In the end it’s still about moving freight, but how that happens in the Einride fleet is unique and novel, and quite possibly a model for the future when it comes to sustainability in heavy-duty trucking and transportation operations.
“What we offer in the U.S. today is a freight mobility service that consists of electric vehicles, a charging infrastructure, and an intelligent platform we call Einride Saga,” said Niklas Reinedahl, general manager, Einride. “This highly connected ecosystem is what allows us to ensure overall equipment efficiency.
“We believe that is a better measure of success than the traditional approach to focusing on Total Cost of Ownership,” Reinedahl continued. “TCO is an effective way to measure costs, but the real objective with electric vehicles is to provide the highest level of steady utilization.”
Anchored in infrastructure and electric vehicles, Einride’s turnkey service solutions rely on the Saga platform to optimize routes and charging needs. Currently, it is applying that approach and a fleet of BYD Motors 8TT electric tractors with several customers in six states. By the end of the year, Einride plans to have as many as 200 electric tractors in operation in eight states. It will also be deploying units across the country in several inland and seaport locations and in hub and spoke operations between manufacturing plants and distribution centers for major manufacturers such as GE Appliances and Bridgestone, and for food producers.
In March of 2022, Einride entered an agreement with Maersk to provide an initial 300 electric trucks dedicated to port drayage operations. Over the length of the partnership, which includes charging stations and connectivity services, there is also the potential to add a significantly larger number of vehicles.
In the U.S. as of today, BYD Motors is the sole supplier of electric tractors to Einride. Its 8TT Class 8 electric day cab model has a GCWR of 105,000 lbs., equivalent power ratings of 483 HP and 664 lb-ft of torque, and a working range of 200 miles per charge. Assembled in California, the tractors use 563 kWh iron phosphate battery packs, have up to 185kW CCS1 charging capability, and controls and motors that are designed, tested and built by BYD as an integrated system.
Einride has also worked with BYD to proactively address maintenance needs for its electric tractors. At some high density hubs, BYD provides service; at others there are third-party providers who specialize in electric vehicles, and there are carriers who collaborate with the company to provide maintenance. In those operations, a training program co-developed with BYD is provided at their shops.
“The performance of the BYD tractors has been great over the past eight months,” Reinedahl related. “We’ve had one hundred percent uptime and we’re getting good driver feedback. They like equipment that doesn’t have the vibration, noise or emissions like a diesel tractor, and the torque and power with electric powertrains is attractive.
“The zero emissions aspect of these vehicles is especially favorable as well to younger drivers,” Reinedahl added. “We haven’t met a driver who would want to switch back and that also helps improve attrition rates.”
A key part of Einride’s choice in tractors has been the connectivity enabled by the BYD design. “When we choose a vehicle we ensure it can be integrated with our Saga platform, which connects our fleet with other parts of our ecosystem, such as our charging infrastructure,” Reinedahl said. “That means having the ability to collect data from the vehicle because operating intelligently leads to longer battery life.
“Effectively managing electric tractor operations requires a scheduling dance,” Reinedahl continued, “and software is the answer to a smooth performance. We have a charging management system in Saga that connects our own facilities and installed infrastructure at customer locations. It also accounts for pick-up and delivery schedules and service windows as well as driver Hours of Service availability to develop optimized and dynamic charging plans, and it communicates that information to drivers through an app.”
For Reinedahl, the common denominator is the ability to use connectivity solutions to drive integration in a single platform between vehicles, charging systems from a variety of providers, drivers and customers. “By navigating all the complexities of running an electric fleet, we have charging schedules and route planning that don’t negatively impact productivity,” he said. “With Einride Saga we are able to ensure our fleet has the best utilization rates.”
Those calculations, Reinedahl also noted, are essential for analyzing business use cases for electric trucks. For example, the company sees new opportunities in market sectors such as grocery distribution where noise and emissions regulations might currently restrict operating hours.
“Growth potential for electric tractors will also be dependent on greater economies of scale,” Reinedahl stated. “Part of the economics will be driven by the cost of vehicles coming down and favorable financing once residual values are better known.”
Einride is confident in that growth, however, and is working with other OEMs in the U.S. and in Europe to put more makes and models of electric tractors on the road. The company is also keenly focused on plans to bring its autonomous vehicles, which it manufactures in-house, to new markets. In 2019, it was the first company in the world to deploy an autonomous electric vehicle on a public road and in 2022 became the first company to gain approval to operate that vehicle in the U.S.
“Our vision is to use a scalable solution that includes a large fleet of connected electric trucks to unlock efficiencies for shippers and carriers,” Reinedahl said. “Coordinated by an intelligent ecosystem, sustainable and cost efficient freight solutions can be profitable and deliver better experiences. For our customers, a clean, safe and efficient way to move freight means they can go green and future-proof their businesses.”