ACT Expo: Shell-Penske Truck EV Charging Deal, Battery Price Hike Cools ‘A Bit’

LOS ANGELES — A subsidiary of oil and gas giant Shell will soon support charging for Penske Truck Leasing’s light-duty electric vehicles.

Shell Recharge Solutions will provide Level 2 charging stations to support Penske’s electric truck fleet in five states by the end of the year, the companies said last week at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California. Chargers will be added in other markets starting in 2023, the companies said.

“It is increasingly important that we help fleets transition to electric vehicles,” said Andreas Lips, CEO of Shell Recharge Solutions. “We want to enable, with our technology and knowledge, that transition efficiently without compromising their operational capabilities.”

Shell said it would “provide cargo network design, installation and support” through a software platform it developed, as well as maintenance support.

The company said 33 Penske Truck Leasing locations will receive cargo support, including 23 in California. Other locations will be in Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington state.

“Collaborating with Shell will help us expand and diversify our electric vehicle charging network and support the light-duty electric vans we recently introduced,” Penske Truck Leasing president Art Vallely said in a statement.

Shell has invested in low-carbon fuel offerings in recent years amid pressure for the company to cut emissions. A Dutch court ordered in 2021 to cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030.

Shell has announced partnerships on charging infrastructure with automakers including General Motors and BYD, as well as Uber in Canada.

Here are other takeaways from last week’s exhibit.

Renewable diesel on the rise

As heavy-duty electric truck sales begin to rise, renewable diesel production capacity is rising in parallel.

According to a report by clean transportation consultancy Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, renewable diesel production capacity increased from 600 million gallons in 2020 to 800 million gallons by mid-2021. Capacity is expected to grow to 5 billion gallons per year by 2025, enough to meet about 10 percent of the nation’s diesel demand.

Renewable diesel, made from resources such as vegetable oils and fats, has so far been used primarily by trucking fleets in California, providing financial credits that make it “priced more competitively than diesel,” according to the report. .

Some heavy truck manufacturers, including Volvo Trucks, see a need for internal combustion engines even as hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric vehicles become more common. Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America, told reporters that Volvo believes internal combustion vehicles run on renewable fuels.

School buses to EV chassis

Longtime school bus maker Blue Bird Corp. revealed a new electric platform for Class 5 and Class 6 vehicles, such as last-mile delivery vans and RVs.

The chassis allows a range of up to 175 miles; 178-inch, 190-inch and 208-inch wheelbase options; and a gross vehicle weight rating of up to 26,000 pounds, according to the company. It plans to start production in 2023 at a plant in Georgia.

The move comes as the bus manufacturer expands its electric offering. Blue Bird says it has sold more than 500 electric school buses since 2018.

“Blue Bird is going to effectively double its total addressable market,” said CEO Matthew Stevenson.

high battery prices

Battery cells are likely to remain expensive thanks to high commodity costs until new chemical batteries are brought to market, a panel of executives said.

Paul Beach, president of battery systems provider Octillion Power Systems, said battery cells are in a “commodity price market” because the energy density of cells has remained roughly the same for the past few years. In the past, battery cell prices fell as density increased, but innovation has slowed for current battery chemistries, he said.

“All of my contracts are based on the raw material prices of lithium, cobalt, copper and nickel,” he said. “As those prices change, my cell phone costs change.”

AK Srouji, chief technology officer at battery pack maker Romeo Power, said companies have two options to cut battery costs: wait until commodity prices drop and cell prices follow, or try to innovate in areas outside of the battery cell, such as the battery pack.

The good news? “We’re seeing prices come down a little bit again,” she said.

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