For the moment, electric cars and two-wheelers totally dominate the electric vehicle space. But, as Bob Dylan said, the times they are a-changin’. Battery technology has improved so quickly over the last few years that electric drivetrains are now a serious option for a whole range of different types of vehicles.
Let’s take a look through some of the other EVs that we’ll soon be seeing more regularly on our streets and why they’re going to be such a great thing for us all.
First stop – Electric transit buses
Transit buses – those that provide public transport across our towns and cities – are the most suitable and possibly the most beneficial vehicle to ever go electric.
Electrifying these buses makes such a big difference because the old diesel buses are so dirty from the tailpipe. And they operate in heavily populated urban environments, where millions of people live and work. So, when a transit fleet changes all their buses from diesel to electric, it will make a huge improvement to both the air quality and noise pollution in one fell swoop. Electrified buses are much better for the environment too with much lower lifetime emissions of greenhouse gases.
The buses are perfectly suited to be electrified because they get really well used, drive standard routes and park at a depot where they can charge every night. Also, most of their routes through urban areas aren’t that long or demanding. But, that’s not to say they’re not up to completing more challenging routes – eBuses have even shown themselves capable of handling the hilly streets of Seattle and the extreme cold of Chicago winters.
Yellow buses are going green too
School buses are also starting to ramp up their move to go electric. They’re not quite as well suited as transit buses, because they don’t get used anywhere near as much. This means that the cheaper fuel and running costs don’t have as much of a chance to pay back their higher upfront costs.
However, the fact that they aren’t driven as much might be a selling point in the future. Utility companies are trying to find ways to access large amounts of energy during times with high usage and a fully charged bus just sitting there is basically a battery on wheels. While this technology is still a ways off, there have been some successful pilot programs so this will probably be an important task in the future.
The biggest reason why electrifying the school bus fleet is so important is their precious cargo: our kids. Children are more vulnerable to the health-impacting emissions that come from exhaust fumes than adults are and while they’re being driven around on school buses, they’re also breathing in the diesel exhaust fumes. Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, offering the perfect solution.
The U.S. government has recently made it one of its most public priorities to convert the entire school bus fleet to electric by 2030 – that’s about 500,000 buses!
Electrifying last mile deliveries
EVs are perfectly suited for last mile delivery services, which are the vehicles dropping off your Amazon shipments. Routes are pretty standard, they’re not overly long, the vans get really well used and they generally return to a depot where they can charge up every night.
On top of that, local governments are under increasing pressure to reduce urban noise and air pollution. Low- or no-emission zones are popping up all over the world, so delivery van operators will be forced to get electric or other low-emission vans if they want to continue to operate in those areas.
Most of the traditional manufacturers now offer electric van models and there are several startups making waves in the industry. With the increase in competition and improvements in battery technology, prices are falling quickly. The result is that last mile delivery fleets are electrifying faster than ever.
Trucks aren’t being left behind
Trucks have been a bit slower to jump on the electric bandwagon, with their heavy weights and payloads posing issues when batteries didn’t have as much capacity. But with batteries improving continually, even trucks are now well in the sights of electrification.
Some models are already commercially available. These include vehicles in all the truck classes, from pick-ups and light duty urban trucks, all the way up to garbage trucks and Class 8 juggernauts.
Again, the effects will be huge for the environment and public health by dumping the dirty diesels. The greatest health benefits will be in lower-income communities surrounding distribution centers, ports and other trucking hubs, where electrification could prevent thousands of premature deaths every year.
Even though trucks only make up about 5% of all vehicles globally, they burn through about a third of the world’s supply of diesel. So you can start to imagine what a huge impact electrifying trucks would have on oil demand and greenhouse gas emissions!
So while electric vehicles are mostly just two-wheelers and cars at the moment, it won’t be too long until that changes. Soon you’ll be riding a quiet, smooth e-transit bus to work, while your kids take an e-bus to school and your deliveries arrive at your house on the back of an electric truck. And the world can (literally) breathe a little easier.