California is at the forefront of truck electrification in the United States. However, a recent report by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) suggests that the state may not be fully ready for this major transition. ATRI’s analysis highlights major challenges, including the fact that the state’s main electricity producers are facing uncertainties that could affect the future availability of electricity.
A concrete example of these challenges is the situation of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the last in California, which contributes 8.5% of the state’s electricity production. Initially scheduled to close in 2025, California is now considering extending its operation. This decision underscores concerns about the state’s ability to meet increasing electricity demand.
(Although nuclear power plants like Diablo Canyon have low greenhouse gas emissions during operation, they present other environmental concerns, including the management of radioactive waste and the impact on local ecosystems. Its carbon footprint is relatively low compared to fossil energy sources, but higher than some renewable energies.)
ATRI’s 2022 report reveals impressive energy consumption data: in 2019, road users in the United States consumed more than 136 billion gallons of gasoline and nearly 44 billion gallons of diesel. Replacing this energy with electricity would require a significant increase in electrical production. Moreover, trucks, especially long-haul heavy-duty ones, would become major electricity consumers.
For illustration, the electricity consumption of American trucks would amount to 553.5 billion kWh per year, representing 14% of the total electricity consumption of the United States in 2019. Long-haul trucks alone would consume 417.4 billion kWh, or 10.6% of the total consumption.
If all light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles in the United States were electrified, this would require an increase of 1,593.8 billion kWh of electricity per year. This represents a 40.3% increase in the country’s annual electricity consumption, a major challenge for the electrical grid.
In California, where the average electricity rate is already the second highest in the country, this transition will have a significant economic impact. Electric trucks, costing more than $425,000, more than double the price of a diesel truck, will increase supply chain costs. ATRI estimates that the operating cost of a heavy electric truck could reach $1.21 per mile, taking into account equipment, installation, utility upgrades, and electricity.