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BMW unveils electric truck

The trucks of the future may be here.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

Technological advancements have created a new development in the trucking industry, even if it's overseas. Popular German automobile manufacturer BMW unveiled a 100 percent electric, 40-ton goods truck in July 2015.

The truck, set to go into service right away in Munich, Germany, highlights efforts from both manufacturers and trucking companies to find the right balance of saving costs and reducing environmental impact while still meeting shipping demands.

"BMW has unveiled a 100 percent electric, 40 ton heavy goods truck."

According to CNBC, the truck takes approximately three to four hours to charge. BMW stated each truck will save 11.8 tons of carbon dioxide a year. For a company with multiple vehicles in their fleet, this can equate to significant savings in diesel fuel.

In a press release, the head of BMW German Group Plant in Munich, Hermann Bohrer, said the company is proud to be the first European manufacturer to use a large, all-electric truck to transport goods on the road.

"With our electric truck, we are sending another strong signal for sustainable urban mobility," added Bohrer.

Once completely charged, the truck is expected to travel an average of 62 miles before having to re-charge.

Future impact on industry
According to the American Trucking Association, trucks are the lifeblood to the U.S. economy. Approximately 70 percent of freight tonnage is transported by semi-trailers. This equates to nearly 9.2 billion tons of freight annually.

As one can imagine, this important means of transportation requires a large investment in fuel. The ATA said 37 billion gallons of diesel fuel are needed to properly transport goods and merchandise across the country each year.

The introduction of BMW's electric truck may have future impacts within the industry. Specifically, companies may notice a more cost-effective solution. Today's current trucks have an estimated 5 to 7 mpg fuel economy. New Environmental Protection Agency regulations, introduced in late June 2015, would bump that number up to approximately 10 mpg for a long-haul truck, according The Associated Press.

"Fuel is an enormous expense for our industry…," said ATA President and CEO, Bill Graves, in an interview with the AP.

The EPA hopes the ruling will spur technological innovation within the industry at a time when the agency's new regulations may push companies to use newer truck models. Furthermore, fuel costs may drastically decline. If these trucks reach acceptance within the U.S., it will likely take a few years before they are adopted by many truckers. The fuel savings may not happen all at once, but rather, gradually. Incremental adoption may also help logistics management companies factor in time spent recharging a truck's battery. This can be seen as a positive because CO2 emissions are lower, but also as a negative, as recharging will likely require a few hours.

"Electrical trucks may represent a cost savings opportunity for the industry."

Cause for concern
Although the battery in BMW's electric is said to be good for 62 miles before needing another charge, there is still some concern. Some such as automotive analyst Tim Urquhart, voiced their opinions. In an interview with CNBC, he said the battery range does not make electric trucks feasible at the moment.

"If we get the kind of leaps in battery technology in the next decade then it's possible that you might see a proper, full EV heavy truck but at the moment, with a range of 60 miles (100 kilometers), that's not a practical consideration," Urquhart said in an interview.

Electrical trucks are still a few years away, but there is no doubt that companies are exploring every opportunity to lower fuel costs and still perform deliveries at full capacity. The country cannot afford trucks to completely stop because of every industry's heavy reliance on short- and long-haul transportation.