Researchers identify Minnesota’s best charging locations for e-trucks, aiming to boost adoption

Semi trucks stopped at e-charging stations
Photo: MnDOT

Aiming to eliminate barriers to electric truck adoption in Minnesota, U researchers have identified the state’s most suitable e-truck charging locations.

Currently, the adoption of electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks is lagging compared with the rising popularity of personal and transit electric vehicles. There are several reasons behind the delay, but one key factor is the lack of an adequate charging station network for e-trucks. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) called on U of M researchers for insight and guidance.

“Our goal was to understand the needs and opportunities for e-truck charging stations and to optimize the location of charging stations in Minnesota,” says Alireza Khani, associate professor with the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geo- Engineering and the project’s principal investigator.

The project was conducted in two stages. In the first stage, researchers identified the most important criteria to consider when planning e-truck charging stations; this was done with a survey of experts and stakeholders, including staff from MnDOT, the Freight Mobility Research Institute, and the American Trucking Associations. 

Based on this survey, researchers ranked the relative importance of the criteria and assigned each a weighted value. The top three criteria were ease of access for e-truck drivers, proximity to power substations, and proximity to existing truck stops. Other criteria included environmental conditions (land cover, water resources, and flood risk), land prices, and the potential to generate onsite solar energy. 

Map of Minnesota showing charging stations
Researchers developed a map that identified candidate charging station locations in Minnesota to maximize e-truck usage.

During the second stage, researchers developed geographic information system layers for each criterion and pared down candidate locations using optimization modeling. The model was designed to consider truck demand in Minnesota, the routing and charging activities of e-trucks, and the market penetration rate of e-trucks, with a goal of minimizing total travel costs to promote greater adoption of e-trucks.

“This optimization model is a novel decision-making tool that will help MnDOT maximize its return on investment in the charging station network,” Khani says. “The model can be expanded to incorporate other contributing factors and inform policy decisions.” 

To gain additional insight into Minnesota e-truck adoption, researchers tested the model with several assumptions based on the reduced per-mile operating costs of e-trucks over diesel trucks. They found that the adoption of e-trucks would grow sharply as the charging station network is developed; the growth rate would be highest when the first 30 to 40 stations are added. The modeling also found that solar generation was not a viable option to fully power truck charging stations.

MnDOT is focused on meeting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, and increasing the adoption of e-trucks would help MnDOT proactively address this significant subsector of transportation greenhouse gas emissions. 

“This project helped us understand considerations for e-truck charging stations, such as electric power substation location and capacity,” says Andrew Andrusko, freight planning director with MnDOT’s Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations. “It also identified optimal locations for truck charging stations to support intrastate freight movement.”

—Megan Tsai, contributing writer


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