction.

The research revealed several key findings from large companies and government agencies, including:

● The primary motivators for electrifying fleets are achieving sustainability goals (83% of respondents) and lowering total cost of ownership (64%).

● The top barriers are a prohibitive initial purchase price (55%), lack of EV charging infrastructure at facilities (44%), and lack of product availability (35%).

● 92% of GreenBiz web-survey respondents indicated that their organization is not well equipped with onsite EV charging infrastructure for commercial vehicles.

● There is an opportunity for businesses to work together with suppliers, government and utilities; 70% of survey respondents indicated that they collaborate with suppliers; but less than half currently collaborate with government or with utilities.

You can download the report free of charge.