Industry observers predict a rapid transition from diesel to electric terminal tractors over the next decade or two. Why? We’ll let this December 2021 article in Truck News explain:
“Terminal tractors are an excellent application to electrify. Concerns about range anxiety are non-existent. The units are always on-site for charging at the operator’s convenience. Drivers prefer their quiet operation, and lack of vibration and smell. And in the summer, they don’t have a hot-burning diesel engine sitting under them.
“They’re even simpler to maintain and can be more reliable than diesel units, many of which now come encumbered with the diesel emissions aftertreatment technologies required on other on-highway trucks.”
Long story short, the electric versions of these mighty little Class 8 machines – also known as yard trucks, hostlers, spotters, goats, etc. – are way more economical to operate than their diesel predecessors. They save so much on fuel, maintenance and down time that they typically pay for their higher up-front costs in three to four years. A 45% grant from the Colorado Clean Diesel Program will make the purchase pencil out even better. What’s more, an electric terminal truck will probably outlast a diesel one by at least a year or two, thanks to its fewer moving parts.
The models currently on the market are equipped with onboard batteries that are built for the intense duty cycles and continuous operations that are typical of these machines. However, it’s essential to buy the battery option and charging system that’s sized for your particular operations. You’ll likely opt for one or more custom-installed fast-charging stations (which deliver 480V DC or AC, as opposed to 240V AC) because these allow for “opportunity charging” top-ups during breaks, thus minimizing downtime. One fast charger can serve two or three trucks.
Batteries on these machines come with thermal management systems so they can operate at full power in almost all conditions, although battery range will be reduced in cold temps.
Several OEMs now manufacture new electric trucks, for either off-road or on-road applications, and most will also do conversions of existing diesels.
Arguably the leader in the field, Orange EV is now in its sixth year of production – long enough to establish a track record of deployments and impressive reliability stats – and has a well-developed service program. Its T-Series trucks can handle up to 81,000 lbs GCWR, come with either 100kWh or 180kWh battery packs, and are available in 4×2 and 6×2 configurations. BYD’s 8Y Electric Yard Tractor is beefier, boasting a 217kWh battery and a GCWR of 102,000 lbs., and is also being used in a number of real-world operations around the country. Kalmar Ottawa, Lonestar SV and Autocar are bringing out their own versions of electric terminal tractors.
- Applicants seeking funding for any all-electric equipment must demonstrate that adequate electrical infrastructure to charge it exists or will exist on site. This infrastructure is also eligible for grant funding from the CCDP.
- The CCDP can only fund trucks that are not registered for highway use. Funding for on-road vehicles is currently unavailable in Colorado, but is expected to soon become available through the new Colorado Clean Fleet Enterprise.