For truck fleet operators in California, the anticipated approval of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) highly aggressive Clean Fleets Rule at the end of this month will lead to an acceleration in the rollout of zero-emission trucks. That seismic shift, noted David Deon, president of Velocity Truck Rental and Leasing, will have a massive impact on commercial fleets by requiring a large percentage of them to operate electric trucks and last-mile delivery vehicles as soon as Jan. 1, 2025.
“Zero emissions are here today and will be for the foreseeable future, so we expect many fleets to quickly move to electric vehicles,” Deon said. “We see the leasing and rental market as the best way to get those trucks into the hands of as many customers as quickly as possible, and without requiring them to use capital to buy new trucks.”
As a result, Fontana, Calif.-based Velocity Truck Rental and Leasing, a division of Velocity Vehicle Group and a member of the NationaLease full-service truck leasing organization, is making a large investment in electric trucks and the infrastructure needed to support them. Recently, the company announced it is adding 200 battery-electric trucks–including 125 Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia and 75 Class 6 and 7 Freightliner eM2 models from Daimler Truck North America (DTNA)–to its commercial truck rental and full-service leasing fleet.
“We looked at electric trucks from several manufacturers and felt that the Freightliner models were the best solution for the rental market,” Deon related. “We gained valuable insight from our sister Velocity Vehicle Group company, Velocity Truck Centers, and in partnership with DTNA we have been serving on the company’s Electric Vehicle Council.
“We also had the opportunity through the Freightliner Customer Experience Fleet to test the eCascadia in real-world applications,” Deon added. “In addition, we took note of the fact that collectively Freightliner eCascadia and eM2 models have been driven more than 1.5 million miles by the OEM’s customer partners.”
Velocity’s investment also includes the installation of 39 dual-port, 150-kW chargers at multiple locations along transit corridors in Southern California. Initially, the company is deploying ChargePoint systems and is evaluating alternatives as well. Assisting the company with its EV charging infrastructure implementation are local utilities and Edison Energy, a technical advisory company.
“Our customers are under pressure to begin using electric trucks and the charging infrastructure has to be in place to allow them to make that happen,” said Alex Voets, general manager of Velocity EV. “We can deliver vehicles and at the same time install charging solutions they can use while they develop their own facilities or wait for public stations to become more readily available.
“Along with offering electric trucks we set a goal of providing customers with an affordable, reliable, and immediate option for charging,” Voets added. “With these facilities, they will have access to high-powered chargers as either their primary or supplementary charging location as part of their rental or lease agreements.”
Both Freightliner electric models have an expected range of 230 miles on a single charge, Voets noted. With the company’s charging stations, the Freightliner eM2 can reach an 80% state of charge in approximately 60 minutes for the Class 6 model and 90 minutes for the Class 7 model. Similarly, the Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia can achieve an 80% state of charge in approximately 90 minutes utilizing dual port charging.
The entire fleet of 200 battery-electric trucks at Velocity is scheduled to be in service by 2025. The first five Freightliner eCascadia day cab tractors are already being deployed by Arrowlink Logistics to support pickups and deliveries at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“Our team is excited to integrate zero-emission Freightliner eCascadia trucks into our port drayage operations so that we can reduce our impact on the local community as we transport freight between Southern California’s busy ports and local warehouses,” said Kevin Kuo, president of Arrowlink USA, Inc. “Velocity Truck Rental & Leasing has made the entire process easy, including helping us determine the right truck configuration for our routes, providing training to our drivers, and supporting us in developing a plan to charge our trucks.”
Velocity is also putting in place the skilled maintenance support that the new electric trucks will require. Its sister company, Velocity Truck Center, has in place trained service personnel, dedicated bays, specialty tools and shop equipment, and PPE.
Overall, sustainability is a focus at both Velocity Truck Rental and Leasing and Velocity Truck Centers. The dealership already supports natural gas-powered vehicles and has teams of experts who can assist customers with grants and incentives for fielding alternative fuel equipment. Their facilities have also been upgraded with things like energy-saving LED lighting.
At Velocity Truck Rental and Leasing, sleeper-equipped rental tractors are now fitted with electric APUs to reduce idling. Additionally, by the end of next year, the operation will be entirely paperless by using digital versions of rental agreements, DVIRs and repair orders. Velocity is also planning to cover the entire truck rental and leasing market with a range of electric trucks. Eventually joining the eCascadia Class 8 day cabs for short-haul and last-mile delivery routes and the eM2 Class 6 and 7 trucks for regional pick-up and delivery routes will be Class 4 and 5 battery-electric cabovers as well as electric terminal tractors.
“Our goal is to offer effective zero emission solutions across the board,” Voets said. “As battery technology evolves to provide more miles per kilowatt/hour we can expand our offerings. We’re also interested in the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles because of the fuel’s high energy density. While we realize that a hydrogen infrastructure for vehicle use has yet to be built, we see hydrogen and battery-electric solutions as complementary technologies, so we’re not set on either pathway exclusively.”
The mission at Velocity is not really any different than it is today, noted David Deon. “Our customers are always at the forefront of what we do,” he said. “Our new battery-powered fleet and our charging infrastructure are just the first opportunities we can give our customers to deploy reliable, efficient zero emission solutions quickly and cost-effectively.”