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Minnesota logistics company testing capabilities of electric semis

Minnesota company helping make the shift to EV trucking
Minnesota company helping make the shift to EV trucking 04:11

MINNEAPOLIS  Truck driver Mike Faricy has nearly seen it all, but then the bosses at Murphy Logistics called him in and asked him to start driving an electric semi as part of a pilot project.

It's made by Volvo and gets up to 275 miles on a single charge. Six batteries help run the semi.

"We definitely want to make sure these trucks will be a more viable solution for traditional freight," Jian Li said.

They're testing the trucks in Minnesota and Texas to improve the technology. They wanted to see how the vehicles would run in the extreme heat and cold.

Li says they've delivered 1,000 of the semis in North America since their launch in 2020.

If this tech takes off, there's a lot to gain.

An EPA report found medium and heavy-duty vehicles emitted more than 455 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2019. That's about one-fourth of the emissions from the entire U.S. transportation sector, our country's largest greenhouse gas contributor.

RELATED: EPA sets strict new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses in bid to fight climate change

The EPA says traditional trucks also release other air toxins that contribute to "poor air quality and health across the country, especially in overburdened and underserved communities."

Faricy thinks the transition is inevitable.

"It's just part of our future if we can learn to make them in a cost-effective way that's feasible for driving," Faricy said.

Just like with passenger EVs, one of the bug challenges is figuring out the charging infrastructure.


"Fleet companies like Murphy here really need to have certainty with regards to whether they can make it to their destination," said Will Northrop, a University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor.

Right now, Murphy has a powerful in-house charger and another in Waseca to run its routes. 

Northrup and his team are developing intelligent energy management software. It'll help companies plan efficient routes and save energy so trucks can go further.

"Our algorithms could predict how much they need to get so they can complete the routes so they don't need to spend too much time charging," Northrup said.

A big X factor with EV freight is how the weight impacts a truck's range. That means drivers like Faricy don't know exactly how far they can take the trucks on a daily basis.

Faricy tells WCCO he drove 178 miles making three trips to Shakopee the other day. His truck's range is supposed to be up to 275 miles, but he decided not to make a fourth trip on the same charge.

READ MORE: WCCO tests the long-distance capabilities of electric vehicles

He says they don't baby the truck and haul all the usual stuff like heavy paper rolls and sugar, but they do stick to the metro for now. Though Faricy hopes we can figure out this transition down the road.

"It's the future, I guess, just gotta work out the kinks," he said.

Just this week, the Minnesota Department of Transportation joined other Midwestern states in requesting $40 million from the EPA for an electric truck charging network. 

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