Heavy vehicle sustainability: Electric truck charging solutions

Electric truck charging and management can seem like a minefield, but it’s just a case of working through a few key decisions and processes – and having the right tools on your side. Here’s everything you need to know…

A brief intro to electric truck charging solutions

Heavy transport is about to change in a pretty major way. Alongside private vehicles, enterprise fleets and public transport, the electrification of trucks and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) is already well underway – and it’s a transformation that will have a huge, positive impact on the way we move products, produce, and raw materials.

In fact, the EU has already recognized that this transformation is coming and is making legislative changes to ensure that we can transition from diesel to electric as smoothly as possible. New rulings in Europe and the UK are mandating that, by 2030, heavy transport vehicles (over 3,500kg) need to be able to access fast charging stations every 60 km.

And that only means one thing: the race is on to provide robust, reliable and accessible electric truck charging solutions across the continent – and beyond.

The benefits of electric truck charging solutions

Transitioning heavy vehicles to electric – and adopting widespread charging solutions for electric trucks – is a win-win for a wide range of reasons. That’s not just for the truck owners and drivers, either; other motorists and the general public also stand to feel tangible benefits:

  • Environmental benefits

Electric trucks are zero-emission, which means they remove a huge amount of CO2 production from the roads. In Europe, heavy vehicles account for around 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions – and around a quarter for road-based emissions. So reducing this number will have a big impact in terms of environmental sustainability.

  • Reduced noise pollution

Alongside greenhouse gas emissions, moving to electricity has public-facing benefits that will be immediately apparent. As electric motors are nearly silent, EV adoption will make our roads quieter and the surrounding areas more pleasant to live and work in.

  • Public health benefits

Quieter roads are also less smoggy roads. With smog and air pollution becoming a growing concern around the world, it’s vital that we find ways to cut emissions for the sake of general air quality. Electric heavy vehicles can help here, making the air cleaner and safer to breathe.

  • Long-term cost savings

For the owners of truck fleets, switching to electric heavy vehicles can yield real long-term cost benefits. While the initial outlay can be expensive, this is offset by reduced fuel costs and simpler, more reliable ongoing maintenance. Electric vehicles have hundreds fewer moving parts than their petrol or diesel-powered counterparts, which makes them much easier to keep running – and much less likely to break down.

  • Onsite charging

Refueling trucks currently means either bringing them to gas stations or bringing the gas to them. With electricity, however, onsite charging stations mean trucks can charge when not in use. That’s alongside public charging facilities that long-haul drivers can use while they sleep, eat, or rest.

Types of electric truck charging solutions

EV charging standards can seem a bit confusing, but there are really only three variants: Level 1, Level 2, and DC fast charging. Here’s what makes each one different, and why DC is the only real solution for reliably fast truck charging:

Level 1: “Trickle” charging

Trickle charging is the slowest and least efficient EV charging system, but it’s also the only one that doesn’t require any kind of extra infrastructure. That’s because level 1 charging is achieved by simply connecting an EV to a standard mains plug in the home.

For personal vehicles, trickle charging will net you up to around 15 miles of range per hour, but it can be much slower than that depending on the car. Because of that, this method is wholly unsuitable for charging electric trucks and other heavy vehicles that have much bigger batteries than standard cars. In fact, it should only really be a last resort even for small personal vehicles.

Level 2: AC charging

AC charging takes an alternating current, like the kind your house receives from the grid, and uses dedicated hardware to up the voltage (from 120 to around 230) to deliver a faster charge.

For charging personal vehicles at home, this usually means installing a dedicated AC wall box charger, which can fully charge a car with a 40 kWh battery in around six hours.

Out and about, the majority of the public chargers you’ll come across right now will probably be AC (level 2) ones, built to supply a higher voltage than most homes and home wall boxes. However, the speed and capacity of these chargers still make them unsuitable for electric truck charging.

DC charging

DC charging is the fastest standard, which is why it’s what is usually used for electric truck charging and other electric heavy vehicles.

What sets DC apart is how the charge boxes deal with the electrical current. Electricity is normally distributed in the AC (alternating current) standard because its wave-like form helps it travel further.

When transferring that power to a battery, most devices – including everything from your laptop to an EV – need to convert the current to DC to maximize the energy transfer. With electric vehicles, that means having an AC-to-DC converter built into the car. DC chargers, on the other hand, have that converter built right into the box, enabling them to switch the current at the source instead of in the vehicle. That results in much faster charging at up to 400 kWh.

For electric trucks, that means charging times that can be as low as a couple of hours. Slower DC charging, at around 50-100 kWh, will charge a large goods vehicle in about 6-8 hours.

