Orange EV builds class 8 electric trucks for yard, terminal operations

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 163 views 

Orange EV, a Kansas City, Mo.-based manufacturer of electric big rigs, has offered carriers a green alternative for their yard and terminal operations since 2015.

Mike Saxton, chief commercial officer for Orange EV, said the benefits of the company’s battery-operated class 8 trucks at the quarterly meeting for the Arkansas Trucking Association’s Maintenance & Technology Council in Rogers. Class 8 trucks are the largest class of big rigs, and he said the trucks it sells are for yard or terminal operations, not for freight hauling on highways. The trucks are being used at waste transfer stations to rail intermodal sites.

“Electric vehicles have been around for a long time,” Saxton said. “They’re just coming back in force now. It was in the 1830s you had the first electric carriage. By the mid-1800s, you had electric locomotives operating.”

By 1900, 28% of vehicles in operation were electric, but the rise of the combustion engine and petroleum industry “took over for a while.”

Electric vehicles have returned, partly because of regulations and technology advancements, but also because they are becoming economically feasible. With yard trucks, charging isn’t as much of a concern because of the number of hours they are idle, allowing for time to recharge the batteries. Customers don’t need fast-charging at most sites as a couple of standard 240 volt circuits is often all that’s needed, Saxton said. Based on existing truck operations, a heavy-use day for a yard truck is one that’s been operating for 12 hours, allowing for 12 more hours in the day for it to charge.

One of its customers, YRC Freight, has four electric yard trucks, and operate them at 5,000 hours per year. The trucks are only using the top of the battery pack, he said. Saxton said the majority of the company’s customers operate the big rigs in areas with air quality issues and where incentives are greater for electric trucks, such as in California, New York and Chicago. The company has 19 customers and 45 trucks in operation from California to New York. DHL was the company’s first customer in 2015.

“Seventy-five percent of our fleet customers have reordered additional trucks within six months of receiving their first trucks. This is extremely high/quick for how industry adopts high cost, durable goods,” Saxton said. “The second order (the re-order) is the biggest vote of confidence a firm can receive to indicate their products work and deliver value.”

Electric trucks are more expensive than diesel trucks up front, but electric trucks have a “significantly lower operating cost,” he said. Upfront costs, including electrical infrastructure, are about $270,000 per truck, compared to $120,000 for a diesel truck. Without incentives, he said, return on investment is between two and five years. However, in some larger cities, incentives are paying for 50% to 75% of total costs.

When asked about using an existing truck to convert into an electric truck, Saxton said this would save about $45,000 compared to purchasing a new truck. The company will make sure the delivered truck is materially sound, and use the “big bones” from it to build a new truck. The company offers two battery packs — 80 kilowatt hour and 160 kilowatt hour battery packs — which have a $40,000 price difference.

When asked about turnaround time, he said production usually takes 90 days from an order date. Class 8 truck production from other manufacturers usually takes about twice as long, and the company has delivered some trucks in four weeks.

One of the concerns with electric trucks is the battery capacity starts to decline after years of use, as if the gas tank in a combustion engine vehicle started to shrink, he said. Yard duty trucks will see a 20% reduction in battery capacity in seven to 10 years. Extremely cold temperatures impact battery life more than extreme heat. And, companies should plan for how they will dispose of batteries once they reach the end of their life.

Orange EV is the first and only manufacturer building fully-electric class 8 trucks for commercial use in container handling operations, according to the company. Its T-Series class 8 truck runs more than 24 hours on a charge and saves up to 90% on fuel costs compared to diesel. The electric truck can haul up to 81,000 pounds, including its weight, and travels up to 25 mph. It operates without emissions, and compared to a typical diesel truck operating 6,000 hours at 2.5 gallons per hour at a rail intermodal hub, it would reduce emissions by 1.7 tons of nitrogen oxides, 1.6 tons of carbon monoxide, 180 pounds of particulate matter and 166 tons of carbon dioxide.

When asked if the company is feeling any pressure from Tesla’s electric truck, Saxton said it wasn’t because the Tesla truck will be for a different application, higher-speed and mass produced, whereas the trucks Orange EV produces are for lower-speeds and custom built, one at a time.

In November, Lowell-based carrier J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Bentonville-based retailer Walmart reserved Tesla Semi trucks. Walmart reserved 15, while J.B. Hunt declined to disclose the number it reserved.

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