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Tech3.27.2023
10 min read

The physical and digital infrastructure behind intelligent electric freight

Tech3.27.2023
10 min read

The physical and digital infrastructure behind intelligent electric freight

Switching to electric freight isn’t as simple as replacing every diesel truck with an electric truck. In addition to vehicles and human resources, such as drivers, there are a range of infrastructure components – both physical and digital – needed for effective and efficient operations. Businesses that ship with Einride are able to access all the necessary elements as part of a one-stop solution offering.

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.

In its Global EV Outlook 2023, the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the global fleet of medium- and heavy duty electric trucks to exceed 4 million in 2030 – 
a great increase compared to the 320,000 trucks being on the road in 2022. This highlights the urgent need for 
new infrastructure expansion where a dense and effective charging network is key to accelerating the electric transition, which in turn will significantly improve the economic competitiveness of electric trucks.

So what are the components to take into account? There are the chargers themselves, although equally important are the locations of the chargers – to ensure the vehicles can cover the ground they need to. Of course, chargers are only beneficial when they are not occupied by other uses, which is why another key consideration is the accessibility and availability of the charging infrastructure. This is where shipping intelligence based on digital infrastructure comes in – enabling automated coordination of charging, alongside many other advantages such as driver schedules and vehicle availability. In fact, operating an electric fleet most optimally requires an automated and data-driven solution that coordinates all parts of the transport ecosystem. 

Shippers who are able to access the right mix of these infrastructure components can reduce their transportation emissions by up to 95%, improve their on-time and in-full delivery, and save costs due to smarter capacity utilization and improved route planning.

Additional variables for electric transportation

When planning transportation with electric vehicles, there are additional variables that need to be considered. 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. 

The key to handling this additional complexity is digital intelligence based on high-quality data and algorithms. Rather than replacing diesel vehicles with electric vehicles one-to-one, the most successful electric fleet operations will actually involve significantly fewer vehicles on the road – due to the increased capacity utilization enabled by digitalization. 

Electric Hero image

Physical infrastructure: Chargers 

When it comes to physical infrastructure, one essential factor is the charging hardware. Charging units can have one or multiple “plugs”, known as charge points. The most commonly used charge points for heavy electric vehicles today have a capacity of up to 350 kW, fitting a standard called the Combined Charging System 2 (CCS2).

To enable electric heavy-duty vehicles to be charged in minimal time, a new standard of charging connector is under development called the Megawatt Charging System (MCS). It will be rated for a maximum charging rate of 3.75 megawatts.

Chargers can be adjusted to either charge at a faster speed or at a lower speed. Such adaptability can help with reducing the cost of charging the vehicle. This is because using a lot of power at once can put pressure on the electricity grid, which means higher prices. Thus, some will choose to charge a vehicle overnight but at a slower rate – using less than the full capacity of the charge point – due to the lower overall cost of electricity. Charging in this manner can also be better for the health of the battery.

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 so as 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 so as to drive down costs without causing shipments to become delayed? The answer, once again, 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, and more.  

Einride charger

Physical infrastructure: Charging sites

In addition to the charging hardware and the need for digital intelligence, another key consideration is where the chargers are actually located. Chargers need to be placed at regular intervals along routes that electric vehicles will ferry goods along. 

Operators may choose to build charging infrastructure where their electric trucks are parked, as the land is already acquired and utilization of the chargers would be high. However, for most operators, it wouldn’t be economical to build their own charging infrastructure offsite, such as along public roads.

One way around this is to plan for shorter journeys where vehicles can return to the one charging site regularly. But the downside is that those electric vehicles would be unable to cater to longer-distance journeys. Another solution could be to make use of public charging depots, where vehicles can be charged at a fee, without the operator having to purchase the infrastructure – although this would be subject to availability depending on supply and demand.

Physical infrastructure: Stations

The next level above a standard charging site is a multi-functional station. The Einride Station is such an example, designed for charging outside of customer sites. These are facilities that will primarily cater for Einride’s vehicles – meaning they serve the shipping needs of Einride clients – however, the remaining charging capacity will be available for public use (non-Einride vehicles) in the form of depot charging.

In addition to providing standard charging and overnight charging, each Einride Station also functions as a portal for trailer swapping. This means goods can be passed from one electric vehicle to another, so the first vehicle is able to charge while the goods continue their journey on the second vehicle. This allows shipments to travel further distances, with no tailpipe emissions.

At Einride Stations, there is also potential for loading and unloading, allowing for goods to be carried from point to point based on where there is available capacity. In this manner, capacity utilization (the fill rate) can be increased well above the percentages the vehicles would otherwise be filled – enabling shippers to benefit from greater cost savings.

