McKinsey: Why most eTrucks will choose overnight charging

McKinsey estimates eTruck adoption will exceed 30 percent by 2030 across different vehicle classes: light commercial vehicle (LCV), medium-duty truck (MDT), and heavy-duty truck (HDT). McKinsey predicts growth from 2.7 million units by 2025 to 11 million units by 2030 in China, Europe, and the US. This is a result of the alignment of several key factors: regulation, electric truck supply, improvements in battery-electric technology, and overall economics.

McKinsey research revealed that eTrucks could play a role across multiple use cases, although these will vary by vehicle class and application: last-mile delivery, dry goods distribution, and point-to-point long-haul transport. Each use case will differ in terms of the required range, payload, route predictability, infrastructure access, model availability, and the need for a cold chain.

Potential charging strategies

McKinsey has identified five potential charging options that vary by location, cost, feasibility, and flexibility. For instance, some strategies call for eTrucks to be charged at hubs where vehicles park while others involve warehouses where they load and unload, public charging stations, or rest stops that feature en route chargers. The initial costs for a charging solution will include charger hardware, installation, any storage or distributed generation equipment, one-time site construction and grid connection costs, or one-time software-development fees. Ongoing operating costs will include maintenance, electricity, demand charges, and labor.

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Out of five strategies, McKinsey believes that overnight-only charging and overnight and mid-route charging are most feasible. These options have predictable and manageable up-front capital expenditures and operating costs, use established technologies, and offer flexibility. The other choices will remain niche applications or are commercially impractical.

Battery swapping?

In the battery swapping strategy, eTruck operators can remove discharged batteries and replace them with fully charged ones, either at the hub or depot location or mid-route at dedicated swapping stations. The main advantage of this charging strategy is time. Swapping stations will have a stock of already-charged batteries that can be installed in much less time than it would take for a wired charger to charge an onboard battery.

While faster, the costs associated with this model could be considerable. Operators will need to set up a charging and storage hub for the battery packs, stock more than one battery per truck, and potentially hire labor to conduct the swapping. If a fleet operator has two different truck types with different battery-pack configurations, costs could escalate even further. That said, there are some use cases where battery swapping makes sense, such as those involving travel through remote areas that lack public-charging infrastructure. Battery swapping may also be a solution when turnaround times for charging are critical or when a fleet operator only uses one truck brand. No operators have yet deployed battery swapping on a commercial scale.

Overhead catenary charging

In this solution, the eTruck itself has a small battery or lacks one. It drives on a fixed route while drawing power from an overhead catenary—a line or wire that directly provides electricity to vehicles. This strategy allows the fleet operator to avoid high expenses related to eTruck batteries. Savings can be considerable since battery expenditures usually represent about 40 to 60 percent of the overall capital expenditures for these vehicles.

A major disadvantage of catenary charging is the extensive capital expenditures required to build the overhead power grid, as well as the need for permanent fixed routes. Since only a few routes are now equipped with this technology, this solution is not commercially feasible in most instances. Beyond areas where the infrastructure already exists, catenary charging might make sense for very short fixed transfers with heavy payloads, such as in mining applications.


Source: McKinsey

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