Written by Kevin Buss, Director of Fleet Maintenance

With all of the buzz surrounding electric trucks, you may be wondering when Dot Transportation, Inc. (DTI) is planning to purchase its first all-electric powered truck. 

The answer? Now! 

Yes, we recently purchased our first all-electric yard truck for the Modesto, California, facility. The new truck was placed in service late December 2018. This truck is an Ottawa brand cab and chassis equipped with all-electric drive units and a large battery pack. The truck is built and manufactured by Orange EV in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The original price tag on this truck was almost three times the cost of a diesel-powered truck, but, in working with the State of California and Orange EV to receive a credit voucher, we were able to considerably lower the purchase price. Over time, we expect the cost of these trucks to come down due to a larger volume of sales.

DTI is very excited to see what we can learn from this first electric truck. It is being received well and getting positive feedback from the spotters operating the truck. We have an app that allows GPS visibility and reporting on the truck’s condition to help us better understand its operability.

Why electric trucks?

They are eco-friendly, provide fuel savings, maintenance savings, improved productivity and safety enhancements, along with overall lower operating costs. We see lots of opportunity in the future within this electric yard truck application.

All-electric trucks are also becoming available for over-the-road applications. Electric trucks seem to be most popular in Class 6 or smaller trucks. These are typically straight/box trucks used to deliver lighter loads and within shorter ranges.

What about Class 8 trucks?

There are a few companies building and developing Class 8 electric trucks today. Some of those that come to mind are Thor, Tesla, Freightliner, and Nikola. These trucks are very expensive and have limited applications at this time. Peterbilt, Volvo, Kenworth, and Freightliner have all announced they will start building electric Class 8 trucks over the next year. Many of these may be hybrid with a mix of some sort of fuel power and electric.

Is there a future for all-electric trucks at Dot?

Ultimately, it appears most are striving for the all-electric truck. Distance and range will certainly be a concern and challenge, but battery technology is improving at a very fast pace. I feel electric-powered trucks will provide many advantages in the future, but it’s going to take more time for purchase prices to come down, range to improve, weight reduction, and charging infrastructure to be further developed.

One thing’s for sure—this industry is becoming more innovative as each day goes by. And we’re excited to be along for the ride.