American semi truck market is about to be electric

Electric semi-trucks on the market: what are they? Is it a must have?


by Clémence Levieil, on 3/29/2024

5 min read

The transportation industry is about to know a significant transformation with the introduction of electric semi-trucks. As we journey into a future where sustainability is not just preferred but required, understanding these innovations is a priority. That's what we try to do with Dashdoc Flow, to offer platform of quality for a better Supply Chain and Transportation industry, so let's dive into the market of electric semi-trucks and the companies leading the industry.

Electric semi-truck: how is that so different from usual semi-trucks?

Difference between electric semi-trucks and essence trucks

An engine story

Diesel engine for a semi truck
Diesel engine for a semi truck

Briefly, both engines do not work the same way. The diesel engine of a heavy-duty truck operates on the principle of internal combustion, utilizing the Diesel cycle. Here are the key steps of its operation:

  • Air Intake: The engine draws fresh air into the cylinder as the piston moves downward.

  • Compression: The piston moves back up, compressing the air to a very high pressure and temperature. Unlike gasoline engines, there's no air-fuel mixture at this stage; the diesel engine only compresses air.

  • Fuel Injection: When compression reaches its peak, diesel fuel is injected into the combustion chamber at high pressure by an injector. The high temperature of the compressed air ignites the fuel without the need for spark plugs.

  • Combustion and Expansion: The explosion from the fuel combustion pushes the piston downward, generating mechanical work that is transferred to the crankshaft.

  • Exhaust: Finally, the piston moves back up to expel the combustion gases out of the cylinder through the exhaust valve.

This cycle repeats several times per second. Diesel engines are preferred for heavy-duty trucks due to their high energy efficiency and the ability to produce high torque at low RPMs, which is ideal for hauling heavy goods over long distances.

On the electric side, here are different ways of working for the battery of the electric semi-truck : 

  • Energy Storage: The battery stores electricity that can be used to power the truck's electric motor. The battery's capacity determines the vehicle's range, i.e., the distance it can travel on a full charge.

  • Recharging: Batteries are rechargeable and can be powered by various electricity sources. Recharging can occur via standard charging stations, rapid charging systems, or through wireless charging systems in some cases.

  • Energy Recovery: Many electric heavy-duty trucks are equipped with regenerative braking systems. These systems allow for the recovery of some of the vehicle's kinetic energy during braking and convert it into electricity, which is then stored in the battery.

  • Thermal Management: Temperature management is crucial for the proper operation and longevity of batteries. Thermal management systems keep the battery within an optimal temperature range, either by cooling or heating, to optimize its performance and longevity.

  • Energy Distribution: The battery distributes electricity to the electric motor and other electrical components of the vehicle as needed. The battery's electronic management ensures efficient energy distribution to maximize the vehicle's efficiency and performance.

This fundamental difference paves the way for a cleaner, more sustainable mode of long-haul transportation. The absence of an internal combustion engine means reduced emissions, lower noise pollution, and potentially lower operating costs over the truck's lifespan.

Electric semi truck loading
Electric semi truck loading

Consumption difference between the types of semi-trucks

Diesel trucks consume on average between 30 and 50 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers, which translates into an average of between 80.4 and 134 kg of CO2 emissions. 

Diesel trucks could consume between 40 and 60 liters per 100 kilometers, which means between 92.4 and 138.6 kg of CO2 emissions. 

Electric trucks are far more energy-efficient, with fuel consumption ranging from 125 to 200 kWh per 100 kilometers. On a kg basis, electric operation is estimated to consume less than 80 kg of CO2/100 km.

Are they the future? Is that compulsory to buy them now?

The shift toward electric semi-trucks is part of a broader move to decrease carbon footprints across all sectors. While not currently mandatory, incentives for cleaner energy solutions and potential future regulations may make adopting electric vehicles (EVs) more appealing and, eventually, necessary. However, the decision to switch to electric depends on several factors, including infrastructure, operating range, and cost-effectiveness.

What companies make electric semi-trucks?

Several manufacturers are pioneering in the electric semi-truck market, each with their own models designed to meet various needs of the freight industry.

Who are exactly the companies producing electric semi-trucks ?

Even if some of them are really famous, you might be surprised by the whole list. Companies producing electric truck trailers are :

  • Tesla, with its much-anticipated Tesla Semi.

  • Nikola Corporation, offering hydrogen-electric and battery-electric vehicles.

  • Volvo Trucks, with a focus on electric models like the Volvo VNR Electric.

  • Freightliner, introducing its eCascadia model.


Did you know ? Just like trends within the electric semi trucks' constructors, there are trends in dock appointment scheduling ! Don't miss the opportunity to make a good decision regarding your professional tools.

At what cost?

The cost of electric semi-trucks is significantly higher upfront compared to traditional diesel trucks. However, the total cost of ownership can be lower due to savings on fuel and maintenance. Prices can vary widely based on battery size, range, and specifications.

Table with model and average cost

ModelManufacturerAverage Cost

Tesla Semi


$150,000 - $180,000

Nikola One/Two


$375,000 (estimated)

Volvo VNR Electric

Volvo Trucks

$200,000 (estimated)



$210,000 (estimated)

Table of companies who produce professional electric semi trucks

Are those trucks reliable? Is anyone making a heavy-duty electric truck?

Early reports and tests suggest that electric semi-trucks can be highly reliable, offering similar or even superior performance to diesel trucks in some aspects. The technology for heavy-duty electric trucks is advancing, with companies like Tesla and Nikola focusing on creating vehicles capable of handling significant loads over long distances.

Electric semi-trucks in today’s market

Companies are investing in electric semi-trucks, anticipating a substantial return on investment. This shift towards electric vehicles represents a significant financial commitment, with the Clean Freight Coalition estimating the industry's move will cost billions of dollars. However, this investment is seen as a necessary step towards a sustainable future, reducing the transportation sector's environmental impact while potentially offering economic benefits through lower operating costs.

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