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Electric trucks in everyday use: A question of dispatching

How battery-powered vehicles prove themselves in freight forwarding operations

Electric trucks run quietly, save energy and drive locally (almost completely) emission-free. And when they accelerate, they easily outperform their diesel counterparts because they pull away without stopping and the entire torque is available without interruption. The fact that they are not already in widespread use is currently mainly due to the capacity of their batteries in kilowatt hours (kWh), the associated range in kilometers - and the purchase price. These are three factors that can be made virtually insignificant by skilful planning.

No freight forwarder is currently planning to use an electric truck for long-distance transport of 25 tons of goods on the Munich-Flensburg route. Key vehicle characteristics are too clearly opposed to efficient use. Interruptions to the journey with long downtimes to recharge the batteries would be unavoidable. Not to mention the fact that hardly any electric vehicles have been approved to date that can move such a high payload at all. Companies that only have to handle such long-distance transport tasks with their vehicle fleet cannot currently rely on electric trucks in any meaningful way. The case is completely different when orders, quantities and the distribution of stops match the performance of the vehicles and their range. Then the efficient and economical operation of the vehicles becomes the task of the dispatcher. It must take the following parameters into account in planning and make them the basis for decisions on tour allocation:

  • Route
  • Elevation profile
  • Speed profile
  • Acceleration
  • load
  • outside temperature
  • Vehicle range

If the dispatcher optimally balances these factors, it is already possible, even at the current stage of development, to operate electric trucks cost-effectively in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO).


Dispatching suitable orders

The areas of logistics in which electric trucks already represent a suitable transport solution depend not only on the characteristics of the vehicles, but above all on energy management. Making range and energy consumption central criteria in planning is one of the future requirements for dispatching. That is why the first manufacturers are already supporting fleet managers and dispatchers with apps that analyze the use of their trucks. The results of their analyses form the basis for identifying suitable goods, routes and orders that are suitable for the use of electric trucks. To do this, they log the actual data of the current tours using the vehicle telematics, among other things. In addition, they can also take into account the load condition and the outside temperature when calculating power consumption and range. Determining the range as precisely as possible is therefore becoming increasingly important for dispatchers. After all, in the case of pickup orders arriving at short notice, they must also be able to estimate whether the remaining range is sufficient to reach the destination.


Special software for dispatchers

Solutions developed specifically for the use of electric vehicles in logistics include navigation apps that include the route profile and the energy requirements of the vehicles required for this when calculating the route. This allows service providers to dispatch them on stages along the supply chain that match their characteristics and thus make the best possible use of their resources. In warehouse-to-store transports or plant transports for production, for example, they have processes with suitable framework conditions to leverage the potential. Moreover, electric motors run with significantly less wear and tear than internal combustion engines. In addition, the necessary charging infrastructure can be created at the end points of fixed routes. In the local transport of freight forwarders, distribution routes with suitable stops can also be set up on the basis of the range calculation. This makes it possible to use electric trucks for general cargo shipments, for example. With apps that monitor the live status of the tours in current use, logistics service providers ensure that they can fulfill their orders.


Dispatching electric trucks only succeeds through digitization

For some years now, more and more companies from many areas of logistics have been able to use electric trucks economically. For them to succeed, they need software and apps that allow them to optimize the use of these resources. These solutions allow dispatching to reduce costs by perfectly balancing orders, the distribution of stops along routes, and the arrangement of charging infrastructure. For a sensible and purposeful use of electric trucks, digitization is providing the industry with the resources it needs.

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