Another benefit of the Einride Station is how it caters to human resources: the drivers. In addition to being sites where drivers can switch from one vehicle to another, each Einride Station also features a comfortable lounge space where drivers can “charge and recharge”. 

Einride Stations are currently under development in Los Angeles and in Rosersberg, in Sweden’s Stockholm County – with many more being planned across various cities and regions.

Charging US

Digital infrastructure: Shipping intelligence

While physical infrastructure enables electric vehicles to take to the roads, it is the digital infrastructure that gets them being used to their greatest potential. After all, getting the electric vehicle on the road is only one component of the electrification journey. 

While tailpipe emissions may be eliminated for that one vehicle, there may exist other inefficiencies. For example, electric vehicles are costly to purchase, so the more vehicles in the network, the more costs the shipper will incur. The vehicles may also experience low uptime, especially if the vehicle is only servicing the needs of one shipper that doesn’t experience high volumes. Or perhaps the vehicle isn’t being charged in an optimal way, which is leading to unnecessary downtime – and perhaps also adversely impacting the battery lifetime. The good news is, all of this can be managed through digital intelligence. 

Through the right digital infrastructure, the electric freight operator will be able to know where each vehicle is, what goods each one is carrying, how heavy the loads are, when each vehicle needs to be charged and for long, where the nearest available chargers are, and how many other vehicles will be using that charging facility at that time. Not only does this allow the shipping operations to be free from direct emissions, it also allows them to run more efficiently and become more cost-effective.

Einride Saga: The digital brain unlocking the future of freight

Einride’s freight mobility platform, Einride Saga, is built to take all of the necessary data points into account. It will know how much charge a truck needs to get to the next charging facility, which is dependent on the weight of the load it is carrying, as well as weather and other variables. In fact, Saga coordinates all facets of the shipping ecosystem, including all the route planning, charging schedules, and driver instructions.

As a result, it enables smarter use of vehicles and higher utilization of charging infrastructure – both of which translate to cost savings for the shipper – and it boosts on-time, in-full delivery. In fact, aided by digital intelligence, electric shipping can be more cost-effective than diesel over time, yielding lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

Einride Saga provides benefits throughout the electrification journey. It helps businesses plan and roadmap the switch by identifying which routes to electrify for greatest environmental impact and cost savings. When goods are in motion, it lets shippers oversee operations in real time. And as movements are completed, it clearly visualizes the change, showing the amount of CO2e emissions curbed by switching from diesel to electric.

Einride Ecosystem on iPad

The grids: Coordinating physical and digital infrastructure 

When the right physical and digital infrastructure comes together – including vehicles, chargers, drivers, data and algorithms – you have the ingredients for what Einride refers to as a freight mobility grid. 

Grids are a network of green corridors (routes and lanes with adequate charging infrastructure) connected across a regional area, as well as the vehicles (electric vehicles and/or autonomous electric vehicles), the human resources (including drivers), and the essential layer of digital infrastructure (Einride Saga). 

But a grid is more than the sum total of infrastructure components – it is the intelligent coordination of all those puzzle pieces, including knowing where to place them and overseeing how they interact with one another. It is software and hardware in symphony. 

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 enable constant movement. 

Among other things, grids enable higher asset utilization within a clearly defined geographical area – resulting in operational efficiency gains as well as cost efficiencies for shipping businesses in that area. As Einride can transport goods for multiple different clients within a geographical region, the fill rates of vehicles increases, while the number of vehicles (comparative to the weight of goods transported) decreases. Meaning, the utilization of charging infrastructure will be higher, while the downtime of each vehicle will be lower.

By shipping with Einride and moving goods within a city or region’s grid, businesses will benefit from these efficiencies and their associated cost savings.

Einride handles all your infrastructure needs

Einride is a technology company focused on freight mobility – in other words, smarter and more sustainable movement of goods. It provides access to all the necessary physical and digital infrastructure – packaged as a one-stop “turnkey” solution – enabling shippers to future-proof their logistics operations and meet their emission-reduction targets.

Einride ships the goods, providing access to all the vehicles, drivers and digital infrastructure and installing the required charging infrastructure. There are no costly upfront investments; the solution is provided through transparent monthly payment plans for capacity as a service.

By leveraging Einride’s digital, electric and autonomous technology, shippers can make a cost-effective switch to smarter and more sustainable shipping, without complexity.

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Get in touch if you would like Einride to create a plan for your business to switch to intelligent electric shipping – with all the physical and digital infrastructure components taken care of.

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