Electric semi trucks are coming, and they could help to decarbonize the shipping and logistics industry. However, range remains a major limitation.
This presents challenges for long-hauling, where the average diesel-powered semi can travel up to 2,000 miles before refueling. Compare this to the longest range electric model, the Tesla Semi, which promises up to 500 miles. A key word here is “promises”—the Semi is still in development, and nothing has been proven yet.
In this infographic, we’ve listed all of the upcoming electric semi trucks, complete with range and charge time estimates. Further in the article, we’ll explore the potential commercial use cases of this first generation of trucks.
The following table includes all of the models included in the above infographic.
Source: US News, CNBC, InsideEVs
With the exception of Tesla’s Semi, all of these trucks are currently in operation or expected to begin delivering this year. You may want to take this with a grain of salt, as the electric vehicle industry has become notorious for delays.
In terms of range, Tesla and Nikola are promising the highest figures (300+ miles), while the rest of the competition is targeting between 150 to 275 miles. It’s reasonable to assume that the Tesla and Nikola semis will be the most expensive.
Charge times are difficult to compare because of the variables involved. This includes the amount of charge and the type of charger used. Nikola, for example, claims it will take 2 hours to charge its Tre BEV from 10% to 80% when using a 240kW charger.
Charger technology is also improving quickly. Tesla is believed to be rolling out a 1 MW (1,000 kW) charger that could add 400 miles of range in just 30 minutes.
Given their relatively lower ranges, electric semis are unlikely to be used for long hauls.
Instead, they’re expected to be deployed on regional and urban routes, where the total distance traveled between destinations is much lower. There are many reasons why electric semis are suited for these routes, as listed below:
An example of a regional route would be delivering containers from the Port of Los Angeles to the Los Angeles Transportation Center Intermodal Facility (LATC). The LATC is where containers are loaded onto trains, and is located roughly 28 miles away.
With a round trip totaling nearly 60 miles, an electric semi with a range of 200 miles could feasibly complete this route three times before needing a charge. The truck could be charged overnight, as well as during off hours in the middle of the day.
We’ve covered the differences between battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the past, but this was from a passenger car perspective. The conclusion, in that case, was that battery electric has become the dominant technology. In terms of long-haul trucking, however, hydrogen may have an edge.
If we look at what will become mainstream, probably for smaller mobility it will be EVs, and fuel cells for larger mobility. That is the conclusion so far.
-Toshihiro Mibe, CEO, Honda
There are several reasons for why hydrogen could be beneficial for delivering heavy cargo over long distances. These are listed below:
This last point hasn’t been proven yet, but we can reference Nikola, which is developing hydrogen-powered semi trucks. The company has two models in the works, which are the Tre FCEV with a range of 500 miles, and the Two FCEV with a range of 900 miles.
Keep in mind that these numbers are once again estimates and that Nikola has been accused of fraud in the past.
Although there are very few models available, electric semi trucks are indeed being used today.
In January 2020, Anheuser-Busch announced that it had received its 100th 8TT. The 8TT is produced by China’s BYD Motors and was one of the first electric semis to see real-world application. The brewing company uses its 8TTs to deliver products to retail destinations across California (e.g. grocery stores).
Another U.S. company using electric semis is Walmart. The retailer is trialing both the eCascadia from Freightliner and the Tre BEV from Nikola. The trucks are being used to pick up cargo from suppliers and then deliver it to regional consolidation centers.
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This infographic charts the exponential growth of EV sales by country over the last decade.
In 2011, around 55,000 electric vehicles (EVs) were sold around the world. 10 years later in 2021, that figure had grown close to 7 million vehicles.
With many countries getting plugged into electrification, the global EV market has seen exponential growth over the last decade. Using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), this infographic shows the explosion in global EV sales since 2011, highlighting the countries that have grown into the biggest EV markets.
From 2011 to 2015, global EV sales grew at an average annual rate of 89%, with roughly one-third of global sales occurring in the U.S. alone.
In 2014, the U.S. was the largest EV market followed by China, the Netherlands, Norway, and France. But things changed in 2015, when China’s EV sales grew by 238% relative to 2014, propelling it to the top spot.
China’s growth had been years in the making, with the government offering generous subsidies for electrified cars, in addition to incentives and policies that encouraged production. In 2016, Chinese consumers bought more EVs than the rest of the world combined—and the country hasn’t looked back, accounting for over half of global sales in 2021.
After remaining fairly flat in 2019, global EV sales grew by 38% in 2020, and then more than doubled in 2021. China was the driver of the growth—the country sold more EVs in 2021 than the rest of the world combined in 2020.
China has nearly 300 EV models available for purchase, more than any other country, and it’s also home to four of the world’s 10 largest battery manufacturers. Moreover, the median price of electric cars in China is just 10% more than conventional cars, compared to 45-50% on average in other major markets.
Germany, Europe’s biggest auto market, sold nearly 700,000 EVs in 2021, up 72% from 2020. The country hosts some of the biggest EV factories in Europe, with Tesla, Volkswagen, and Chinese battery giant CATL either planning or operating ‘gigafactories’ there. Overall, sales in Europe increased by 65% in 2021, as evidenced by the seven European countries in the above list.
