A 19-hour trip in an electric transport truck would take 69 hours — including 50 hours for recharging
ONTARIO — The workhorse machines that reliably till the soil, plant the crops and transport the harvest to market are powered by internal combustion engines, a tried-and-true technology. Is it reasonable to expect these serious farm tractors and commercial trucks, fuelled by economically-viable and reliable fossil fuels that keep the nation fed, will ever run on batteries?
The question arises as Canada, similar to the European Union, has already banned the sale of all new fuel-burning light vehicles, starting in 2035. Only three years from now, in 2026, the same Canadian mandate requires 20 % of new car and light-truck sales to be electric, gradually rising to 100 % by 2035.
But as the Trudeau regime charges headlong into a presumed future without the internal combustion engine, the already obvious headwinds facing the rollout of electric vehicles today portends a potentially even tougher sell in agriculture and trucking.
Consumers realize that an electric vehicle (EV) costs more to buy upfront than the conventional alternative. Farmers and truckers likewise know that electrifying their big machines would only raise their capital costs as well. And a consumer-level pushback appears to be underway in the U.S. According to a recent survey by marketing research firm J.D. Power, higher cost was a key reason cited by American consumers who don’t want an EV as their next vehicle, and this group is growing. Respondents who said they were “very unlikely” to buy an EV as their next car increased from 17.8 % to 21 % between January and March, according to the survey. (Those who said they were “very likely” to buy an EV remained unchanged at just under 27 %.)
The EV share of new U.S. vehicle sales fell to 7.3 % in March, down from a record 8.5 % in February, according to USA Today. Though they have come a long way, EVs still represent less than 1 % of all vehicles on the road.
Beyond cost, the skeptical group in the JD Power survey was also concerned with the classic EV shortcomings: lack of charging stations and limited driving range. This is where the rubber hits the road, and the logistical challenges are only amplified with heavy farm machinery and big trucks.
Case in point is the Illinois trucking firm that planned to go all-electric, only to be told that their local city utility couldn’t accommodate the huge power connection required to charge the fleet of 30 trucks.
“The city came back and said, ‘This is some kind of joke. You’re asking for more [electrical] draw than the city requires,” Massachusetts trucking firm operator Andrew Boyle told a U.S. Senate subcommittee in April.
An electric transport truck requires at least two massive batteries each weighing 8,000 lb., Boyle testified.
He also laid out the stark superiority of a diesel-powered transport truck over the current electric alternative, offering facts that surely have their parallels for big diesel farm tractors.
“Today, a clean diesel truck can spend 15 minutes fuelling anywhere in the country, and then have a range of about 1,200 miles (1,900 km)before fuelling again,” Boyle said. “In contrast, today’s long-haul electric trucks have a range of about 150 to 330 miles (240 km to 530 km) and take up to 10 hours to charge. So for the same 1,200 mile (1,900 km) journey, we’d go from 15 minutes of fuelling a clean-diesel truck once, to charging [an electric truck] five or six times for dozens and dozens of hours.”
That means the same 19-hour drive in a conventional transport truck would take an electric-powered truck 69 hours.
He added, “We would need far more trucks to haul the same amount of freight, and each of those trucks cost 2 to 3 times a comparable diesel truck.”
Converting all transport trucks in the United States to electric would cost $1 trillion, he said, “which ultimately would flow to consumers.”
Meanwhile, Canada is already offering taxpayers’ money to entice trucking companies down the electric path. But response has been rather slow. The Trudeau government last year budgeted $547.5 million over four years to provide grants of up to $200,000 toward the purchase or lease of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission trucks. But only $10.5 million has been spent on 339 vehicles so far, according to government statistics. Only 11 of the acquired trucks — each coming with a $150,000 cashback guarantee — could be described as transport trucks. The remaining 328 are single-axle commercial trucks. The bulk (266) are Ford E-Transit vans, each coming with a $10,000 grant toward the purchase or lease. While electric pickup trucks are likewise eligible for a $10,000 grant, there were no takers in the program’s first year. As of right now, only Ford, GM (Hummer model) and Rivian have full-size electric pickups on the market, with reported ranges of 515, 570 and 505 km on a full charge. This performance is said to fall off markedly when towing. Fully charging the battery with the fastest available charging system takes about an hour — or 12 hours on a slower home charger. It’s been reported that Ford loses $60,000 on the sale of every electric vehicle.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa-based news website, the federal government also offers $250,000 grants through a related “Green Freight” program that has similarly spurred little uptake. Only 18 % of 300 surveyed trucking executives were aware of the program and almost three-quarters of the companies did no truck retrofits in the last three years.
Farm tractors are not eligible for either program.