New University of Michigan Study: Electric Vehicle Fleets Could Lower Emissions, Costs

The Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC) today applauded the release of new research on improving electric delivery vehicle charging strategies from the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. The study found that electrifying vehicles is an effective way to lower a delivery fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions and may also lower a delivery fleet’s cost over the lifetime of the vehicle. A link to the study can be found here.

“This study highlights a potential win-win for the environment, as well as commercial interests as delivery fleets transition to battery-powered electric vehicles,” said Steve Christensen, Executive Director of the Responsible Battery Coalition. “This work by such a respected research institution as the University of Michigan underscores the opportunity to align environmental and economic incentives as the nation and world shift to electrified delivery fleets. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for a circular economy for batteries to ensure they are part of the solution in creating a more sustainable future.”

Key Findings:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions and cost to charge electric delivery vehicles depend on local electric grids
  • Charging timing can be optimized to meet greenhouse gas emissions or cost targets, as grid emissions and electricity costs vary throughout the day
  • Even without optimizing the charge timing to reduce emissions, electric delivery vehicles have lower greenhouse gas emissions than comparable diesel delivery vehicles
  • Lifetime cost of an electric vehicle fleet may be less than a diesel delivery vehicle fleet
  • Optimal time to charge should be updated regularly to reflect changes to the local electricity grid
  • Unconventional charging times, like charging during the day and making deliveries at night, could significantly lower emissions in some regions

Increases in online shopping and just-in-time delivery systems are increasing the use of delivery vehicles. Due to their short average route length, low average speed (especially in urban routes), ability to return to a central location each day, and frequent stops and starts (opportunities for regenerative breaking), delivery vehicles are well-suited for rapid fleetwide electrification. Charging timing can be optimized to meet greenhouse gas emissions and cost targets because delivery vehicle routes are typically predictable, schedulable, and repeatable. Amazon, Walmart, FedEx, and UPS have all placed orders for electric delivery vehicles in recent years, from companies including Rivian, Arrival, and GM.


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