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11 min read

8 myths about electric freight – debunked

11 min read

8 myths about electric freight – debunked

Have you heard claims that battery electric freight is too complex, that the range of vehicles is too limiting, or that charging takes too long? Often such myths bear an element of truth, but they fail to paint the full picture when it comes to operations. In this article, we will debunk the following 8 myths about electric freight:

  1. Battery electric trucks are a thing of the future.

  2. Electric freight is too complex.

  3. Electric freight operations are too expensive.

  4. Charging is too much hassle.

  5. Battery electric trucks don’t have enough range for most operations.

  6. Battery electric trucks aren’t as sustainable as using HVO biofuel.

  7. Hydrogen is better for freight applications than battery electric vehicles.

  8. There’s no way to report your emission savings from electric freight.

Myth #1: Battery electric trucks are a thing of the future.

The reality:  Battery electric trucks are already hauling goods for some of the world’s biggest shippers today.

Electric heavy-duty vehicles are serving a wide variety of use cases today. These range from first and middle-mile transportation (such as rural delivery and port drayage) to last-mile delivery (including urban and city freight). As a result of increasing demand for zero-emission freight as well as regulatory incentives, heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers are introducing a broader selection of battery electric models than ever before.

The Einride factor:  Einride has been live with customer operations for over three years and currently operates some of the largest fleets of electric trucks in Europe and North America. As a provider of digital, electric and autonomous freight technology, it is moving goods today for some of the world’s most trusted names, including GE Appliances in the US, Lidl in Sweden, REWE in Germany. In some cases, it is even operating 24/7 in noise-restricted residential areas.

Myth #2: Electric freight is too complex.

The reality: The complexity of electric freight becomes effortless when you have a transformation partner guiding you.

The complexity of electric freight is a real thing, which is why the successful deployment and growth of electric transportation is about much more than electric vehicles alone. Achieving optimal efficiency requires a network of well-designed and well-integrated physical and digital infrastructure – in other words, a rethink of the entire shipping ecosystem.

Bear in mind that planning for a diesel vehicle encompasses four main variables: distance, cargo, time and capacity. But these variables are more or less independent from one another. On the other hand, planning for an electric vehicle encompasses those same variables, as well as weather, charging, battery size, driving speed, and more. Adding to the complexity is the fact that these variables are often interdependent and affect one another. While the complexity may be real, there are ways to overcome it – namely, by harnessing the right technology mix.

The Einride factor: Einride enables businesses to go electric in a cost-effective way, without them needing to navigate the complexities of physical infrastructure, digital infrastructure and operational resources themselves. Einride provides everything the shipper needs to make the switch to intelligent and sustainable electric freight as a one-stop “turnkey” service – meaning there are no costly CAPEX investments on the shipper’s behalf. Clients simply pay a monthly subscription which enables them to electrify their freight operations (or a portion of their operations, such as specific routes) without having to purchase any electric vehicles themselves. 

Myth #3: Electric freight operations are too expensive.

The reality: Intelligently deployed electric freight operations can be highly cost-effective.

In addition to the emissions-savings benefits they offer, electric trucks can actually be more cost-effective than diesel trucks in the long run. In the US, the Department of Energy predicts that by 2030, nearly half of the electric trucks in the US will be cheaper to buy, operate, and maintain than diesel trucks. 

The European Federation for Transport and Environment predicts that from as early as 2025, electric trucks will outperform diesel trucks in most use cases in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO) – and, by 2035, all new electric freight trucks in Europe will be cheaper to run, will drive just as far, and will be able to carry as much cargo as diesel trucks. 

Unlocking the potential of electric fleets ultimately comes down to harnessing the right mix of digital intelligence and knowing where to electrify (and when) for the greatest cost and CO2e savings.

The Einride factor: Einride achieves cost-competitiveness by working collaboratively with the shipper to identify sweet spots in their network. These are the routes and lanes which are considered to be prime for electrification as they can be catered to in a way that maximizes the utilization of vehicles and charging infrastructure. Einride enables this high utilization by leveraging digital intelligence. The routes and lanes that are not part of the initial electrification wave can be addressed in future waves, ensuring cost-competitiveness at every step.

