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CN rolling ahead with electric semi trucks

By: Kelvin Heppner

September 14, 2020

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Electric semi trucks are likely a long way from being deployed on farms, especially for long-distance hauling in a cold Canadian winter, but others in the supply chain are starting to adopt electric power to move goods around.

They’re not switching to electric trains (yet), but CN Rail has ordered 50 all-electric tandem axle Class 8 trucks from Quebec-based The Lion Electric Co.

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“This order, the largest for Lion Electric Co. yet, is a sign of confidence in our company and that now is the time for the electrification of heavy transportation. Aside from being zero-emission, I believe the Lion electric trucks will be an invaluable addition to CN’s operations. I hope this deal inspires everyone who is looking for an economical, sustainable and environmental transportation solution to switch to electric vehicles,” notes Marc Bédard, president and founder of The Lion Electric Co.

CN launched an electric truck pilot program last year, testing eight of Lion’s Class 8 trucks in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Hamilton on tasks that included moving goods around at port and shuttling containers. When announcing the new order, the railway said it will mainly use the semi trucks at intermodal terminals in urban areas.

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According to the manufacturer’s specs, the standard Lion8 truck has a top speed of 105 km/h (65 mph), drawing up to 470 horsepower and 3400 Nm (2507 foot-pounds) of torque from its all-electric powertrain, with a range of up to 400 km (250 miles). Battery capacity is rated at 480 kWh, with a charging time ranging from 1.5 to 16 hours depending on charge level and other factors.

CN notes the trucks will also produce no noise pollution and each truck could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 100 tons annually.

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The companies have not disclosed any of the financial aspects of the deal, including the cost per truck.

Of course, there are many factors that will determine the adoption of electric semi trucks, but how they perform for CN could potentially provide insight into whether they have a place transporting commodities on or closer to the farm level.

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