With just a pair of buttons to turn it on and release the air brakes, the electric semi-truck is easier to drive.  There is no gear shift to wrestle with, no clutch and no deafening diesel engine.  Several manufacturers are making plans to release models in 2021. 

Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are responsible for about 8 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Electrics not only reduce tailpipe emissions to zero, they cost less to operate. With fewer moving parts, they are also easier to maintain.

On average, it costs about $1.38 per mile to operate a diesel truck, according to the trucking information website TruckInfo.net; $70,000 of the $180,000 annual operating cost is fuel, and $15,000 goes toward maintenance. Tesla, by comparison, estimates its electric Semi will cost $1.26 per mile.

Electric trucks do, however, cost more to buy upfront. While most manufacturers have yet to set pricing, the longer a truck’s range, the more batteries it needs and the more it will cost. Tesla plans to sell its 300-mile-range Semi for $150,000 and 500-mile Semi for $180,000. The price of a new diesel tractor and trailer is about $150,000.

The electrification of trucking is rolling out in three distinct phases, starting with medium-duty box trucks and vans, followed by heavy-duty semis used for regional hauling, like the ones Volvo, Kenworth and Daimler are testing at Southern California’s ports.

Most heavy-duty electric truck testing is happening at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — the country’s largest by cargo volume and container value. About 14,000 trucks go through the adjoined port complex each day, most of them fueled with polluting diesel.

The ports are the reason Los Angeles and Long Beach consistently rank first for ozone pollution in the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air Report.

About two million of the 15.5 million trucks operating in the United States are semis, or tractor-trailers. They’re replaced at the rate of 200,000 to 300,000 a year. Still, the market for electric heavy-duty trucks is expected to be less than 4 percent of all trucks sold until 2025, according to the global information firm IHS Markit.



Discover how quiet a Class 8 semi-truck is during this test drive video.