Myth #4: Charging is too much hassle.

The reality: Charging requires an overhaul of operations, but it can unlock remarkable efficiency.  

To ensure cost-effectiveness, high utilization of charging infrastructure is essential. It’s a balancing act. On one hand, you need the chargers to be used regularly to justify the cost of installing them. But on the other hand, each charging unit only has a limited amount of capacity each day. So how do operators maximize their use of them in order to drive down costs without causing shipments to become delayed? 

The answer is digital intelligence. With the right data and algorithms, charging schedules can be aligned seamlessly between the relevant parties, factoring in where all the vehicles are going, what they are carrying, when they need to be charged, how much they need to be charged, and more.  

The Einride factor: When a business moves its goods with Einride, all charging requirements are looked after. Einride will design, install and operate new chargers and/or it will provide access to, and operate, the charging facilities designed to cater for Einride clients, such as the Einride Stations being built in selected locations around the world. With the necessary chargers in place, the focus then becomes ensuring that charging times are minimized to avoid disruptions to operations. That’s where the intelligent freight operating system – Einride Saga – shines. It is able to accurately determine how much to charge the vehicle in order to get it to the next destination while ensuring optimal battery health. It also automates charging schedules based on the operational requirements of the fleet, avoiding scenarios of vehicle/driver idling or unnecessary charging. 

Myth #5: Battery electric trucks don’t have enough range for most operations.

The reality: Battery electric trucks can already execute the majority of road freight applications.

Some have expressed concern about the range of battery electric trucks when it comes to tackling long-haul journeys. Importantly, however, they can already cater to the vast majority of use cases today. Figures from the US Department of Energy show that in 2021, 87% of US truck freight tonnage was shipped less than 400 kilometers (250 miles). 

Furthermore, the range potential of battery EVs will increase over time. This, combined with the continued rollout and ramp-up of charging infrastructure, will enable greater flexibility for battery electric fleets.

The Einride factor: Einride’s freight mobility grids are a network of green corridors (routes and lanes with adequate charging infrastructure) connected across a regional area, as well as the electric vehicles, the human resources (including drivers), and the essential layer of digital infrastructure (Einride Saga). The grid concept builds on proven innovations that Einride has applied in its home market of Sweden, such as tractor swapping – which decouples driver, truck, trailer and charging to optimize cost efficiency and enhance operational reliability. In other words, it overcomes the obstacle of long-haul freight by breaking up the journey into shorter components. The vehicles may stop to charge, but the goods keep moving.

Myth #6: Battery electric trucks aren’t as sustainable as using HVO biofuel.

The reality: HVO is only as sustainable as where it comes from.

When it comes to HVO biofuel, the raw material that is used to produce that specific supply has a big impact on how environmentally sustainable it is, due to the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions. For example, with rapeseed oil, the well-to-wheel GHG emissions are around 40% lower than what is emitted with diesel; with waste oil, the reduction compared to diesel is almost 70%. (It’s worth noting that most HVO comes from a mix of raw materials.)

One important consideration is that there is only a limited amount of sustainable HVO globally. That’s because in order for HVO to be sustainable, it needs to come from runoffs or waste products – biomass that wasn’t produced for the purposes of making fuel. Even when combined with other liquid and gaseous biofuels, there isn’t nearly enough biomass to create enough sustainable fuel to meet the world’s demand for freight transportation. If the world was to try to meet that demand, it would need to increase the production of biomass. This simply wouldn’t be sustainable anymore, as it could require deforestation or the growing of new crops for fuel production.

The Einride factor: Einride is at the forefront of electric freight because BEV technology presents the strongest long-term business case, compared to all other non-diesel technologies. Battery EVs tick all the boxes when it comes to sustainability and economics; they already show clear potential for decarbonizing heavy-duty road freight on a global scale – the same cannot be said for HVO. Estimates on biomass availability point to volumes that equate to only 5 or 6% of what Einride predicts (based on figures from the International Energy Agency) will be the global transportation demand in 2030. 

