Amazon Shows The Way With Electric Trucks

Amazon is showing the transport industry the value of electric trucks. The brand is deploying nearly 50 new heavy-duty electric trucks across Southern California to haul shipments and customer packages.

The strategy is part of the company’s bold goal of going carbon-neutral by 2040, and a major test of big electric trucks’ capabilities.

And the brand has been meticulous in choosing its trucks. Amazon is using Volvo Class 8 VNR electric trucks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for what’s called “drayage” — industry-speak for transporting shipping containers — and to carry packages between Amazon facilities.

The drayage trucks will deliver containers to an Amazon facility in Santa Fe Springs, California, about 20-25 miles from either port.

Fully loaded, the trucks have a range of 275 miles, modern ergonomics, and high-tech safety and driver-assist features. J.B. Hunt is operating the trucks, while freight electrification startup Forum Mobility is handling the charging at the ports.

Amazon has also installed more than 45 DC fast chargers at 11 sites across the area to support its heavy-duty EV fleet. The trucks — along with Amazon’s Rivian-made electric delivery vans — are big road-going symbols of the company’s electrification effort.

The retail behemoth expects the Volvo trucks to travel more than 1 million emissions-free miles annually. It’s notable that Amazon went with Volvo’s trucks as opposed to the Tesla Semi, which launched to great fanfare in 2022 but hasn’t made a dent in the big-rig market.

“When we were looking through different providers, Volvo came to the top for us,” says Adam Baker, Amazon vice president of NA/EU transportation and global mile.

“They built a great vehicle for us. The drivers are already saying that the ergonomics on this are just phenomenal — things like being easier on their knees, which is a big deal.”

Active safety features are top-notch too. “The electronics inside are quite impressive, with adaptive cruise control, lane assist, active collision avoidance, and then just the incredible quietness of these vehicles compared to their counterparts.”

Rather than charge up the drayage trucks to 100% every time, Amazon plans to get them to 80% to keep them running more often, Baker says.

“During the day, we’re expecting them to be able to make two or three trips from the port, which is about what we do with our regular vehicles. Then that gives us the evening to get them all the way back up to 100%.”

CARLIST THOUGHTS

This could well be the start of an electric truck movement in certain—not all—states like California. A few dozen trucks is a pretty small slice of Amazon’s massive global shipping footprint — but it’s a start. And with range exceeding 275 miles, that’s a great start for a full-sized truck.

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