From realizing it needed to double its charging stations to talking to a truck maker about changing the location of the charging port on the truck, the Penske Logistics hub in Ontario, California, has lessons to share from its focus on evaluating light-, medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks engaged in urban, short- and regional-haul applications.
Penske is one of 10 fleets participating in the North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s Run on Less Electric - Depot trials, allowing NACFE analysts to see their evolving BEV operations up close. NACFE is focused on both operational and infrastructure issues with a goal to help North American fleets begin to transition to battery-electric trucks. A video on its Run on Less website looks at Penske's Ontario operations,
Growth from the Get-Go
In an on-site video shot and produced by NACFE, Sean Yentsch, VP of Penske Logistics parent company Penske Transportation Solutions, said the Ontario facility was initially slated to have six electric truck chargers. But that determination quickly changed.
“We had customers gravitating here right away,” he said in the video. “We realized we had to adapt and grow from six charging stalls to 12. And today we have about a megawatt of charging available on site.”
As Mike Roeth, executive director of NACFE, explained in the video opening, the challenge for Penske in Ontario was all about creating a viable charging infrastructure for four different makes and models of electric trucks.
“This is really Penske’s EV test bed,” added Brett Beard, EV Infrastructure operations office, Beard Electric EV. “We get to install and see all different types of charging systems.”
Beard said that one take-away from Penske’s early decision to expand its charging capabilities is the need to predict where your operations will be in the future.
“That way you can be prepared for not only what a system is going to do,” he noted, “but also what you’re going to learn from that system and what you can expect from the system in the future.”
Key to that effort is a good charging software system, said Chris Kaiser, director of energy solutions, Shell Energy. Penske is using Shell Sky software to really help manage the chargers and give them the data they need to make good, smart, charging decisions, Kaiser explained.
He noted there’s another layer that Shell’s Sky software is providing for the Ontario facility.
“Shell Sky helps Penske look at the grid services,” he said. “And that helps make sure Penske is charging at the right times, at the right intervals, with the right prices to help them really manage this whole process – which can really be very complex.”
Pushing for Better Features and Performance
Penske’s fleet in Ontario includes Ford E-Transit step vans on the light-duty side of things and Class 6 GM BrightDrop step vans and International eMV box vans running medium-duty routes. Freightliner eCascadia tractors make up the fleet’s heavy-duty models at the facility.
In fact, the Ontario facility took ownership of the first five International eMVs to come off the assembly line, said Debbie Shust,, VP, medium duty business, Navistar/International Trucks.
“Almost on day one, they gave us feedback that they didn’t like the location of the charging port,” she said.
Whether it's conventional powertrains or EVs, Shust said, Penske is always pushing OEMs to better their vehicles in ways that benefit fleet operations.
“I think that’s one of the nice things about them using our electric vehicles,” she said. “They’re not shy. But they’re also very data-driven. So, it’s not emotional: Everything is based on, ‘This is what I need to run the business.’ So, the next truck they get will have a different charging location based on their feedback.”
From a driver’s perspective, Yentsch said the trucks are popular, and confidence is rapidly growing in their capabilities.
“A lot of the drivers really like the truck technology,” he said. “They’re really comfortable driving it. They’re really getting good at bringing the trucks back with a state of charge that makes them feel good about their routes. The charging itself is starting to stabilize a lot. And it really takes that fear of the unknown away once they’ve run that route. So, getting a truck in your fleet is a really good way to see if that’s the way you want to go.”
“The first thing I love about it is there’s no vibration in the cab,” added John Leroux, driver, Penske Logistics. “It’s quiet. The torque was direct. I love the steering. It doesn’t take much to turn. A beautiful thing I love about this tractor is that I can keep it at an idle and there’s no emission coming from it all. I can have the AC running. I can have the heater running. And there’s no emissions at all.”
Every Aspect Analyzed
According to Yentsch, the lessons learned at the Ontario EV facility will eventually benefit Penske customers across North America.
“Our Vehicle Supply division is constantly looking at all of the new OEM startups and giving our customers a true evaluation on what’s out there,” he said. “And from the facilities side, we’re looking at all the manufacturers out there, the charging networks, the software and the OEMs. We have marketing really helping us drive that adoption. We have a maintenance team that’s really looking ahead and saying, ‘How much data can I get so I can really understand the maintenance of those vehicles and what that future looks like.’”
“Starting on this journey is so important, because you learn so much,” Shust added. “That’s one of the things I encourage any customer to do is get started. Because you’re going to learn things that don’t work for you, or how hard it is to get infrastructure and all of those things.”
Originally posted on Trucking Info