Myth #7: Hydrogen is better for freight applications than battery electric vehicles.

The reality: Hydrogen-powered FCEVs are neither as cost-effective nor as scalable as battery EVs.

While hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) may be suitable in certain niche scenarios, they fail to challenge battery electric technology when it comes to cost-effectiveness and scalability. The independent German research institute Fraunhofer says fuel cell vehicles are likely to remain uncompetitive against battery EVs.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles bear higher lifetime costs than battery electric vehicles, and the refueling infrastructure for FCEVs is currently lacking. But even setting these factors aside, one critical factor that impacts both cost-effectiveness and scalability is the energy that is lost when you convert electricity to hydrogen and then move that energy into the fuel cell. Put simply: it takes a lot more renewable energy to power a hydrogen FCEV than it does to power a battery electric vehicle. Thus, while it is possible to achieve high environmental sustainability with FCEVs (by using “green hydrogen”), it is costly and inefficient. 

Green hydrogen is more likely to be prioritized for other industries in applications that are considered to be more impactful than powering fuel cell vehicles. For example, it can be used to decarbonize steel production by enabling the production of steel without the need for burning coal.

The Einride factor: Einride is constantly evaluating new technologies to assess their potential when it comes to three essential criteria. Tests have been conducted involving hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology as well as HVO100. And while they may perform well in one domain or another, it is only battery electric technology that shows remarkable promise when it comes to all three criteria: cost-effectiveness, scalability, and environmental sustainability.

Myth #8: There’s no way to report your emission savings from electric freight.

The reality: When leveraging the right digital tools, emission savings from electric freight are easy to report. 

For companies that are involved in the production, distribution or use of goods, transportation can represent a major proportion of their overall emissions. However, emissions for upstream and downstream transportation are often calculated through rough estimations because of the large number of actors often involved when it comes to logistics. This makes it difficult for companies to obtain primary-quality data. 

The need for such data is high. In November 2022, the European Council introduced a new reporting requirement for corporate sustainability. From 2025, companies in Europe, including those based elsewhere with European operations, will be required to report indirect emissions across their value chain; these are known as Scope 3 emissions. In order to accurately measure emissions from transportation, digital tools that leverage data and AI are key. 

The Einride factor: Businesses that ship with Einride can easily collect all primary transportation data needed through Einride’s freight operating system Einride Saga. The data is aligned with GLEC, GHGP and ISO frameworks. Einride Saga also enables shippers to generate reports and receive actionable sustainability insights, such as which routes to electrify for the greatest impact. Einride Saga provides real-time details on shipping KPIs, emissions, energy usage, and performance. It enables companies to understand their environmental footprint and shows how they can improve on their operational, financial and environmental KPIs while reducing inefficiencies.

Einride driver in an Einride electric truck

Many of the criticisms leveled at battery electric heavy-duty vehicles point to supposed range limitations, charging factors and cost barriers. There is a degree of truth to some of these criticisms. The range of EVs is less than that of a typical diesel truck. Charging a BEV does take longer than refueling a conventional vehicle at the gas station. And an electric truck is more expensive to purchase than a diesel truck. 

Closer inspection, however, reveals that many of these perceived obstacles bear the appearance of roadblocks simply because people are expecting to be able to switch out their diesel operations for battery electric operations, in a 1-to-1 exchange. However, this is simply not a realistic (or sensible) prospect. In order to deploy electric freight operations in a cost-effective way, the rules need to be rewritten. 

By harnessing the right technology mix and taking a data-driven approach to electric scaling, the complexities of electric freight are easily overcome. Shippers can unlock cost-effectiveness from day 1 while benefiting from smarter planning and operations.

Businesses that ship with Einride don’t need to worry about navigating electric freight themselves. Einride has accumulated a wealth of operational expertise, and it bears the infrastructure burden while service-level agreements ensure the highest standards of reliability. In effect, Einride is the transformation partner – guiding businesses at every step of the way.

Interested in making the switch to intelligent and sustainable freight? Learn more about shipping with Einride. You can also explore our 6 steps to intelligent, sustainable road freight.

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