Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.

FOREST INK: Electric trucks could benefit logging industry

Jim Hilton pens a column for the Quesnel Observer every week.

Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the logging sector will require some major challenges and engineering developments but there are some positive moves taking place.

My personal experience includes the purchase of an electric chainsaw which has proven superior in many ways to my old gas motor versions. I have also had the opportunity to drive an electric Nissan leaf and was impressed by the regenerative braking to recover the charging of the battery on downhill sections.

Up to now most electric vehicles are only small to mid-sized, with the larger, industrial versions not yet widely available on the market. I have also seen electric ATVs that have impressive ranges and charging times and an early version of an electric skid steer both of which are relatively expensive. A friend recently sent me a link to a Canadian made electric AWD ATV with 31-mile range for $5,200.

Electric cars and light trucks are getting more competitive every year and battery developments are promising ranges that will make them attractive for private as well as commercial use.

It appears that the heavier transport vehicles may be on the market ahead of first estimates.(www.teslarati.com) It comes at no surprise that Tesla first announced the their semi in 2017 and said production would begin in early 2019 but it was pushed back to late in 2020.

There are two Tesla Semis: one with a 300-mile range and one with a 500 to 600-mile range. According to the company, the expected base prices for those trucks are $150,000 and $180,000, respectively. (To put that into perspective, a typical Class 8 diesel starts at roughly $120,000.) The company also says the Tesla Semi will have a two-year payback period because their trucks have fewer systems to maintain compared to diesel vehicles.

In 2018, German automaker Daimler (the largest truck maker in the world), announced an electric 18-wheeler. The big truck has a 250-mile range and was designed for regional transportation and port service. Daimler’s other all-electric model, the Freightliner eM2 106, has a 230-mile range and is intended for more local distribution and deliveries because of easier access to charging stations.

There are some B.C. logging companies going electric on some very mountainous areas on Vancouver island. Mosaic Forest Management announced it had placed an order for three Tesla Semis for its logging activities because much of the timber is located in higher elevations, crediting regeneration on downhill section as the reason for purchase.

It’s not just Mosaic that has placed an order for the Tesla Semis. Another Vancouver Island company, Quality Foods, has reserved the all-electric Class 8 truck. According to the grocery chain, Tesla Semis range of 500 miles would be enough for round trips to Quality Foods stores without the need for charging. There is another Vancouver Island company, EcoWest Driven taking on the responsibility of building commercial truck charging stations in the area. The company is expected to start building 45 commercial truck charging stations later this fall.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.