free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 320. ELECTRIC TRUCKS

Monday, December 10, 2007


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.

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
Domino's Pizza and UPS are using Zap cars and trucks for deliveries at the tail of their distribution chains. 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).

by JD


At Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 4:50:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you are a self-proclaimed ex-doomer, as I have become in the last 3 months, I'm interested in your views about what PO will affect drastically, if anything?

Two to three years ago it was 100 dollar Oil and the SWHTF. Like in bunker time. Well, it was pretty much there and not even a hiccup. Other evidence , like the Satellite Images of Ghawar has convinced me the whole PO movement is BS. A way for people to make money off their Websites and Books. The fact that most of the "Peakers' believe GWB and Dick Cheney personally wired the WTCs for explosion should give people an idea of how these nutjobs think.

At Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 5:02:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD...all that you have said is true...that with a little engine-uity all will be good.....

Guess that it was kinds of silly to spend the whole of the 90's closing down/consolidate the entire network of regional warehouses (each of which had been positioned besides a rail track) of a national food chain to relocate them to vast national long haul mega warehouse industrial parks on the fringe of urban development only accessible by road with not a rail track in sight.

While I am now retired from that industry I understand that the solution being proposed is road trains....I think that this will require even more engine-uity than currently available

I think we were not alone.

At Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 10:40:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello JD

thanks for the info

you had a posting about electrical mining machines once. I cant find it right now, do you have an idea where it might be?


At Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 4:42:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...


At Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 6:55:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shouldn't this be entry #320, there are two #318's for some reason.

At Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 6:56:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

^I meant #321

At Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 7:04:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Good eye anon. Thanks. I goofed that up, but I'm going to leave it because fixing it would break links.

At Monday, December 24, 2007 at 4:56:00 AM PST, Blogger Leonardo said...

Did anybody to calculate, even roughly, how many nuclear plants are required world wide in order to provide electrical power for rail (in sostitution of long distance freight)and to charge electrical cars for urban transport? I fear it should be huge, much much higher than what we have now.

At Saturday, December 29, 2007 at 9:10:00 AM PST, Blogger Unknown said...

I read on that 40% of todays vehicle fleet could go electric without building a single power plant because the current electrical demand is high cyclical with large amounts of spare capacity in place to power air-conditioning during mid-day heat-waves. For this to work the power companies would provide special recepticals which would allow them to control when vehicles were charged, enabling them to balance the load.

In many ways, going to electric vehicles should increase grid efficiency making all electricity cheaper, since you are no longer paying to keep day and peaking stations idle on nights and weekends.

At Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 12:28:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I am still on the fence on this issue overall, talking electric this and electric that is as much hysterical applause as hydrogen was. You still need fossil fuels to power these coal, oil, and nuclear power plants to make all this electricity that people think magically makes itself. You still need coal, oil, and nuclear power to mine all the raw materials then run factories to convert all the raw materials into refined completed product to make this shift possible. You also need all the above to "complete" the shift. In the end, it's still the same thing - you're using an in-escapable non-renewable resource and converting it into another non-renewable resource. Right or wrong, whenever it "all runs out," so will 98.6% of all the electric trains, planes, and automobiles because the oil, coal, and nuclear power will not be there to make it happen. While your story is encouraging, it still points to the same flaw the "doomers" are pointing to, which in the end put you and them inside the same car that's not going anywhere.

At Friday, January 4, 2008 at 9:00:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When it all runs out.

You are of course correct but with one large assumption:

That we do NOTHING with regards renewables.

Since we have such a massive push on due to global warming, pretty much every country on the planet is gearing up to build brickloads of wind generating power among other things.

The good thing about this?

Electric vehicles and trains run equally well off of electricity produced from coal as from renewables.

So yeah, maybe we will power our electric SUVs off of coal fired powerplants in the meantime.

Long term however we run it off a renewable based grid.

Peak oil is real but dieoff isn't.

Unless we are stupid.

At Monday, January 7, 2008 at 2:40:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'm a bit late on posting on a lot of these issues but I'd just like to put my 2 cents in.

First of all, most peakers I know, not only agree with you that "WE DON'T NEED OIL", but spend a fair bit of time trying to convince others of that.