Planning and installation: What to consider when choosing charging solutions

Ok, so let’s say you want to deploy a fleet of electric trucks or other heavy vehicles. How are you going to keep them topped up and ready for the road? There are a bunch of things to think about in terms of logistics, but most of the decision-making boils down to just a few main areas:

Charging locations

Generally speaking, there are three different locations where electric trucks can charge. The first is at the depot. In this instance, you’ll outfit the depot with a range of DC fast chargers so trucks can top up while not in use, typically overnight.

The second is referred to as ‘destination charging’, where fast chargers are deployed at warehouses and distribution centers. The aim here is to give trucks an hour or so to charge while things are loaded and unloaded.

Lastly, there’s on-the-move charging, which relies on publicly available chargers at truck stops, motorway service stations, and in urban areas. This might be for short top-ups, or for longer charging sessions while drivers rest.

Speed and scalability

The faster the speed of each charger, the less time electric trucks have to spend charging – and that means improved productivity. Faster DC chargers naturally cost more, but they’re worthwhile investments in terms of time saved in the long run.

From a scalability point of view, it’s worth thinking about how you’ll supply power to more trucks if your fleet expands. If, for instance, you opt for depot charging stations, you’ll need to map out how and where more chargers will fit in future.

Permits and legalities

Planning electric truck charging stations also involves ensuring compliance with local regulations and standards. Obtaining the necessary permits is an important step, requiring coordination with municipal authorities, environmental agencies, and utility providers.

Depending on location, certain zoning laws and land-use regulations can be stumbling blocks when it comes to finding the right locations for charging infrastructure, while adherence to safety codes, building regulations, and environmental impact assessments is also essential. As such, it’ll be necessary to engage with local legal professionals familiar with the evolving landscape of electric vehicle charging regulations to streamline the permitting process.

How to manage electric truck charging infrastructure

Managing the complexities of day-to-day truck charging infrastructure relies on much more than just reliable hardware. Software plays a crucial role in helping charge point owners (CPOs) schedule charging, manage users, understand usage, and make insight-driven decisions.

At Spirii, we’ve developed a market-leading platform for exactly that, built to help electric truck and other heavy vehicle fleet owners keep things running smoothly, all from a single channel. That includes 24/7 support and deep, data-rich insights for evolving and scaling your charging needs.

Spirii offers a raft of intelligent features built to help electric truck fleets charge up without stressing the grid, like dynamic load management – which monitors energy usage and scales things appropriately in real time – and smart scheduling so that fleets can charge when the cost (and demand) is at its lowest.

The Spirii platform brings together our intelligent Spirii Connect software and the intuitive Spirii Go app, making for the most complete charging solution available. While your drivers charge, you’ll manage – overseeing pricing, usage, and access from a single portal.

Ready to expand your offering? We’ll help you scale your network with ease. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long does it take to charge an electric truck?

A: Charging times for electric trucks can vary based on factors like battery capacity and charging technology. Fast charging can take around 1-2 hours, while slower overnight charging may take 8 hours or more.

Q: What are the costs associated with installing charging infrastructure for electric trucks?

A: Costs here depend on factors like infrastructure scale and charging capacity. Installation expenses include equipment, electrical work, and potential grid upgrades.

Q: Can electric trucks use regular electric vehicle charging stations?

A: In theory, electric trucks can use regular EV charging stations so long as the parking facilities allow it in a practical capacity. Compatibility depends on the charger's power output and the truck's charging capabilities, and electric trucks often have their own dedicated stations and areas for charging in public service stations.

Q: How do I calculate the charging capacity needed for my electric truck fleet?

A: Calculating charging capacity is done by assessing fleet size, daily energy consumption, and charging frequency. We’d advise consulting with the experts at Spirii to help figure out your optimal infrastructure capacity.

Q: Are there any government incentives available for installing electric truck charging infrastructure?

A: Yes! Many governments are currently offering incentives and grants to encourage electric truck adoption. Your local council or government body should be able to help confirm the situation in your area.

Q: Can electric trucks be charged using solar power?

A: Not directly, but solar panels integrated into electric charging infrastructure can help provide a cleaner, more renewable energy source.

Q: What are the maintenance requirements for electric truck charging stations?

A: Maintenance involves regular inspections, software updates, and potential repairs. Specific requirements vary by equipment type.

Q: Are there any specific safety considerations for electric truck charging?

A: Safety considerations include fire safety measures, compliance with electrical standards, proper signage, and emergency shut-off systems. Regular safety training for personnel is crucial.

Q: How does electric truck charging infrastructure differ from passenger electric vehicle charging?

A: Electric truck charging infrastructure typically requires higher power capacity and specialized equipment to accommodate the larger batteries and energy needs of trucks and heavy goods vehicles.

Q: Are there any industry standards or certifications for electric truck charging equipment?

A: Yes, industry standards like CHAdeMO and CCS apply to electric truck charging. This certification ensures interoperability and compliance with safety and performance standards.

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