Heavy vehicle charging – Everything you need to know

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Heavy vehicle charging is becoming more and more common as the world moves towards renewable energy. Understanding the challenges associated with the charging of electric heavy vehicles (EHV) is essential given their increasing prevalence. Everything you need to know about heavy vehicle charging will be covered in detail in this blog, including infrastructure, technology, benefits, challenges, requirements for vehicles and charging stations, and any upcoming changes.  


1. Understanding Heavy Vehicle Charging  

Types of heavy vehicles: A variety of transportation modes fall under the category of heavy vehicles, for example, freight trucks, public buses, delivery vans, garbage trucks, cement mixers, and industrial machinery like elevated work platforms (EWPs). The operational patterns and charging requirements differ for each type. For example, long-haul trucks need rapid and frequent charging options due to their long travel distances, whereas urban buses and delivery vans could make use of overnight depot charging.  

Charging Technologies  

  • AC Charging: Although alternating current (AC) charging is most frequently used for passenger cars, large vehicles can also benefit from it in low-power scenarios. This is the process of recharging the vehicle’s battery by converting AC power from the grid into DC. While AC charging is a slower approach, it works well for vehicles that can be left to charge overnight at depots, including delivery vans and buses.  
  • DC Fast Charging: Because Direct Current (DC) fast charging can give higher power volumes and reduce charging times, it is the best solution for heavier vehicles. The power output of DC chargers ranges from 50kW to over 350kW, which makes them ideal for heavy-duty vehicles that require quick recharge. There are currently plans to create ultra-fast chargers that will deliver even higher power levels and reduce charging times from hours to minutes.  
  • Wireless Charging: Inductive charging pads that allow vehicles to recharge without the use of physical cables could be incorporated into motorways or depots. Although in its early stages of development, wireless charging technology presents the possibility of automated and convenient charging; it could significantly improve urban transit systems by enabling buses to charge progressively at each stop.

2. Charging infrastructure 

Depot Charging: Heavy vehicles frequently return to a central depot at the conclusion of their operational cycle. Most of the time depots are equipped with high-power DC chargers so that vehicles can be charged overnight or during designated breaks. While this may require extensive planning and arranging, it guarantees effective charging for every vehicle, ensuring that they are prepared when needed.  

Public Charging Stations: It is imperative to build public charging infrastructure for large vehicles, especially along main routes. These stations must have the capacity to accommodate larger vehicles and provide high-power charging capabilities. Ideally, these stations should be positioned to limit downtime and guarantee that vehicles can finish their route without running out of charge.  

On-route Charging: For delivery trucks and buses, on-route charging can be quite efficient. Vehicles can immediately receive energy boosts throughout the day and reduce the need for lengthy charging sessions by placing high-power chargers or wireless charging pads at bus stops, loading docks, or designated parking locations.  

Grid Impact: As heavy vehicles require a lot of power, it can be difficult to integrate their charging infrastructure with the electrical grid. Energy management programs and smart grid technologies are essential for reducing the impact on the grid. These systems can use energy storage options or schedule charging for off-peak hours to maximise energy efficiency, balance loads, and lower peak demand costs.  

3. Vehicle and Charger Requirements  

Understanding the Vehicle:  

  • Battery Size in kWh: Heavy vehicles have larger batteries compared to passenger cars, typically ranging from 100 kWh to over 500 kWh, depending on the vehicle’s type and usage. Smaller heavy vehicles such as cargo vans typically have a 55-90 kWh battery whereas transit buses range from 225-345kWh based on data from 2019 – 2022.  
  • Max DC Power Acceptance: The maximum DC power a heavy vehicle can accept varies but generally falls between 150 kW and 500 kW. Understanding this capability is crucial for selecting compatible chargers. Here at EVSE we provide DC chargers ranging from 20-420kW 
  • Speed of Charging: DC fast chargers significantly reduce charging time compared to AC chargers. For example, a 350 kW DC fast charger can charge a 500 kWh battery to 80% in about an hour, while AC chargers would take several hours to achieve the same.  
  • Range When Fully Loaded: The range of heavy vehicles when fully loaded varies. For instance, an electric truck might have a range of 240-480 kilometres on a full charge, depending on factors like battery size, load weight, and driving conditions.  

Vehicle Specifications: 

  • Port Location: When planning charging stations, it is important to account the potential variations in port locations. There could be ports on the side, back, or front of the car.  
  • Vehicle Length and Size: Larger heavy vehicles require more space for charging, impacting the design and arrangement of charging stations, particularly in urban areas or depots.  
  • Charging location: Charging infrastructure needs to accommodate different vehicle orientations. Drive-through charging stations may be necessary for certain setups, while park and reverse arrangements are used in others.  


