By Rachel Koning Beals
Amazon.com, DHL and other fast-delivery names who know they’ll need electric vehicles for their shipping demands in coming years want charging speed, battery technology, and ease in jumping from one charger to another, they’re telling automakers in a new report.
And they will be willing to dump one manufacturer for another to get what they want, they said.
The Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance , affiliated with sustainable-investing advocate Ceres, on Friday presented leading vehicle manufacturers, including Volvo, General Motors /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +0.81% , Daimler and Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.26% , with a blueprint for developing the EVs that companies moving their own goods and people or shuttling deliveries for others plan to acquire in the U.S. over the next five years.
The alliance, which has grown to 29 members in two years of existence, collectively expects to purchase roughly 300,000 light-duty EVs over that span.
These needs create a push for competition in a vehicle industry that already juggles changing market demand and regulatory shifts against the cumbersome act of retooling plants and right-sizing workforces.
“On average, the production of zero-emission vehicles is still much lower than the production capacity that manufacturers have for internal combustion engine, or gasoline /zigman2/quotes/210286597/delayed RB00 -0.21% , vehicles, so they have to be a lot more careful with which types of vehicles, in which specifications, they’re prioritizing production of right now,” said Sara Forni, director of clean vehicles at Ceres and a Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance leader.
“Some don’t have the opportunity, or they haven’t in the past, to produce every single electric vehicle that every company fleet or commercial fleet wants. So that’s why we developed this survey and the resulting analysis to send this clear demand signal to auto manufacturers about which vehicle types we want them to prioritize out of the wide swath of specifications,” she said.
Survey respondents showed preference for all-electric, battery vehicles over plug-in gas/electric hybrids and over newer, and not-yet-scalable, hydrogen fuel cells to power engines.
Broadly, the group recommends that auto and truck manufacturers be more transparent about the timing of new model releases and prioritize the design and production of zero-emission vehicles that meet the most frequently needed configurations and specifications for major commercial fleets. This entails producing vehicles that have sufficient battery capacity to get drivers where they need to go but not eliminating the ability to create vehicles unique to a company’s needs, including minimum electric range, towing capacity and cargo space.
And it’s not all about trucks. EV sedan fleets will be in demand, these companies said, with most hoping for the range on one charge extending to 250-300 miles. In all, building out EV fleets will require sedans, SUVs, pickups and box trucks.
“We know that we have to move to electric vehicles to help mitigate the climate and public health crisis,” Forni said. “And so, manufacturers are trying to get in the game and carve out a place for themselves in this increasingly popular market.”
Ozone and fine particulates from vehicle emissions cause increased death and disease from cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, both in cities and neighborhoods near highways, disproportionately impacting communities of color.
Since the entire transport sector accounts for 21% of total emissions, and road transport accounts for three quarters of transport emissions, road transport accounts for 15% of total CO2 emissions . Commercial medium- and heavy-duty cars and trucks carry an outsized impact on U.S. emissions on a per vehicle basis.
The alliance, which also counts Best Buy /zigman2/quotes/205918291/composite BBY -3.04% , Hertz /zigman2/quotes/227855833/composite HTZ +0.11% , T-Mobile /zigman2/quotes/204659678/composite TMUS +0.51% , and United Natural Foods /zigman2/quotes/202981234/composite UNFI +0.91% on its roster, collectively represents more than $1 trillion in annual revenue. Its members own, lease or operate over 1.3 million on-road fleet vehicles in the U.S. alone.
The group said a Biden administration plan to convert the fleet of federal vehicles to electric in coming years will foster economies-of-scale that will help the private sector. Infrastructure spending in a bill passed last year also targets expanding the charging network. And the Advanced Clean Truck rule, designed to accelerate the growth of clean trucks, vans and other large commercial vehicles, was adopted by six states in recent months after dozens of companies and investors spoke out in support of it.
Not all automakers participated in the workshops linked to this report. One, Ford Motor /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +0.55% , was not singled out in the findings, but has worked with the alliance on commercial fleet needs. Ford’s top-selling F-150 pickup truck has an EV model set to come to market this year, the Lightning.
Ford is also an investor in all-EV maker Rivian /zigman2/quotes/230726939/composite RIVN +8.50% , which went public in a big splash last year. Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.19% also has a stake in Rivian.
GM drew praise at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show after unveiling its 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup . The truck, which is set to go on sale next year, claims more than 400 miles of range — outpacing the 300 miles for Ford’s Lightning.
The EV alliance report also revealed that companies want their automakers to invest in and help develop the charging network, not just the vehicles.
Open-access charging sites help ensure that EVs can be used across a greater range of routes. Interoperability enhances equity and reduces range anxiety, and is critical to driving the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, the group has said. Over the long term, open charging standards allow the industry to move forward as a cohesive unit, reducing the risk of tying infrastructure to technology that may become obsolete, it argues.
In one example, GM last year said it will partner with seven charging networks ahead of its EV push.