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Report recommends West Coast corridor of electric truck charging stations

A group representing over a dozen West Coast utilities has released a report that recommends adding electric vehicle charging stations for freight haulers and delivery trucks along the interstate corridor running from Canada to Mexico.

The West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative proposes a phased approach to installing charging stations along the Interstate-5 corridor.

The first phase calls for 27 charging sites along the 1,300-mile length of I-5 at 50-mile intervals for medium-duty electric vehicles, such as delivery vans, by 2025. Then, 14 of the 27 charging sites would be expanded to accommodate charging for electric big rigs by 2030. Of the 27 proposed sites, 16 are in California, five are in Oregon and six are in Washington.

The report proposes an additional 41 sites on other highways that connect to I-5. Those highways are Interstates 8, 10, 80, 210 and 710 and state routes 60 and 99 in California, I-84 in Oregon, and I-90 in Washington.

In the report’s scenario, each charging station would be equipped with up to 10, 350-kilowatt (kW) charging ports for a total peak load of 3.5 megawatts (MW). Each of the combined medium-heavy duty charging stations would be equipped with up to an additional 10, 2 MW charging ports for a maximum 23.5 MW peak load. The co-location approach would minimize the need for additional grid upgrades, reduce permit processing times, and minimize costs, the report said.

Although heavy-duty trucks account for only 5% of the vehicles on U.S. roads, they contribute 23% of all transportation emissions, the report said. In California, the transportation sector accounts for nearly 80% of the state’s air pollution and more than 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and Washington and Oregon face “similar environmental challenges” with transportation being the largest contributor to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in those states as well, according to the report.

By 2030, medium and heavy-duty electric trucks could make up over 8% of all trucks on the road in California, Oregon, and Washington, the report said.

“Electrifying transportation is a key component to reaching our goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040,” Bill Boyce, manager of electric transportation at Sacramento Municipal Utility District, one of the report’s sponsors, said in a statement.

The report was commissioned by three public power utilities; Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and Seattle City Light, two agencies: Northern California Power Agency and Southern California Public Power Authority, and six investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, Pacific Power, Portland General Electric, Puget Sound Energy, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison.

The report was completed by engineering firm HDR with analysis by CALSTART, S Curve Strategies, and Ross Strategic.

Several California utilities already have programs that support the adoption of electric trucks, but more support would be needed to reach electrification levels identified in the study and to meet state climate goals, the report said. The report recommends expanding state, federal or private programs that provide funding for electrification that could accelerate electric truck adoption.

The report does not give a total cost for implementing its recommendations, saying that such costs “can be challenging to predict given the numerous variables,” such as equipment selection, site location, distance from a utility interconnection, electric circuit capacity, permits, and labor costs. Total costs would have to be determined by individual assessments with in-person site visits on a site-by-site basis, the report said.

The report acknowledged that the proposed electric truck charging sites could take “significant” time to plan, permit, design, and build, presenting a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma in terms of whether to build charging stations or to wait for electric vehicle penetration rates to rise before building charging stations for them.

The report’s authors estimated that the medium-duty truck charging stations could each take between one and two years to plan and build while charging sites for heavy duty trucks could each take between three and five years to plan and build.

The report also noted that most electric utilities in California, Oregon, and Washington have enough capacity in urban areas along the I-5 corridor to support interconnections with the proposed medium duty charging sites.

In rural areas, however, capacity constraints would be encountered for some electric utilities in the three West Coast states and the potential need to install new distribution circuits in rural areas could significantly increase the cost of a charging site interconnection and would most likely require additional time and planning.

In all locations, most loads over 10 MW would require extensive upgrades to the electric grid and, most likely, a new customer-dedicated substation, which would likely translate into a “high probability” the proposed heavy duty truck charging sites would require a new substation and a new line interconnection, the report said.

The report argues that a network of publicly available charging sites could help promote standardization of electric charging infrastructure for electric trucks and says electric utilities are “uniquely positioned” to build on opportunities to overcome the challenges identified in the report.

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