From diesel to electric: How OEMs, customers are leading the charge

From diesel to electric: How OEMs, customers are leading the charge

Manufacturers and service providers can’t predict every hurdle they may have to jump over to effectively reach that goal...

Electrification’s place in the North American commercial market has considerably expanded over the past few years as regulations and bills continue to push the industry to zero emissions and OEMs are bridging the gaps when it comes to service, logistics and infrastructure. But just like me, manufacturers and service providers can’t predict every hurdle they may have to jump over to effectively reach that goal. That’s why OEMs have started working closely with customers to help put this new form of technology to work in the right, most suitable applications. 

Studies show that electrification within the right spaces can present numerous environmental and financial wins for the fleet. Sounds great right?  

But first, do you have the charging technology required to plug in your fleet at night? How about infrastructure – are you in a location that can realistically support your truck’s range needs? Are your technicians equipped with the right equipment and knowledge and certifications needed to safely service these systems? What about reliable charging options or power grid support? What about finances? Will you see the ROI in a timely manner? Do your operations necessitate BEVs – Would they meet duty cycle demands? Oh! And don’t forget you will need to have charging cables, adapters, and proper voltage compatibility to meet the needs of your fleet.

Feeling overwhelmed? Yeah, that’s the point. There’s a lot of pieces to this puzzle and you might not have them all, but ongoing collaboration can help you identify and fill the holes in your blueprint. 

Why not tap into the knowledge of those who face these obstacles firsthand? Customers can serve as the best sources of information as they experience this transition on a daily basis. By actively listening to their insights and challenges, you can address commonly developing customer demands.  

I connected with Patrick Wallace, product development manager, at Peterbilt to discuss EV lessons the OEM  learned directly from the ones putting these vehicles into practical operations. 

“The biggest lesson that we’ve learned as Peterbilt as an OEM is we’ve made a transition to be like project partners for customers and their operations. Typically before, we would definitely consult customers and talk to them about their operations when selling a diesel truck, but we did become less involved or we were less involved, so we would sell them a diesel truck, but customers would figure out where they would put that truck into route, they would figure out the fueling for those things, where to store it and everything like that. It was pretty easy, pretty turnkey for them,” Wallace said. “We’ve been doing this a hundred years or something like that. Not Peterbilt specifically, but us as an industry. When we transitioned to EV and zero emissions equipment, there’s a lot of differences here, a lot of things that their customers don’t know how to do.

“It’s very new for them. It’s very new for us, and what we’ve done and we’ve taken on is that we are partners in helping them with their operation. We talk to them, we figure out what is a good application for an electric vehicle. Look, if they’re interested in an electric vehicle, we sit down with them and look at their routes, look at their applications, see if maybe there’s a couple differences they can make to get within the range that works well for an EV. We also help them pick routes that are good for an EV, so if you’re just driving on the freeway, that’s not potentially the greatest route for an EV. If it’s something that has high idle time, is in lots of traffic, that’s a great place for an EV. EVs recycle energy with regenerative braking, and so they’re very efficient in those things.”

We help customers every step of the process, really. We even explain utility bills to customers sometimes because that’s new, to watch out for demand charges, to look into that with their operation. We’ve become a partner, an operation partner, and that’s definitely been a transition from the diesel side. It’s been received very well, and I think we definitely took the forefront on that, and we made sure that we could walk customers through every step of the process because this is all new and we are successful when our customers are successful, and it helps that we have in-house expertise to help many customers set up electric vehicle operations.

In this ever-evolving industry, the concept of learning as you go is deeply ingrained, and manufacturers are eager to listen and adapt so fleets can move in a sustainable, efficient direction.

Fleet Equipment’s On The Road is sponsored by Wix Filters. Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every episode as we dive into the best practices and servicing information to keep your trucks On The Road.

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