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Dealers electrifying their on-road fleets

By |  July 7, 2022
Most of Sunbelt Rentals’ carbon emission comes from its on-road fleet. Photo: United Rentals

Most of Sunbelt Rentals’ carbon emission comes from its on-road fleet. Photo: United Rentals

As an emphasis on sustainability grows within the aggregate industry, companies are exploring options throughout their operations to reduce impacts on the environment.

Among equipment dealers, a new trend is emerging with the aim of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years: electric vehicles.

Recently, Sunbelt Rentals and United Rentals each made sizable investments in electric trucks and vans for their staff and rental fleets. Sunbelt purchased 700 Ford F-150 Lightning trucks, and United bought 500 Lightning trucks and 30 Ford E-Transit vans.

Eric Jahnsen, director of transportation management for Sunbelt, says the company had its eye on electric vehicles for more than a decade and, more specifically, looked at the Ford Lightning for more than a year.

“The demand in the market already exceeds supply for the next few years for these electric vehicles, so we are incredibly excited to be receiving the first shipment of these groundbreaking trucks this summer,” Jahnsen says. “This initiative aligns with the commitment we make to our customers and team members through the power of Sunbelt – prioritizing continuous innovation among the key values of doing business.”

According to Ford, the company’s F-150 Lightning trucks offer a range of 230 to 320 miles between charges, depending on the type of battery in the truck. Photo: United Rentals

According to Ford, the company’s F-150 Lightning trucks offer a range of 230 to 320 miles between charges, depending on the type of battery in the truck. Photo: United Rentals

More details

Of the 700 trucks Sunbelt purchased, Jahnsen says 100 are expected to arrive by the end of summer and will be incorporated into the company’s rental fleet. Another 250 should arrive by the end of the year for Sunbelt managers and salespeople.

The remaining 350 trucks are expected by the start of next year, Jahnsen says. For trucks used within the company, Sunbelt says it is going to purchase and install level 2 wall-mount chargers at employees’ homes for more efficient charging.

United says 120 of its trucks and all 30 of its vans will be delivered this year. The company expects to deploy the vehicles in the second half of this year.

According to United, its Lightning trucks will have a maximum target range of 320 miles and maximum towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. Its E-Transit vans will have a target range of 126 miles.

“We’re pleased to demonstrate leadership in the use of 100 percent electric vehicles in the construction and industrial rental sectors,” says Matthew Flannery, CEO of United. “We’re committed to helping our rental customers meet their greenhouse gas reduction goals by integrating more sustainable solutions into our fleet. This investment expands our strategic partnership with Ford and reflects our dual commitment to alternative energy solutions for our customers and operations.”

United says it will partner with Ford Pro Solution experts to provide charging options for customers that include home and worksite.

According to Ford, its Lighting trucks come with either a standard-range battery that provides an estimated 230-mile range between charges or an extended battery that provides up to an estimated 320-mile range.

This shift is expected to have a significant impact on Sunbelt’s carbon emissions. According to the company, it aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 35 percent by 2030.

“We find that 82 percent of carbon emissions for the company are directly related to our on-road fleet,” Jahnsen says. “It’s not just about changing away from fossil fuels, it’s about increasing our delivery efficiencies. We don’t only drive pickups in our fleet. We understand that diesel internal combustion engine vehicles are going to be around for a long time. So we’re going to also need to significantly increase our delivery and dispatching efficiencies in order to get to our goals for 2030.”

United Rentals is expected to receive 120 Ford F-150 Lightning trucks and 30 Ford E-Transit vans later this year and deploy them in the second half of 2022. Photo: United Rentals

United Rentals is expected to receive 120 Ford F-150 Lightning trucks and 30 Ford E-Transit vans later this year and deploy them in the second half of 2022. Photo: United Rentals

Other investments

Along with the Lightning trucks, Sunbelt has invested in several other pieces of electric equipment as part of its rental fleet. Jahnsen says the company currently has electric skid steers, telehandlers and zero-emissions scissor lifts. It also recently purchased 10 electric tractors for its tractor trailer fleet, with delivery expected in the next 18 months.

He adds that Sunbelt recently received several E-Transit vans for the company’s delivery fleet.

Jahnsen acknowledges there will likely be some “range anxiety” from drivers once these electric vehicles are rolled out, given the disparity in driving range between electric and internal combustion engine trucks. He says the electric trucks could have between a 200- to 300-mile range in a given day, depending on when the truck is charged.

He says providing managers and salespeople with the trucks first will cause the least amount of disruption to operations. Incorporating electric vehicles with the service and delivery fleet is the next step.

“The range on these vehicles is going to be significantly less, at least in the beginning, compared to how far you can go in an internal combustion vehicle and a full tank of gas,” Jahnsen says. “And then you consider that it only takes you five minutes to fill up a full tank of gas, where it might take 40 minutes to charge a vehicle back from 15 percent.

“When you start looking at the service and delivery fleet, you start thinking about incorporating charge time anytime the trucks return to base. This might be how we drive our routes and make our normal pick-ups, deliveries and service calls on a daily basis with less range, compared to what a full tank of gas will offer us,” he adds. “If we have locations that have multiple service vehicles, maybe 30 percent of them can be transitioned over to electric, because we can dispatch that 30 percent to the shorter routes planned for the day.”

At the rate battery technology is improving, Jahnsen says the range on an electric truck could look very different in coming years.

“Two years ago, most people would not have expected to get the range out of electric vehicles that we are today,” he says. “By 2030, we might be getting 600 miles in [an electric] pickup truck on one full charge.”

Jack Kopanski

About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor of Pit & Quarry and Editor-in-Chief of Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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