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100 Class 8 battery electric vehicles to be in use soon in Southern California

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December 28, 2022

GREEN BAY – Schneider, a Green Bay-headquartered multimodal provider of transportation, intermodal and logistics services, will soon begin taking delivery of nearly 100 Class 8 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) at its intermodal operations in Southern California.

Schneider’s first Freightliner eCascadia, manufactured by Daimler Truck North America (DTNA), is set to roll off the assembly line at the Portland, Oregon, DTNA plant.

Schneider President/CEO Mark Rourke said incorporating 100 Class 8 BEVs into its fleet will give Schneider one of the largest electric fleets in North America.

“Even though we’re in the infancy stages of this, it will help in our goal to move toward zero emissions,” he said. “We’ve worked with various OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to try and bring something together here. We have established some objectives as it relates to lowering emissions, and we certainly think zero-emission vehicles are an important component of that. It’s an important milestone for Schneider.”

// President/CEO Mark Rourke said the company can’t go completely away from standard diesel trucks because of battery-operated trucks’ cost and logistics. Photo Courtesy of Schneider

Rourke, who began working at Schneider in 1987 as a service team leader at the company’s Seville, Ohio, location, said this has been a multi-year effort.

“We’ll start taking delivery in January of a few trucks, and we’ll build that throughout the year – getting somewhere near 100,” he said. “It’s one thing to test a truck or two, which we’ve done on some earlier generation vehicles, but this is an operation at scale. This will be unique for the industry because it’s much more than testing. How do you learn from these technologies? How do you adapt your operational approach? It’s much different charging trucks versus fueling trucks. We expect to learn how/what we would need to learn to advance this, as the technology continues to develop across the country.”

A Class 8 vehicle is a heavy-duty classification for those weighing more than 33,001 pounds.

“As the leading heavy-duty truck manufacturer, we are fully committed to reducing emissions with our vehicles and moving the commercial transportation industry into a more sustainable future,” David Carson, DTNA senior vice president of sales and marketing, said. “We are proud to share the same vision with Schneider and to partner closely with them on integrating eCascadias into their fleet.”
Lacking in infrastructure
Rourke said, “building the trucks and getting them on the road is the easy part.”

“We’ve had a few delays in that area, but nothing major,” he said. “The more difficult part is the infrastructure and the charging infrastructure. I think that’s going to be the bigger challenge – not only in California – which happens to be probably the most advanced in helping companies get that done – but across the country. Infrastructure is going to be a bigger barrier than the manufacturing of electric vehicles.”

For example, Rourke said because the range of eCascadias is about 220 miles, it’s currently not feasible with the lack of infrastructure for over-the-road use – meaning, this generation of trucks will be used for shorter hauls where drivers return to a home base charging station.

“We expect this to improve, but this is what this generation of trucks can do,” he said. “These aren’t sleeper trucks and will be operating in warmer weather. There’s regenerative braking technology on board also, which based upon the braking you can start to feed some power back into the batteries. I’m comfortable saying about 220 miles.”

// to the Schneider website, the company logs more than 9.3 million freight miles per day – which equals about 378 trips around the globe. Photo Courtesy of Schneider

As Rourke indicated, this generation of BEVs operates better in warmer weather.

“That’s the case, at least in these early-generation vehicles,” he said. “In colder weather, it hampers the range, making it difficult to predict when BEVs will be incorporated into our Midwest and Wisconsin fleets.”

Finally, Rourke said cost is a big barrier.

“For us, at least at this point, BEVs are not economically feasible to invest in totally when the truck is three times as expensive as a diesel alternative,” he said. “Infrastructure deployment development is difficult and costly to do. Why you see places like California being first and perhaps Texas is there’s some recognition of those barriers. Subsidies, grants, and other items must almost be part of the equation until the cost of these things becomes more affordable.”

Rourke said cost will drive adoption into different states.

“The states that are more progressive and helping companies deal with those disadvantages, you’ll see that’s where the infrastructure gets deployed,” he said.

When it comes to implementing the BEVs in Wisconsin, Rourke used an old analogy.

“It’s like the chicken or the egg approach,” he said. “You need lots of production to help bring the scale of the cost per unit down, but it’s hard to predict until you get the infrastructure in place to get to that scale. You’re in this typical curve of adoption that takes place on newer technologies.”
Positive environmental impacts
Rourke said BEVs are crucial in meeting Schneider’s sustainability goals of reducing CO2 (carbon dioxide) per-mile emissions by 7.5% by 2025 and 60% by 2035.

“Schneider has already achieved more than half of its 2025 goal by reducing per-mile emissions by 5%,” he said. “Battery electric trucks will help further meet these goals.”

Rourke said the new eCascadias have the potential to avoid more than 81,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per day.
“Over the course of a year, that’s equivalent to removing 2,400 gas-powered cars from the road,” he said.

Rourke said BEVs are not the end-all to a cleaner environment, but in his opinion, they are the biggest component of achieving zero emissions.

“Diesel continues to improve in efficiency as well,” he said. “The use of other alternative fuels like hydrogen will also help – it’s an all-of-the-above situation. Certainly, zero-emission vehicles are the biggest catalysts, in addition to converting freight that can move on the train versus moving over the road. We can move an intermodal container load 500 miles (on a train) to the equivalent of one gallon of diesel (by truck). So, permission-wise, it’s highly advantageous to move things on the train and take advantage of those economics and emission-reduction opportunities as well.”

Rourke said he thinks BEVs are the most important element of the long-term equation.

Mark Rourke

“It could be battery electric, it could be clean hydrogen or other technologies,” he said. “But the truck element of zero emissions is a critical component of achieving our 60% reduction goals by 2035.”

Rourke said plans are to incorporate more BEVs into Schneider’s fleet in the future.

“There will be a steady drumbeat,” he said. “Again, we’ve got to solve some of these infrastructure issues. We’ve got to figure it out as a nation or various parts of the country, but we expect people will. Our customers are looking for us and others to make headway in this area because they’re also setting goals for themselves. I think we’re finally at a tipping point, but we’re in the top of the first inning in a nine-inning game.”
Schneider: By the numbers
More than 9.3 million freight miles per daySchneider loads circle the globe more than 378 times per day86 years in business9,000 company tractors36,700 company trailersMore than 190 properties worldwide6,416 past or present drivers who have driven more than one million consecutive safe milesMore than 50,000 qualified carrier relationships$3 billion in third-party freight managed per year9,250 customers across the company’s portfolio100% theft-free loads in 202116,050 associates worldwide2,800 owner-operator business relationships$5.6 billion in annual operating revenues14% of company drivers hired with military experience

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