Clean Diesel – Diesel Technology

Duel on the Delivery Route: Diesel vs. Electric

November 2013, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

Georgia Tech researchers used a Smith Newton battery-electric delivery truck similar to the one above to study the total cost of ownership for medium-duty battery-electric delivery vehicles versus medium-duty diesel delivery vehicles. The researchers found that the two vehicles had similar performance in most areas.
Georgia Tech researchers used a Smith Newton battery-electric delivery truck similar to the one above to study the total cost of ownership for medium-duty battery-electric delivery vehicles versus medium-duty diesel delivery vehicles. The researchers found that the two vehicles had similar performance in most areas.

Recently, a team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology put medium-duty electric and diesel delivery trucks to the test on three metrics: greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and total cost of ownership.

The Georgia Tech research team consisted of Dong-Yeon Lee, a civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. candidate; Valerie Thomas, Anderson Interface associate professor of natural systems in the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering; and Marilyn Brown, endowed full professor in the School of Public Policy. On average, the team found that, although electric vehicles produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and consume less energy in most U.S. states, total cost of ownership is similar, regardless of power source. However, for suburban and highway driving, the cost-competitiveness of the electric truck falls short, according to the study’s results.

The reason: “In urban areas there is a lot of stop-and-go driving,” Lee explained. “This makes both electric and diesel trucks less efficient. But, electric trucks use regenerative braking, which allows them to move more efficiently than diesel trucks in stop-and-go driving.”

Making a Solid Comparison

The Georgia Tech research team hypothesized that electric urban delivery trucks would beat their diesel counterparts in the energy consumption category. “We started with the hypothesis that electric drivetrains will perform better in terms of energy consumption for urban delivery operations that may be characterized by frequent stops,” Brown said. “We focused on urban delivery trucks, because they tend to drive a limited amount each day and return to a garage or depot at night, which makes them well suited to electric charging.”

For the electric-powered truck, the Georgia Tech team analyzed a 2011 Smith Newton model powered by a 120 kW electric motor. Those results were then compared to the analysis of a 2006 Freightliner package delivery truck with a diesel-powered Cummins engine. Both vehicles had similar gross vehicle weight (GVW), curb weight, and payload capacity. They also traveled a similar number of miles per day, at comparable speeds, making roughly the same number of stops per kilometer.

Making an apples-to-apples vehicle comparison proved to be one of the more challenging aspects of the study.

“At one point, we had data for a model-year 2006 diesel truck versus a model-year 2011 electric truck. But, that comparison didn’t sound right; it wasn’t equal, even though these trucks had the best available real-world energy consumption and emissions data. And, we had to adjust the fuel economy of the diesel truck, based on technological advances between 2006 and 2011,” Thomas said. “Not only that, payload and gross vehicle weight had to match, so that’s why we picked the smallest and lightest model of Smith Newton electric truck, to match the diesel delivery truck.”

Comment On This Story

Name:  
Email:  
Comment: (Maximum 10000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.

 

FleetFAQ

Fleet Management And Leasing

Merchants Experts will answer your questions and challenges

View All
 

Grants & Subsidies

Alternative Fueling Station Locator

Alternative Fueling Station Locator

Find your closest station or plan a route. Locate biodiesel, electric, ethanol, hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquified natural gas (LNG), and propane across America.

Start Your Search