ACT Expo: Shell-Penske truck EV charging deal, battery price hike cools ‘a little’

LOS ANGELES — A subsidiary of oil and gas giant Shell will soon support the charging of Penske Truck Leasing’s light electric vehicles.

Shell Recharge Solutions will provide Level 2 charging stations to support Penske’s electric truck fleet in five states by the end of the year, the companies said at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, Calif., last week. in 2023, the companies said.

“It is becoming increasingly important that we help fleets make the switch to electric vehicles,” said Andreas Lips, CEO of Shell Recharge Solutions. “We want to use our technology and knowledge to enable that transition in an efficient way without compromising their operational capabilities.”

Shell said it would “provide network design, installation and charging support” through a software platform it developed, as well as maintenance support.

The company said 33 Penske Truck Leasing locations will receive the charging support, including 23 in California. Other locations include Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington State.

“Partnering with Shell will help us expand and diversify our electric vehicle charging network and support the light electric vans we have recently introduced,” Art Vallely, president of Penske Truck Leasing, said in a statement.

Shell has invested in low-carbon fuel offerings in recent years under pressure from the company to cut emissions. It was ordered by a Dutch court in 2021 to cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030.

Shell has announced charging infrastructure partnerships with automakers including General Motors and BYD, as well as Uber in Canada.

Here are other takeaways from last week’s expo.

Renewable diesel on the rise

While sales of electric heavy duty trucks are starting to rise, renewable diesel production capacity is increasing in parallel.

According to a report from clean transportation consultancy Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, renewable diesel production capacity has increased from 600 million gallons in 2020 to 800 million gallons by mid-2021. The capacity is expected to grow to 5 billion gallons per year by 2025, enough to meet about 10 percent of the national demand for diesel.

Renewable diesel, made from feedstocks such as vegetable oils and fats, has so far been mainly used by truck fleets in California, which provide financial loans that make it “more competitively priced to diesel,” the report said.

Some heavy-duty truck manufacturers, including Volvo Trucks, see a need for internal combustion engines, even as battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles become more common. Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America, told reporters that Volvo is seeing internal combustion engine vehicles powered by renewable fuels.

School buses to EV chassis

The old school bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corp. unveiled a new electric platform for class 5 and class 6 vehicles, such as vans and motorhomes for the last mile.

The chassis allows for a range of up to 175 miles; 178-inch, 190-inch, and 208-inch wheelbase options; and a gross weight of up to 26,000 pounds, according to the company. It plans to start production in 2023 at a plant in Georgia.

The move comes as the busmaker expands its electric offering. Blue Bird says it has sold more than 500 electric school buses since 2018.

“Blue Bird is going to effectively double its total addressable market,” said CEO Matthew Stevenson.

High battery prices

Battery cells are likely to remain expensive due to high raw material costs until new battery chemicals are introduced to the market, a panel of executives said.

Paul Beach, president of battery systems supplier Octillion Power Systems, said battery cells are in a “commodity price market” because the energy density of cells has remained roughly the same in recent years. In the past, battery cell prices would fall as density increased, but innovation has slowed down for current battery chemistry, he said.

“All my contracts are based on the commodity prices of lithium, cobalt, copper and nickel,” he said. “If those prices change, my cell costs change.”

AK Srouji, chief technology officer of battery pack manufacturer Romeo Power, said companies have two choices to reduce battery costs: either wait for commodity prices to fall and follow cell prices, or try to innovate in areas beyond the battery cell itself, such as the battery pack.

The good news? “We’re seeing prices drop a little bit again,” he said.

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