Usage Scenarios

  • Vans: As electric vans can be charged overnight at depots or throughout the day at public charging stations, they are ideal for last-mile and urban delivery routes.  
  • Last-Mile Delivery Trucks: Similar to vans, last-mile delivery vehicles are useful for regular short journeys and are able to utilise on-route or overnight depot charging options.  
  • Garbage Trucks and Cement Mixers: These big vehicles are ideal for DC high-power depot charging since they frequently travel predictable routes and timetables, which will guarantee they are ready for everyday operations.  
  • EWPs (Elevated Work Platforms): Depending on the availability of power supplies, these vehicles, which are used in construction and maintenance, can be charged overnight or during downtime at work sites.    
  • Prime Movers and Rigid EV Trucks: For long-distance transportation, heavy-duty vehicles with large battery capacities and quick charging options are required, as are rigid electric vehicles. For these trucks, public high-power charging stations along busy transportation routes are helpful.  


4. Benefits of Heavy Vehicle Electrification  

Environmental Impact: Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced when big trucks are electrified. High concentrations of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are released by heavy vehicles, most of which are driven by diesel engines. Switching to electric power promotes global efforts to combat climate change and helps improve air quality, especially in urban areas. 

Operational Costs: Compared to their diesel counterparts, heavy electric vehicles provide lower operational costs. Generally speaking, electricity is less expensive than diesel fuel, and therefore electric motors require less maintenance because they have fewer moving parts. Electric vehicles may have reduced total ownership costs, especially when long-term fuel and maintenance savings are taken into account.  

Energy Security: Reducing dependency on fossil fuels is a necessary step towards improving energy security. Many resources, including renewable energy sources like solar and wind, can be used to produce energy. This diversity aids in reducing vulnerability to changes in oil prices and the effects of geopolitical unrest on the supply of oil. Additionally, producing renewable energy on-site helps lessen reliance on foreign fuels. 


5. Challenges in Heavy Vehicle Charging  

High Initial Costs: Although the initial price of electric heavy vehicles and the infrastructure needed for charging them can be costly, these cars are becoming more and more financially viable due to a variety of incentives, subsidies, and declining battery costs. Governments and industry participants are working together to offer financial assistance to defray these upfront expenditures. 

Battery Technology: Currently, issues with batteries include weight, limited recharge times, and range restrictions. For heavier vehicles to attain the required range, large batteries are required; however, this might result in a significant increase in weight and a reduction in cargo capacity. Overcoming these constraints will need constant improvements in battery chemistry, energy density, and fast-charging capabilities. 

Infrastructure Development: Building a large and reliable charging network requires significant financial outlay and cooperation between multiple organisations, including utilities, governments, and private companies. In order to meet the increased demand for power, this project calls for not only the installation of charging stations but also the improvement of grid infrastructure. 

Grid Capacity:
The additional power required to charge large vehicles may strain the capacity of the current electrical systems. Upgrading grid infrastructure, incorporating renewable energy sources, and implementing intelligent charging systems are the necessary actions to overcome this. Furthermore, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies and energy storage systems can help with efficient grid demand management. 


6. Future Trends and Innovations  

Ultra-Fast Charging: The development of ultra-rapid charging technology, which can achieve power levels more than 500 kW, would further reduce charging times, making long-distance driving of electric heavy vehicles more practical. These upgrades will increase the operating efficacy of large vehicles by enabling them to charge significantly faster than they now can.  

Battery Swapping: Battery swapping stations can swap out depleted batteries for fully charged ones in a matter of minutes, saving you time when it comes to charging. For large vehicles, this strategy is being considered as a way to address the problem of longer charging times and a greater operating range without the need for lengthy stops. 

Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Technology: By returning energy to the grid through V2G technology, electric vehicles can increase grid stability and provide a flexible energy storage option. Large-capacity vehicles, especially those that are heavy, can be very useful in V2G applications by helping to balance the supply and demand of energy. 

Autonomous Electric Vehicles: The combination of electrified big vehicles with self-driving technology has the potential to revolutionise public transport and logistics. Electric trucks and buses that drive themselves have the potential to improve routes, reduce operating costs, and increase safety. The combination of autonomy and electrification holds great promise for the development of transport in the future. 

Renewable Energy Integration: To further reduce the carbon footprint of electric heavy trucks, charging stations can be combined with renewable energy sources like solar or wind power. In conclusion, producing and storing renewable energy on-site can improve the total environmental benefits by providing a dependable and sustainable energy source for charging infrastructure. 


Electrically transporting large goods is a major step toward sustainable transportation. Despite facing significant challenges, progress in building infrastructure, developing charging technologies, and enacting supportive legislation is paving the way for a more efficient and environmentally friendly future. The vision of having a fleet consisting entirely of electric heavy vehicles is becoming increasingly attainable as long as we maintain our innovative spirit.  

We can all contribute to creating a more sustainable and eco-friendly environment by staying informed about the latest innovations and lending our support. The transition to electric transportation is a collaborative effort. 

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