Electric Vehicle Demand Is Revving Up in Logistics and Robots are Here to Help
EV adoption is on the rise in the logistics industry and manufacturers are meeting that demand with help from robotics. Logistics companies that adopt EVs can reduce their emissions and save money on fuel and maintenance costs. Robots help manufacturers provide these new vehicles by resolving labor shortages, reducing waste, minimizing production costs and more.
Rising Demand for EVs in Logistics
Demand for EVs in logistics is on the rise due to several factors. Over recent years, EV technology has seen many innovations, improving performance and affordability. EV adoption in the U.S. was 27 times higher in 2021 than in 2011. While logistics vehicles lag behind consumer EVs, a rising tide of innovation is still underway.
For example, leading logistics companies have announced a switch to EVs over the past few years. The USPS announced a plan to deploy over 60,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2028. Amazon’s electric delivery vans began hitting the streets in mid-2022 alongside EV fleets from FedEx and UPS.
Over the past few years, EV technology has reached a tipping point where it is both functional and relatively inexpensive. Public awareness about fuel emissions is also on the rise, which is strengthening investment and adoption. Logistics companies can improve their ESG performance by adopting EVs.
Benefits of EVs for the Logistics Industry
Why is demand for EVs in logistics increasing? The logistics industry relies heavily on efficient fleets that are low-cost and high-performance. Today’s EV technology is well-positioned to meet those needs. There are also valuable financial benefits to adopting EVs.
For example, the U.S. federal government offers a growing number of tax credits and incentives to promote electric vehicles. Logistics companies can use these programs to save money and make EV investments more affordable. Businesses can also save money through the lower cost of charging compared to gas or diesel fuel.
EVs are ideal for logistics applications since they are quiet and reduce urban pollution. Logistics often requires moving goods through residential areas and cities, where noise and air pollution are already high. Switching to EVs helps logistics companies do their part to resolve these issues.
The Role of Robots in EV Production
Mass logistics EV adoption relies on a strong EV manufacturing industry. Robots are helping manufacturers meet demand while keeping costs and waste low. They are crucial to ensuring success for the future of logistics EVs.
Improved Manufacturing Safety
Robots are ideal for electric vehicle manufacturing because they allow manufacturers to make more out of less. Research shows the manufacturing industry will be short over 2 million employees by 2030. As a result, manufacturers are attempting to meet rising EV demand with smaller teams of employees.
Robots can fill those labor shortage gaps by automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks. Integrating robots in EV manufacturing also improves employee safety by reducing physical risks. Employees can switch to less strenuous roles while robots automate physically-demanding tasks like moving heavy parts.
Collaborative robots, or cobots, are particularly effective for EV manufacturing. Engineers design these robots to work alongside humans. As a result, they improve workplace safety, productivity and resilience. EV manufacturers can blend the talents of both humans and robots by adopting human-friendly cobots.
Waste and Cost Reduction
Minimizing waste in EV manufacturing is an integral part of meeting the environmental goals engineers design electric vehicles to support. Robots can reduce production waste as much as possible through high efficiency and accuracy. This saves supplies, resources, time and money.
Robots can perform the same task countless times without diminishing returns or significant variety. As a result, robots can deliver more consistent quality than humans. Employees will naturally get tired, fatigued and distracted on the job occasionally. In repetitive manual tasks, this can cause higher defect rates resulting in wasted materials.
EV manufacturing can also benefit from the high level of precision robots offer. EVs require carefully assembled battery units and electronics which are often the most expensive part of the vehicle. Applying robots to battery assembly ensures the highest level of precision and consistent quality. It also minimizes the likelihood of production errors or defects wasting costly materials.
Challenges Facing EVs in Logistics
What challenges is logistics EV adoption facing today? The EV market has a few main road bumps, particularly infrastructure and the initial investment cost. These challenges may be resolved with further innovation and development over the next few years, including help from robotics.
Few things are hindering EV adoption like charging infrastructure. Surveys show that 47% of Americans are unlikely to purchase an EV, with 77% citing charger availability as a major or minor concern.
Charging infrastructure remains more complicated and less accessible than conventional gas stations. Different vehicle manufacturers may use different types of chargers. Charging stations vary significantly in the charging time and power they can provide. Refilling a gas tank is also drastically faster than leaving an EV to charge for hours.
If EVs in logistics are going to reach their full potential, charging infrastructure will require significant innovation. Larger-capacity batteries may help but can also result in longer charging times. Heat management also creates a ceiling on how fast drivers can safely recharge EV batteries.
Robots can help manufacturers produce more EV charging equipment with less money and resources. This will help grow the charging network and keep charger installation and operation affordable for everyone, including logistics vehicles.
Despite progress over recent years, affordability remains a challenge for EVs. The high initial investment cost can make it particularly difficult to get logistics companies and other businesses on board. Even if EVs are cheaper to own over time, the initial purchase price remains higher than gas or diesel-powered vehicles.
Integrating robots in the EV manufacturing process can minimize production costs and bring down the purchase price of electric vehicles. Further innovation in EV design will also result in more affordable, efficient vehicles down the road.
Batteries vs. Hydrogen Electric
EVs in logistics specifically are facing an interesting debate — are batteries or hydrogen fuel better for electric vehicles? Usually, people think of battery electric vehicles, or BEVs, when they hear about EVs. However, batteries aren’t the only power source available today. They might not be the best option for logistics applications, either.
Hydrogen fuel cells are gaining popularity for electrifying the fleet industry, providing a cost-effective alternative to batteries for larger vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells are great for vehicles like vans and trucks since they don’t require large, expensive battery packs or lengthy charging times. Instead, drivers simply refuel the vehicle with hydrogen fuel like at a gas or diesel station. Hydrogen electric vehicles may be the perfect solution for the logistics industry, providing clean transportation without the drawbacks of charging complications.
The Future of EVs in Logistics
Electric vehicles are the future of transportation in every industry, including logistics. Robots are helping EV manufacturers resolve labor shortages, improve productivity, lower costs, reduce waste and improve employee safety. Over the coming years, manufacturing robots will support the growth of logistics EV adoption as the industry works to overcome a few remaining electrification challenges.
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