Secondly, you don't seem to take into account how much easier the energy efficient lifestyle you so often and rather smugly describe, is dependent on the fact that most people around you are not really doing those things.

Thirdly, you're blog involves to many ad hominem arguments, as do many of you're supporting comments.(I realize that many of your critics use this tool as well}.

I have also noticed that you seemed to be debunked fairly often in your replies, with no real rebuttal from you.

What is the point of your blog?

Is it to refute the doomers only? If so, I support that, if not for the fact that I disagree with them, then for the fact that it is doomed to be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But you seem to take the position that peak oil will be no problem at all, as if the 330 million advantaged North Americans will just move and re insulate their houses, and give up many of their conveniences, without a fight. As if the newly advantaged Chinese and Indian upper and middle classes will do the same. As if we aren't still building on the prime farm land that is key to agriculture.
Do you really think we can just rely on new technology?
Just because there are more people to look, does not mean it is there to be found.

Is it it the law of supply and demand you rely on? If it is at all reliable, that would make it a natural law, and no natural law guarantees that things will mitigate in our favor.
You seem to be conservation minded, so ignore the doomers, but stop telling people to just relax and do as you do. As people are people, it is not always possible.
It may not be the end of life as know it, but it requires immediate attention.
Something that the peakers I know are trying to to bring.

At Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 4:22:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the doomers cave in by saying, "well, yes, uh, we could.. get by on electricity but wind is a problem because it's intermittent so we couldn't run our trains on it".

I say, "why not"?

I can easily imagine kellogs on the line to Fedex,

"Hello, Fedex"
"Yes, we didn't get our shipment today".
"Yes. The wind didn't blow."
"Oh I see, when can we expect our shipment?"
"Well, the wind is picking up, we ought to be able to get our trains moving again by tomorrow".

And that's assuming we don't have any baseload whatsoever.

At Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 4:29:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

330 million advantaged North Americans.
What will happen to them since most of them are doing nothing to prepare?

Well the answer is, many of them will be bankrupt, lose their stuff and end up having to take the bus.

This, fortunately, will cut down on demand inside North America, hopefully to somewhere close to around the 5-6m bpd that North America could conceivably produce from Tar Sands and other sources for at least a few decades more.
In the meantime, the economy will plummet into a deep recession and then reconfigure around much more expensive gasoline (and hopefully electric vehicles and trains etc).
If it doesn't, it will take another round of recessions till we get the point.

I predict this is the worst case scenario: recession/depression, not dieoff.

The only fly in the ointment is if we decide to fight some nuclear powered opponents to try to hold onto 20m bpd of the world's production.

Then and only then will it get hairy.

At Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 2:38:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a good blog JD, never mind the naysayers. They don't seem to understand something so simple which is this the tranportation we're building is already calculated by our consumption. So we're not upping our energy consumption to build electric transportation, also our grid runs at about 50 percent capacity. So yeah. And we can build Nuclear power plants, also Coal won't just vanish either.


We know that not all of the peakers share the same doomer views, however as I explained somewhere else tonight that the ones who are doomers are speaking more loudly than you are my friend, perhaps you shoudl speak more loudly to drown out the doomers all together.

On a side note of goodness Lionhead's video diary #5 was released today about Fable 2. Can't wait!

From reading some of the blogs here, I can say this, while this site isn't really all about the technical babble of things it is important to note that JD adds some humour for what it's worth, humour is one of the things needed to succeed in this mitigation from Oil.

At Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 10:01:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your blog by chance, but I took the time to read your blogs. Some are good, however most of rhetoric seems to be based on fanaticism rather than logic alone. I emplore you to take some engineering classes before going on to herald the electric car. Furthermore, I strongly suggest you look into conservational energy laws. In other words what goes around comes around. Yes, you can make fertilizer out of things that are not of petroleum origin, however they are much more costly required a much more sophisticated process plant, rely on very expensive catalysts, and the like.

At Monday, August 25, 2008 at 12:25:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that is being over looked again is transportation policy.

In North America it favours road instead of rail and that trains even diesel powered ones use 1/7 the amount of fuel that cars and trucks use.

Also Amtrak gets less than $5 per capita per year to run a national passenger train system.


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