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Driving the green: New study suggests that electric-powered trucks will save money for businesses

New MIT research suggests that electric delivery trucks, like this one, can help both the environment and the business bottom line. Photo courtesy of Staples

A company looking to purchase an electric-powered delivery truck today will likely experience some sticker shock: Such a vehicle costs nearly $150,000, compared to about $50,000 for the same kind of truck with a standard internal-combustion engine.

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But before long — perhaps surprisingly — it’s a purchase that should pay for itself. That’s the conclusion of a new MIT study showing that electric vehicles are not just environmentally friendly, but also have the potential to improve the bottom line for many kinds of businesses.

The study, conducted by researchers at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL), finds that electric vehicles can cost 9 to 12 percent less to operate than trucks powered by diesel engines, when used to make deliveries on an everyday basis in big cities.

“There has to be a good business case if there is going to be more adoption of electric vehicles,” says Jarrod Goentzel, director of the Renewable Energy Delivery Project at CTL and one of four co-authors of the new study. “We think it’s already a viable economic model, and as battery costs continue to drop, the case will only get better.”

Another of the paper’s co-authors, Clayton Siegert, a 2009 graduate of the CTL’s master’s of engineering in logistics program and a member of the Renewable Energy Delivery Project, presented the results in January at the IEEE Power and Energy Society Innovative Smart Grid Technologies Conference, in Washington. The paper will be published in a volume of the conference’s proceedings. It originated in a thesis project by two researchers who received the master’s of engineering in logistics from CTL in 2011, Andre De Los Rios and Kristen Nordstrom.
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