As it imports vehicles, including the Nissan Ariya EV, to the US through the port of Los Angeles, Nissan North America is testing the use of Class 8 electric semi-trailers (etrucks) for onward delivery to dealers in California.
The carmaker is working with Avant Garde Auto Logistics (Agal) on the project. Agal is a women-owned company, founded by Sharmin Watson, exclusively using etrucks to move finished vehicles in California.
Operations began on February 23. Agal is moving the vehicles out to the participating dealer network and will be using four Class 8 battery electric semis. Two trucks are now operational and the other two are anticipated to start early summer of 2023.
The etrucks, two each provided by commercial vehicle makers Kenworth and Nikola Motor, will be delivering the vehicles to Nissan dealers within a 75-mile radius of the port. By the summer the trucks will also be moving Nissan volumes out of the Mira Loma railyard, which is served by Union Pacific rail.
Agal expects to be moving around 4,000 vehicles a year out of the port using the etrucks.
Nissan North America said that by exploring the use of the etrucks with Agal on a limited scale they hope to better understand how they could be an integrated part of Nissan’s future transport plans and help to reduce emissions across operations.
JS Bolton, director of finished vehicle logistics and supply chain systems and strategy at Nissan will be joining Chris Styles, Nissan’s vice-president of supply chain management for North America, on the speaker panel at this year’s Finished Vehicle Logistics North America conference, which takes place between May 9-11 in Huntingdon Beach, California
In the first phase of the trial, the four trucks used will provide information on mileage, charging and vehicle volumes, with which Nissan will evaluate their use and plan for future expansion of the fleet.
“Building on the success of this trial with four trucks in the LA area, Nissan intends to expand to a longer trial with additional trucks in the area; that programme would run through 2026,” said a spokesperson for Nissan North America. “Long term, lessons learned from these projects could allow for future expansion of BEV trucks into new geographic territories, larger truck fleets and different transportation needs.”
The etrucks are being charged at the port thanks to charging infrastructure installed at the terminal operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen. Two haulage trucks can charge at the same time while they are loading at the facility in Wilmington. The Nikola trucks have a range of 350 miles and the Kenworth trucks 150 miles between charges. When operations to the Mira Lomas railyard begin the trucks will also be able to charge there, thanks to the support of Union Pacific.
The use of etrucks is supported by the state of California through a range of environmentally driven legislation and incentives. Shippers with Agal are eligible to use the Innovative Small eFleet (ISEF) programme , which offers funding in support of the use of etrucks and covers approximately 60% of the cost of running the trucks at the outset. That helps offset the initial cost of a more expensive rig and the loss in capacity. The loaded weight of an etruck carrying BEVs limits the number of vehicles to six or seven because of the regulations on weights and dimensions in the US. A conventional haulage unit can carry eight or nine sedans.
In the face of the current driver shortage affecting the vehicle haulage sector the 75-mile compass of the deliveries allows drivers to be back home at night. This is an attractive proposition for a vehicle haulage sector that has lost a lot of drivers since Covid to other areas of the transport and logistics industry.
“This is a ground-breaking project. I believe (but am not 100% certain) that these will be the first ever all electric Class 8 semis to deliver automobiles in the US,” said Watson. “We all have to start taking steps to meet the sustainability goals put forth by the government.”
At last year’s Finished Vehicle Logistics North America conference in California Sharmin Watson talked about the efforts that need to be made in balancing capacity with sustainable modes for transport for vehicle deliveries