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Trucks, technology, and training were the topics discussed at the TMC 23 Annual Meeting. The meeting and exhibition draw trucking fleet professionals, vehicle manufacturers, and component suppliers who want to maximize fleet performance and efficiency. The attendance record was broken for this year’s event.
Chateau Energy Solutions attended, exhibited, and co-hosted a press conference at the TMC meeting. Chateau Energy highlighted its expertise in EV charging infrastructure solutions for fleets. A partnership between Trova Commercial Vehicles (TrovaCV) and Chateau Energy was also announced at the show.
We sat down with Michael Bresnahan from Chateau Energy to get a recap of the event. Here is what we learned:
Q: Good morning, Michael! Now that you’ve had a chance to digest your time spent at the American Trucking Association’s Annual Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) Meeting in Orlando, FL, will you give us your thoughts?
Good morning! The Chateau Energy team had a very busy week at TMC 2023 in Orlando. We met a lot of great people in the transportation and commercial vehicle industry. It was an ideal place to educate attendees on Chateau Energy’s expertise in designing, developing, and deploying EV charging infrastructure for fleets.
We were also excited to be there supporting our partner TrovaCV, which unveiled its new Trova eSpotter. The battery-electric spotter truck garnered significant attention from the show’s attendees, press, and other exhibitors. Onlookers appeared impressed with the modularity of the eSpotter design. Along with the electric drivetrain and battery system design, attendees appreciated the high visibility offered by the eSpotter cab.
In addition to TrovaCV, other commercial vehicle OEMs displayed their battery-electric trucks. Peterbilt, Freightliner, Volvo, Nikola, and others dedicated their booth space to their BEVs, which visually represented the seismic shift that is underway in the commercial transportation industry. While our experience is anecdotal, the excitement surrounding electric trucks was on display all week in Orlando.
Q: It sounds like there is a lot of interest in battery-electric commercial vehicles. What challenges do you see in the coming years as fleets scale BEV adoption?
Scale means speed for vehicle manufacturers. For example, in one of my conversations with Patrick Collignon, the Founder, and CEO of TrovaCV, he recounted the industry production volume coming out of the OEM factories. During the days he oversaw, as COO of Volvo Trucks North and South America, the combined OEM industry could produce over 300,000 heavy duty trucks per year. “That is over 1,000 trucks per day,” recalled Collignon. This level of production volume can only be achieved by engineering very standardized industrialized products.
However, EV charging infrastructure represents a high-volume, high-variability product. Every truck depot has a different electrical infrastructure than the next. A carrier with five truck depots will have five unique electrical layouts at their facilities. Those five facilities might be served by five different electric utilities, and permitting might be handled by five different AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction).
This is the underlying characteristic of the electric business that prevents speed and efficiencies. While vehicle manufacturers are busy building durable supply chains, implementing manufacturing efficiencies, and compressing vehicle lead times, the infrastructure side of this coin is being left behind.
Q: So what does this mean for fleets who have or plan to place orders for battery-electric trucks?
Well, in a very short period of time, this could mean stranded electric vehicles waiting on chargers to be energized. Chateau Energy is already seeing this today. Those of us deploying charging infrastructure to support electric trucks are working closely with customers to decide where they should send their first BEVs. The worst-case scenario for fleet managers is that they take delivery of several electric trucks before the charging infrastructure is in place to support them. As the expression goes, they are putting the cart before the horse.
Q: For those fleets with electrification goals, what do you recommend they do to prevent the stranded truck situation you’ve laid out?
I would recommend two things. First, engage your local electric utility as soon as possible. Utilities are on the front lines of this transition, and their infrastructure will enable this shift. However, utilities cannot plan for what they do not know is coming. Because utility transmission and distribution planning occur years in advance of its execution, it is critical that fleets who are planning to operate BEVs share their plans with their utilities.
Secondly, I would highly recommend that fleet operators quickly engage a charging infrastructure developer. Partnering with the right charging infrastructure developer can make or break a successful transition to electric vehicle operation. Those with experience in the market can help fleet operators avoid the many hurdles that they otherwise would encounter.
The right charging infrastructure partner will be squarely focused on their customers’ success. And while a successful transition may look a little different from fleet to fleet, it will always be measured by uninterrupted fleet operations, the lowest total cost of ownership, the highest reliability, and the greatest avoided emissions.
Q: I understand the partnership between Chateau Energy and TrovaCV was announced at the show. What are your thoughts on the significance of this partnership?
Yes, we were thrilled to announce the alliance between Chateau Energy and TrovaCV. The partnership offers a one-stop shop for our customers. The two companies really complement each other and will simplify the fleet conversion process for fleet managers. Fleets buying battery-electric trucks require charging infrastructure and other power distribution solutions. Our partnership delivers a complete fleet electrification offering – from the truck to the grid.
As Chateau Energy’s COO Todd Jarvis stated, “Ordering new battery-electric vehicles is exciting for fleets, yet they are quickly met by the realities of complex electrical infrastructure upgrades, disruptive construction, and frustrating permitting processes.” It’s important for fleet managers to understand that their journey does not end with the purchase of an electric truck but is only the beginning. Chateau Energy’s partnership with TrovaCV will provide value to customers who need guidance for fleet electrification. In fact, we are proud to say that Chateau Energy’s team has almost 15 years of experience energizing EV charging infrastructure for some of the top fleets in the nation.
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