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Tina Casey headshot

Electric Delivery Trucks Save Big Bucks

By Tina Casey

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has come out with a new study that shows the payback period for a new delivery-type electric truck is much shorter than previously thought. The study confirms the now-familiar advantages of a fleet of electric delivery trucks, namely saving money on gas and cutting down on repair and maintenance costs. Savings related to the vehicle's daily trips are only part of the equation, though. The part that really accelerates the payback period comes, surprisingly, when electric delivery trucks are simply sitting in the garage.

How much can you save with that electric vehicle?

According to Peter Dizikes of MIT, the new study shows that an electric delivery truck that goes about 70 miles on an average daily route in an urban area can cost up to 12 percent less to operate than its diesel counterparts. The savings potential is pretty obvious when you break it down by fuel. Diesel trucks get just over ten miles per gallon and even hybrids get only about 11.5 miles per gallon, while the electric trucks in the study (a fleet of 53 owned by Staples) used less than 1kwh per mile.

More savings from vehicle-to-grid systems

Typically, a comparative analysis of electric vehicle costs takes maintenance and repair into account as well as fuel savings. The MIT study went a step farther by factoring in the value of the vehicle's battery as part of a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system. In this scenario, once the truck is garaged for the night, its battery could be hooked into the local grid in order to smooth out spikes in night-time electricity use, and the owner would be paid for this service.

More value from sustainable tech

A V2G system enables fleet owners to get more use out of a vehicle, in much the same way that a green roof or a rooftop solar array enables building owners to get more value out of the same building, so it's no surprise that FedEx, an early adopter of electric trucks, is also an early green roof adopter. In a way, that sums up a key aspect of green tech: squeezing out the maximum value from the built environment, whether it's a building, a vehicle, or even roads and other infrastructure.

Charting a course for cleaner cities

Aside from directly benefiting the bottom line, electric trucks could also pay big dividends in terms of community relations for delivery companies, utility companies, and other businesses that switch their urban fleets from the noise and pollution of diesel to clean, quiet electric vehicles. To help get things going, last year the Obama Administration launched the National Clean Fleets Partnership. The ambitious program was kicked off with charter members AT&T, Verizon, FedEx, PepsiCo and UPS, which have U.S. fleets totaling almost 1 million vehicles.

Get on the bus

The Clean Fleets Partnership is part of an even bigger program called the Clean Cities initiative. Sponsored by the Department of Energy, the program aims to improve air quality and public health in urban areas by cutting down on petroleum fuels. The program revolves around a network of 100 partner cities and to find out if your city is on board check out the Clean Cities interactive map.

Image: Electric Vehicle charger. License Some rights reserved by OregonDOT.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

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