The U.S. also made a comeback after a two-year drop, with EV sales more than doubling in 2021. The growth was supported by a 24% increase in EV model availability, and also by an increase in production of Tesla models, which accounted for half of U.S. EV sales.
Tesla is the world’s most renowned electric car company and its dominance in the U.S. is unmatched.
Between 2011 and 2019, Tesla accounted for 40% of all EVs sold in the United States. Furthermore, Tesla cars have been the top-selling EV models in the U.S. in every year since 2015.
Share of total sales calculated using total U.S. EV sales of 631,152 units, based on data from the IEA.
Tesla accounted for over 50% of EV sales in the U.S. in 2021 with the Model Y—launched in 2019—taking the top spot. Furthermore, the Model Y remained the bestselling EV in the first quarter of 2022, with Tesla taking up a massive 75% of the EV market share.
Despite Tesla’s popularity, it could face a challenge as other automakers roll out new models and expand EV production. For example, General Motors aims to make 20 EV models available by 2025, and Ford expects to produce at least 2 million EVs annually by 2026. This increase in competition from incumbents and new entrants could eat away at Tesla’s market share in the coming years.
Understand the science behind hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and how they differ from traditional EVs.
Since the introduction of the Nissan Leaf (2010) and Tesla Model S (2012), battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) have become the primary focus of the automotive industry.
This structural shift is moving at an incredible rate—in China, 3 million BEVs were sold in 2021, up from 1 million the previous year. In the U.S., the number of models available for sale is expected to double by 2024.
In order to meet global climate targets, however, the International Energy Agency claims that the auto industry will require 30 times more minerals per year. Many fear that this could put a strain on supply.
“The data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals.”
– Fatih Birol, IEA
Thankfully, BEVs are not the only solution for decarbonizing transportation. In this infographic, we explain how the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) works.
FCEVs are a type of electric vehicle that produces no emissions (aside from the environmental cost of production). The main difference is that BEVs contain a large battery to store electricity, while FCEVs create their own electricity by using a hydrogen fuel cell.
|Major BEV Components||Major FCEV Components|
|Onboard charger||Hydrogen fuel tank|
|Electric motor||Fuel cell stack|
Let’s go over the functions of the major FCEV components.
First is the lithium-ion battery, which stores electricity to power the electric motor. In an FCEV, the battery is smaller because it’s not the primary power source. For general context, the Model S Plaid contains 7,920 lithium-ion cells, while the Toyota Mirai FCEV contains 330.
FCEVs have a fuel tank that stores hydrogen in its gas form. Liquid hydrogen can’t be used because it requires cryogenic temperatures (−150°C or −238°F). Hydrogen gas, along with oxygen, are the two inputs for the hydrogen fuel cell.
The fuel cell uses hydrogen gas to generate electricity. To explain the process in layman’s terms, hydrogen gas passes through the cell and is split into protons (H+) and electrons (e-).
Protons pass through the electrolyte, which is a liquid or gel material. Electrons are unable to pass through the electrolyte, so they take an external path instead. This creates an electrical current to power the motor.
At the end of the fuel cell’s process, the electrons and protons meet together and combine with oxygen. This causes a chemical reaction that produces water (H2O), which is then emitted out of the exhaust pipe.
As you can see from the table below, most automakers have shifted their focus towards BEVs. Notably missing from the BEV group is Toyota, the world’s largest automaker.
Hydrogen fuel cells have drawn criticism from notable figures in the industry, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess.
Green hydrogen is needed for steel, chemical, aero… and should not end up in cars. Far too expensive, inefficient, slow and difficult to rollout and transport.
– Herbert Diess, CEO, Volkswagen Group
Toyota and Hyundai are on the opposing side, as both companies continue to invest in fuel cell development. The difference between them, however, is that Hyundai (and sister brand Kia) has still released several BEVs.
This is a surprising blunder for Toyota, which pioneered hybrid vehicles like the Prius. It’s reasonable to think that after this success, BEVs would be a natural next step. As Wired reports, Toyota placed all of its chips on hydrogen development, ignoring the fact that most of the industry was moving a different way. Realizing its mistake, and needing to buy time, the company has resorted to lobbying against the adoption of EVs.
Confronted with a losing hand, Toyota is doing what most large corporations do when they find themselves playing the wrong game—it’s fighting to change the game.
Toyota is expected to release its first BEV, the bZ4X crossover, for the 2023 model year—over a decade since Tesla launched the Model S.
Several challenges are standing in the way of widespread FCEV adoption.
One is performance, though the difference is minor. In terms of maximum range, the best FCEV (Toyota Mirai) was EPA-rated for 402 miles, while the best BEV (Lucid Air) received 505 miles.
Two greater issues are 1) hydrogen’s efficiency problem, and 2) a very limited number of refueling stations. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are just 48 hydrogen stations across the entire country. 47 are located in California, and 1 is located in Hawaii.
On the contrary, BEVs have 49,210 charging stations nationwide, and can also be charged at home. This number is sure to grow, as the Biden administration has allocated $5 billion for states to expand their charging networks.
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