24/7 trucking and shipping can be converted to electric – The use of fossil fuels in shipping has grown rapidly since the first container ships were introduced in the 1950s. Today over 100,000 ships use 5 million barrels per day or 4.5% of world oil production, mainly to haul goods across the globe. Similarly, over 75 million heavy trucks run on almost 11 million barrels per day or over 12% of all the oil produced.
24/7 trucking and shipping can be converted to electric
Ships and trucks use heavy fuel oil and diesel straight from the oil refinery. Because of their high energy content, vehicles can go far with a relatively small tank. A heavy truck can carry 20 tons of cargo over 1,000 kilometers on a 400-liter diesel fuel tank, and a cargo ship with 8,000 containers can travel 20,000 kilometers with its 3.5-millionliter fuel tank. Moving such big vehicles with electricity would require massive batteries. So electric shipping and trucking would need super-batteries for electrification to make sense.
Only short-distance trips for small vehicle delivery in cities or for inland ship transport are viable today. The largest hybrid electric battery ship so far is the Princesse Benedikte ferry in Denmark, which has 365 car and 1,140 passenger capacity. This 15,000-ton ship can be propelled on battery power for 30 minutes with a charging time of 30 minutes.
Short-distance electric delivery vans and light-to-medium trucks with a range of 160 kilometers on one battery charge are sold in the United States and Europe, but their vendors are struggling to make a profit. Build Your Dreams (BYD), the Chinese Tesla has launched a series of electric vans and trucks that could get traction in the Chinese market thanks to government subsidies. Of the big car companies, only Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a medium-sized electric truck that is not yet for sale, and Elon Musk of Tesla hinted that it also intends to enter the short-distance trucking space.
Replacing oil in long-distance goods transport will require another liquid fuel, either natural gas, hydrogen, or biofuels. Hydrogen when compressed to 700 bar pressure holds 3.6 times more energy content than oil products, while biofuels typically contain half the energy. The secretive US company Nikola plans a heavy-duty, 1,200-mile range hydrogen truck in addition to a planned 50+ hydrogen station network, one in every US state. The cost to produce hydrogen from wind power, however, is over $200 per barrel. The cost of biofuel is also still too high, with current estimates for biomass-to-methanol fuel at $70 per barrel; together with the biofuel energy penalty, this results in an oil-price-equivalent price of $150 per barrel.