Fleet Profile: Penske helps fleets make EV, alternative fuel leap

Fleet Profile: Penske helps fleets make EV, alternative fuel leap

Much like a train, the EV transition rides on a track with two rails. One represents vehicles, the other is infrastructure.

“The EV train has left the station.” For Paul Rosa, senior vice president of procurement and fleet planning at Penske Truck Leasing, that statement is a clear picture of what’s happening with electric vehicles in the company’s fleet.

“Much like a train, the EV transition rides on a track with two rails,” Rosa explained further. “One rail represents vehicles, and the other is the infrastructure required to operate and support them. There is no way to navigate the transition to EVs without making progress on both.”

Penske has been on track with EVs for the past decade, working with OEMs to help ensure that battery electric commercial trucks meet full-service truck leasing requirements, and with customers to explore and integrate new technologies.

The Penske Truck Leasing EV fleet includes Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia and Volvo VNR Electric tractors, Class 6 and 7 Freightliner eM2 and International eMV trucks, Class 5 and 6 Freightliner Custom Chassis MT50e and XOS walk-in chassis, Class 2 Ford E-Transit vans, Orange EV e-Triever electric terminal trucks, and many more.

Penske-Truck-REE-Automotive-P7-C
A REE Automotive P7-C electric truck sporting Penske Truck Leasing’s company branding.

One of the next additions to the Penske fleet will be REE Automotive P7-C electric trucks and platforms. The companies just announced that the software-driven, electric vehicles powered by REEcorner full by-wire technology are available for demos and orders through the Penske Truck Leasing network.

To develop the P7-C, REE collaborated with Wabash to upfit the chassis with a custom DuraPlate truck body. The companies are also working on additional P7-C configurations and on expanding the roster of upfitters who can integrate with REE’s platforms.

Pilot projects and partnerships

“Fleet managers are closely monitoring the potential of electric vehicles, and we’re focused on helping them,” Rosa said. “Through research, pilot projects and partnerships, we are continually supporting initiatives to help fleets realize the environmental benefits of EVs.

“That includes evaluating all of the vehicle options with traditional and non-traditional OEMs, starting with visits to manufacturing facilities to see the equipment and assembly quality first-hand,” Rosa continued. “Once we have vehicles, we evaluate their performance with customers to get their feedback and that of their drivers, and to compare them to internal combustion engines in the same type of service. Diagnostic and repair practices, and parts availability, are also part of our analysis and ultimately our decisions about vehicles to use in our fleet.”

All EVs in the Penske operation are maintained at the company’s shops and training technicians is a prerequisite for deploying any new models. The initiative, Rosa noted, also includes outfitting facilities with a whole slate of diagnostic and other tools, reconfiguring bays for safety as needed, and deploying portable chargers to limit dwell time in shops for EV service and repairs.

To date across the U.S. and Canada, Penske has installed L2 and DCFC EV charging systems at about 50 locations and is planning for hundreds more in the future. “As soon as we know where we will be offering EVs, our facilities team begins assessing our needs for power, vehicle flow on the property and the correct charging solutions,” Rosa said.

Addressing an ongoing concern

“The availability of charging stations is an ongoing concern for electric trucks,” Rosa added, “so Penske has implemented a network of heavy-duty electric high-speed charging stations at select locations. Some of those are equipped with a battery energy storage system designed to offset demand on the electric grid during peak charging times.

“In addition to meeting our own customers’ needs for EV charging, we’re committed to building the infrastructure to encourage broader adoption of electric trucks,” Rosa continued. “We also believe that standardization around EV charging will help accelerate adoption, so we are members of the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN), an industry alliance focused on promoting a global standard for charging EVs of all types.”

Penske-EV-photos-2

In addition to electric vehicles, Penske has significant experience with a range of alternative fuel vehicles, including those powered by renewable diesel, Compressed Natural Gas and propane.

Looking ahead, according to Rosa, Penske plans to field hydrogen-powered trucks. “It’s not really a question of technology,” he stated. “Hydrogen power works but it faces the same challenges as EVs in terms of having an adequate fueling infrastructure. In the not-too-distant future, through our partnerships with manufacturers, we will be able to allow more customers to consider hydrogen vehicle technology.”

Making informed decisions

Rosa also sees truck renting as an entry point for alternative fuel vehicles. “No one wants to jump in before trying a new type of vehicle so this is an opportunity to understand the technology, and the truck’s capability and payload capacity, which could impact routing,” he explained. “Renting lets you see what a vehicle does and how it can work in your operation so you can make a more informed decision.

“We are continually working with customers to evaluate alternative fuel commercial vehicles for various markets and deploy them in real-world applications,” Rosa said. “Our goal is ultimately to help commercial fleets take advantage of the cost savings and environmental benefits that EVs and other types of vehicles offer.

“When fleets inquire about the possibilities, it is our responsibility to be a company they can rely on for sound advice,” Rosa added. “By helping them find the best options, we make their journey on both rails of the track smoother.”

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