The True Cost of Electric Semis: How Do They Compare to Traditional Diesel?

Shopping for a semi truck for your logistics and freight company has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Previously the choices fleets and owner-operators had to concern themselves with was brand and type of semi truck to purchase: day cab, sleeper, and gearing for the type of load, terrain, and distance on an average haul.

With diesel, you have certain platforms, and you can option-out the truck to whatever spec you need or want, and still would have a range of performance to expect. The entry of electrified trucks threw a wrench in the status quo, so let’s weigh the costs and benefits of each power plant for trucking.

Initial Purchase Price

The cost of buying an electric semi is still higher than buying a traditional diesel semi—ranging between 10% and 80% more than a comparable diesel truck before rebates, translating to purported $150,000 for a base short-haul single cab from Tesla to over $275,000 for top-spec’d OTR sleepers from competitors, exceeding 500 mile range. However, there are other cost-savings that need to be considered when making the purchase decision.

Cost of Fuel

Electricity is cheaper than diesel, and electric trucks don’t require the same level of maintenance as their diesel counterparts. Electric trucks also have regenerative braking, which helps to extend the life of the brakes as well as extend the range per charge in certain instances. When you figure the average mileage is 7mpg for a diesel truck, and with the current fuel price surge in the U.S., the national average is $5.65 per gallon, providing an eye-popping $0.81/mile in fuel cost alone. The estimates from most electric semi manufacturers is between 2 and 2.5KWh per mile, and the current range of electricity pricing is $0.12-$0.20/KWh, an electric truck can be easily $0.50/mile cheaper to run. When you factor in all of these cost-savings, electric semis start to look a lot more attractive from a TCO perspective.

Challenges with Electric Semis

The main challenges electric semis face are range and charging infrastructure. The current crop of electric trucks have ranges between 200-500 miles on a single charge, which works great for local and regional routes, but falls short for over the road (OTR) hauls that can sometimes exceed 1000 miles. And while fast-charging is possible with many electric trucks, making refueling quite similar to fully-fueling a diesel, there are very few public fast-charging stations for electric trucks, which means most fleets will need to install their own charger at their facility, which can be costly. But with the cost of fuel and maintenance savings, electric semis are still projected to have a lower TCO than their diesel counterparts.

Financing Your Next Truck

While we’ve had electric cars mainstream for a while now, electric trucks have moved much more slowly into the market. As such, trucks have been an unknown as far as depreciation, maintenance, and performance, so financing such an enigma was a challenge. Fast forward to now, and certain lenders—ENGS included—are recognizing the value of the assets and are offering attractive loans and leases for electric trucks. If you are interested in acquiring an electric truck for your trucking company, contact an ENGS representative today to learn about the attractive financing options for electric trucks.

In summary, this initial purchase of an electric semi is still a more expensive proposition than buying a traditional diesel truck, but the cost of ownership (TCO) over the first of the vehicle is projected to be lower, with fuel savings of over 50% and maintenance costs at least 25% lower than diesel counterparts. Within 3 year span, the TCO of electric trucks begins to look more and more attractive, and as infrastructure improves, we will see more operators making the leap toward electrification, which is why many leading manufacturers of tractors are joining the electrification revolution, beginning with electrifying existing rolling chassis as well as ground-up design of new platforms.