How EVs are shaping logistics and shipping infrastructure

written by Niccolò Ferrari

In the last 20 years, one of the fields that grew and changed the most is, without a doubt, logistics. Thanks to the boom of e-commerce platforms and door-to-door delivery of goods, be it through your local grocery store that provides direct-to-consumer shopping or big companies such as Amazon, the need of efficient delivery systems rose.

At the beginning of the e-commerce era, it was normal to expect a delivery time of one week, sometimes even more. Nowadays, customers expect the good to be delivered in less than 48 hours. Anything more is considered inefficient. But how did this change happen? Considering that speed of boats, trucks and planes remained the same, the reason lies elsewhere.

As the industry grows, so does the infrastructure. Logistic hubs grow not only in size, but most importantly, in number, reducing the average distance between a customer’s house and the warehouse. If some years ago the average distance was over 500-600 miles, nowadays it is around 200 miles. This, combined with the computation of the most efficient delivery route for truck drivers, allows us to receive our ordered goods in very short time. 

Due to this change, EV manufacturers see an opportunity to revolutionize the logistics transportation. How? By Developing mid-range trucks that can perform the last leg of the delivery route. It is in fact still technologically difficult to produce an electric vehicle with a thousand miles of range and the costs would be excessive. However, concrete examples of mid-range trucks already exist, or are in development.

A few, quick examples, are the Rivian EDV, with an order of 100.000 units made by Amazon, the Nikola Tre, a bigger semi-truck with 350 miles of range and General Motors, with its wing company BrightDrop, already selling EV600 and EV410 models to FedEX and Walmart. However, not only are recently founded companies developing new electric vehicles, but also the ones who own the largest shares of the industry, such as Volvo, Scania and Daimler. Volvo is developing three different lines of E-trucks for different duties, Scania already has plans to develop one new battery powered vehicle every year and, finally, Daimler is investing heavily in the new eCascadia line.

Emission caused by road transportation of goods is of course a noticeable contributor to pollution and global warming. However, a change of direction is highlighting a greener future ahead. With the whole automotive industry pushing and investing in the same type of technology, EVs, this will eventually have a positive impact. Commerce models and shopping habits won’t probably change in the short term, but the way the infrastructure behind this operates can, and will, have an even stronger impact.

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