The possibilities for electrification extend beyond personal vehicles. Whether driven by state regulations, the pull of technological advancements or the potential for financial benefits, electrification is already entering almost every industry that handles the vehicular transport of goods and people. However, full-scale adoption for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles (EVs) is an extended process that requires a phased and analytical approach.

What Could Be Electrified?

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicle electrification is a hotbed of potential for front-line adopters, though each faces its own unique set of hurdles.

Transit agencies in California are the first to face regulated public bus electrification in the United States. Based on mandates that all public transportation companies go 100 percent electric by 2040, California agencies — LA Metro, Foothill Transit, Santa Monica and more — are conducting studies and pilot programs to identify and address increased load demands on utilities, infrastructure needs in bus depots and range requirements for bus routes.

Several ports of entry in California — Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach and Port of Oakland, to name a few — are electrifying their yard tractors, which are used to move cargo throughout the terminal. Other transportation companies are electrifying their Class 8 trucks that transport cargo and goods within the region. As the number of manufacturers producing electric trucks rises and the amount of grant money available from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) holds steady, this growth opportunity will be beneficial for utilities and environmental groups. However, studies and pilot programs need to be conducted to establish the right type and location of charging infrastructure to accommodate these heavy, long-range vehicles that will need power on the road — and quickly.

The uses of delivery fleet vehicles, such as for FedEx, UPS and the Post Office, make them good candidates for electrification. Their lighter load and shorter range require a much smaller battery than Class 8 trucks, and their overnight central depot locations could make a high-powered charging infrastructure layout straightforward. However, the continuous rollover of fleet vehicle life cycles could make full adoption a lengthy process.

The electrification of construction and utility trucks also offers electric utilities the opportunity to invest in their own infrastructure and equipment and earn a return on that investment. A few electric utilities on the West Coast are studying this business decision to determine the overall costs, how to pay for it and how to upgrade their distribution system to accommodate this new need.

Preparing for the Electrification Long Game

Electrifying any one of these categories for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles will take time. Turning over an entire fleet could take 10 to 20 years. For those fleets with vehicles ready for replacement with an EV version now, companies and utilities must begin developing a phased infrastructure buildout plan now. So, how do these very different entities with unique challenges and needs begin electrifying? By enlisting the help of a consultant to answer several questions by conducting the following analyses and assessments. 

  1. Determine what your fleet replacement plan looks like.
  2. Conduct a fleet equipment market analysis to narrow the scope of available technologies that meet your fleet’s requirements and budget constraints.
  3. Understand your range and charging conditions through a route and energy modeling analysis.
  4. Perform a charging equipment analysis to determine the equipment you need, the quantity to purchase and where to install them.
  5. Identify the right layout of infrastructure at your locations and how vehicles will hook up to chargers through an infrastructure assessment.
  6. Partner with your utility for a distribution systems assessment to establish your impact to the local grid and avoid overloading the circuits.
  7. Identify funding sources for electric vehicles and charging equipment infrastructure, including grants, rebates and tax credits.
  8. Run a financial evaluation to determine if electrification makes economic sense for your fleet.

Electrification is the future for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, but accomplishing a full conversion requires intensive analyses and thoughtful planning. However, if phased appropriately and scaled to meet your needs now and in the future, electrification can offer a significant potential return on investment.


Learn how other industries are evaluating beneficial ways to power up with electrification.


Adam Young is director of financial analysis and rate design at 1898 & Co., part of Burns & McDonnell. He has worked in the electric utility industry for more than 15 years and has broad experience in financial modeling, energy market analysis, project financing, utility cost-of-service analysis and retail electric rate design. In addition to providing consulting to electric utilities, he has also provided various engineering consulting services to private, federal, industrial, commercial and institutional clients in support of developing, planning and funding their power generation and distribution systems, with an emphasis on vehicle charging and distributed energy resources. He has a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Master of Business Administration in finance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.