320. ELECTRIC TRUCKS
Over the last few weeks, I've shown that the peak oil threat to the food system is greatly exaggerated. Fertilizer can be made without fossil fuel (#314), pesticides can be made with natural gas, coal or bitumen (#48), agricultural machinery can be driven with electricity (#317) , and a large part of the food system (fruits, vegetables, meats) depends more on human labor than oil-fueled machinery ( #319). But this still leaves the all-important question of transport. Can food be transported electrically? The answer is yes.
First of all, it can be transported by electric train:
Numerous electric rail-lines already exist between large cities throughout the world, and busy diesel lines can be electrified with off-the-shelf technology. This is probably the best method for high-volume, long-distance transport.
What about local delivery, within a city? This is the interesting part. Electric trucks are starting to catch on. In January 2007, the British express/mail company TNT began testing "Newton" electric trucks made by Smith Electric Vehicles. These are 7-ton trucks, with a 130 mile range, top speed of 50mph, regenerative braking, faster acceleration from 0-30 than diesel, 15,800lbs payload capacity, and "Zebra" 278v Sodium Nickel Chloride batteries:
Interestingly, these vehicles were developed as "green" zero-emission vehicles, not for peak oil. Nevertheless, they are a great response to peak oil, and show that in-city transport (and commercial/maintenance vehicles) can be electrified. TNT was so impressed by tests of the Newton, that they cut testing short and ordered 50 of them in April 2007.Source And just this month, Smith announced plans to build a 10,000 truck/year facility to supply the U.S. market. Jim Fraser from the Energy Blog reports that:
Kevin Harkins, Sales Director for Smith Electric Vehicles, stated that although automobile manufacturers believe that battery technology for mass-produced electric cars is some years away, Smith believes that for larger sized commercial vehicles the technology available today is perfectly suited.Domino's Pizza and UPS are using Zap cars and trucks for deliveries at the tail of their distribution chains. Source
Smith Electric already has a 70,000sq ft facility in Fresno, CA, which has the capacity to produce 1,000 vehicles next year. It plans on establishing a major production facilIty in the U.S. with the capacity to produce up to 10,000 electicric vehicles per year by 2010. Source
Here's a video of the Zap trucks working for UPS:
Finally, we have the next big thing in heavy trucking, the hybrid semi, brought to you by the Peak Oil's favorite retailer Walmart:
Peterbilt is also developing hybrid heavy-duty vehicles of other types:
And here's another cool species, the electric sport utility truck, developed by Phoenix Motorcars for commercial/fleet use:
The specs of this unit are amazing: top speed 95mph with 4 passengers and cargo, 100+ miles per charge, 0 to 60 in 10 sec., 250,000 mile battery pack life, 10 min. recharge to 95% capacity.
There doesn't seem to be any technical or economic impediment to electrifying suburban delivery and commercial vehicles in the U.S. In fact, there seems to be a strong incentive. It may be that EVs first make inroads into large vehicles (trucks) and small vehicles (scooters), and only later penetrate into midsize vehicles (cars).