Why the US is overtaking Australia on electric trucks

One of America’s largest companies has revealed it has put more electric trucks on the road than Australia has in its entire heavy-duty electric fleet and uses artificial intelligence to keep them running.

But Amazon will have to ramp up its adoption of the low-emission technology even further to meet its target of putting 100,000 electric delivery vehicles into service by 2030.

The news comes weeks after federal and NSW governments changed rules governing the use of electric and hydrogen vehicles in Australia to allow wider and heavier trucks to be imported and driven on local roads.

Amazon announced its latest electric vehicle milestone in Seattle, with transport vice-president Udit Madan revealing 10,000 of the electric trucks created in partnership with Rivian were now delivering packages in the US.

“We’ve already driven 69 million miles (111 million kilometres) with those vehicles, delivered over 260 million packages, and those vehicles are now delivering across 1800 towns and cities,” he said.

“Our fleet now, at 10,000, is the largest electric delivery fleet in the US.”

Mr Madan said the company had also deployed 12,000 chargers to support the trucks.

The milestone is a significant increase since July, when Amazon announced it had more than 5000 electric trucks in operation.

But the company will require an even greater increase to meet its target of putting 100,000 electric trucks into use over the next seven years.

The company also revealed it had deployed artificially intelligent vehicle maintenance technology in 21 sites to automatically scan electric and diesel trucks for issues.

Amazon last mile senior manager Aziz Makkiya said the drive-through technology, created with Israeli start-up UVeye, used 16 cameras to scan the outside of vehicles, six to probe the tyres, and three to inspect the undercarriage to detect problems.

“This whole process is done in less than seven seconds,” he said.

“As the vehicles drive by, like a car wash, we’ll take about 400 or 500 pictures at very high resolution.”

Defects like a tyre bulge, windscreen chip or rust are flagged with maintenance workers, Mr Makkiya said, so the vehicle can be fixed overnight and kept in service.

Amazon’s electric truck announcements follow significant changes to restrictions on heavy-duty low-emission vehicles in Australia.

In late September, the federal government increased the width limit on trucks from 2.5 to 2.55 metres, and in October the NSW government announced a two-year trial of heavier trucks on state roads.

The changes were designed to allow more low-emission electric trucks to be used in Australia without significant changes that could slow their adoption.

Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari said the reforms were vital to helping businesses adopt low-emission transport technology and to reducing larger carbon emissions from big vehicles.

“Today the emissions impact out of trucks is significant,” he said.

Australia Post currently has the nation’s biggest electric fleet with more than 4600 vehicles.

AAP’s reporter travelled to the US as a guest of Amazon.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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