Forget the Tesla Cybertruck and the Ford Lightning: Delivery vans are the most important electric trucks

The recent Chapter 7 failure of EV startup ELMS has likely encouraged some EV haters to gloat, but last-mile electric delivery trucks remain the strongest immediate bet, in my opinion, in EVs.

The four largest home delivery fleets in the United States – Amazon, UPS, FedEx and DHL – know what the North American Council on Freight Efficiency predicts: an electric last-mile van consumes about $2,000 in energy per year , versus $10,000 a year in fuel. , calculated at $2.98 per gallon. This was not enough to save ELMS from its financial ambiguities, its alleged stock market shenanigans and its leadership departures.


The company offered a Class 1 urban delivery van with a range of 110 miles at a base price of $28,000 and a larger Class 3 chassis that would normally come with a cargo box offering a range of 125 miles. These range figures would put off any electric car buyer, but are actually proof of why electric delivery vans make sense: they can play a major role with easily achieved range, in line with many other electrification strokes beyond.

Gratifying growl

Delivery trucks need ample torque and use it better than hitting 60 mph in 2 seconds. Electric motors deliver almost all of their prodigious torque from 1 rpm, while petrol engines and even relatively torquey diesels need to be coaxed and revved up to deliver maximum torque.

UPS arrival electric van

UPS tapped electric delivery van maker Arrival to start building its fleet of last-mile electric trucks at local “micro-factories” in the US, UK and Europe.


Good to go slow

There are few things less efficient than combustion engines, which use most of their fuel to generate waste heat rather than to move the vehicle in which they are installed, and slow, intermittent driving is the inefficiency combustion at its worst. But the electric powertrains are barely phased by this driving model and remain effective around town. To paraphrase Eric Schmidt, the fact that delivery vehicles were powered by combustion engines is a bug in the course of automotive history.

Routes kill anxiety

There’s not much to worry about range if you know exactly where you’re going, down to the distance, number of turns, stops, traffic conditions and terrain; This kind of knowledge makes it clear if you’ll have enough load, and it’s the kind of planning and analysis that’s been a part of local trucking for a long time. It’s the opposite of the unpredictable driving we do (and imagine we will do) with our personal cars. And while displaying load analysis on the dashboard of electric personal cars is just a data art for most owners, it is very important for fleet operators. Electric delivery vans will return home for a charge or not be sent in the first place.

Frequent use is the key

The high marginal cost of electrification or autonomy is best amortized by using the product as much as possible. Delivery vans work 8-12 hour days rather than sitting parked 95% of their lives, with their advanced features rarely used. Electric work trucks should pay for themselves faster than a Tesla Model S Plaid can.

ELMS Van Loading Floor


Low floors have a high rate

Remember the last time you moved and how tiring it was loading things in and out of that truck? A low, flat load floor is a big problem on delivery trucks, well served by the flat, low batteries used by most electric vehicles. Dropping an engine and its transmission also eliminates the “doghouse” that often occupies the middle of the cabin and may require a design with an additional step. Even one step saved in getting in and out of the cab when a driver pulls up can make for a more enjoyable, less tiring day and a little more rewarding work.

Comparison of electric and gas delivery canisters

Even when gas was $2.98 a gallon, the energy cost difference between electric and gas-powered last-mile trucks was stark.


Delivery fleets get it

Amazon recently announced that it would buy up to 100,000 electric pickup trucks from Rivian, although the company will also buy them from Ram after Jeff Bezos ribbed Rivian on the delivery of vehicles. FedEx will only buy electric delivery vehicles by 2030. UPS has placed an order for 10,000 electric delivery vans to be deployed in the US, UK and Europe through 2024. And you may not know -not even a fifth of DHL’s delivery van fleet is electric as it uses familiar-looking Ford Transits that are converted by Lightning eMotors.

It’s unclear how much Americans will drive as we emerge from the pandemic, but local delivery miles have a long way to go. Doing this work with clean, quiet and economical last-mile vehicles seems to be the most obvious priority in the immediate future of electric vehicles.

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