Electric-powered commercial trucks could be key to hitting climate change targets

To meet climate change targets in B.C. researchers are suggesting companies convert commercial trucks to electrical power.

Electrifying sector could cut emissions by over 60 per cent, researchers say

A power cable is attached to an electric vehicle from an electric-vehicle charging station in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010. The car was seen during a media ride and drive set up for 'Electric Vehicle Week' showing the most advanced electric cars now being built by automotive manufacturers. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

To meet climate change targets in B.C., researchers are suggesting companies convert commercial trucks to electrical power.

The study, published by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, found that electrifying the provincial commercial trucking industry could cut emissions by over 60 per cent.

The idea might not be as far-fetched as it seems, according to the lead researcher of a study on the subject, Walter Merida, director of the Clean Energy Research Centre at the University of British Columbia.

He said that the province has a very "green electricity mix" because the majority of our energy comes from hydropower. That energy could be put toward reducing the amount of emissions our transportation system produces.

About 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the province come from the transportation sector, and roughly half of that is produced by heavy-duty vehicles, according to Merida.

"These vehicles are much larger and they consume much more fuel than normal vehicles, so with a much smaller number of vehicles, they can have a much larger impact," he told All Points West's Jason D'Souza.

Bus-sized batteries

But the challenge of powering an 18-wheeler designed to transport goods long distances is significant, he said, and would require large batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.

"Electric vehicles are fantastic for urban mobility solutions, but if you need to move ships, trains, airplanes or trucks, you need much higher-energy density."

A B.C. company that makes bus-sized batteries to power ferries is also working to provide solutions to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Corvus Energy has been in operation for about a decade. Vice president Sean Puchalski says the company has grown to be a world leader in marine battery technology.

Corvus's Orca batteries have been used in ships and ferries around the world. (Corvus)

While businesses try their best to make innovative solutions, Merida said governments need to take more action to create the infrastructure to support new green technology, like charging and refuelling stations.

"That's definitely one of the areas where government needs to take the leadership to ensure that car makers and other stakeholders can actually bring the vehicles to the province," he said.

Among the most underutilized assets in urban centres are parking garages which could, with the right technology, be turned into "a smart system that basically becomes a city-scale battery" to charge electric vehicles, according to Merida.

The research team is currently in the second phase of study on the subject, which will examine the economic requirements to make the idea of electric-powered trucks a reality.

Merida is encouraged by the number of organizations that are taking the issue of climate change beyond the political arena into the business and innovation sectors.

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

To meet climate change targets in B.C. researchers are suggesting companies convert commercial trucks to electrical power. 12:19

With files from All Points West

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