Napa freight carrier Biagi Bros. tests all-electric heavy truck to haul bottled wine
Encouraged by beverage producer clients to shift environmentally friendly initiatives into higher gear, Napa-based trucking and warehousing company Biagi Bros. hit the road this year with an even greener addition to its 'Green Machine' fleet of diesel heavy rigs.
Not only is this 2019 Peterbilt model 579 class 8 truck tractor carrying the green Biagi Bros. company colors, but also it has something quite different under the hood and on the chassis. In place of the diesel engine are control systems for the ElecTruck electric drive system by Escondido-based TransPower, and instead of fuel tanks on the side between the wheels are banks of batteries.
After four years of off-and-on talks, TransPower and Biagi Bros. earlier this year worked out a lease agreement where the carrier would validate the truck for at least a year under normal freight conditions, according to Gregg Stumbaugh, corporate equipment director for Biagi. Equipment validation includes collecting metrics on performance of a prototype and challenges encountered and resolved.
The TransPower-driven Peterbilt tractor arrived in Napa in the spring. After working out details such as charging schedule, driver rotation and load selection, the truck went into service each workday this fall.
'A lot of it is driven by our customers that are large wineries — Treasury (Wine Estates) and Constellation (Brands),' Stumbaugh said. 'And then we do a lot of business nationwide with Anheuser-Busch, and they're very active in green initiatives.'
WINE COMPANY CUTS EMISSIONS
Australia-based Treasury Wine Estates' North Coast brand portfolio includes Beaulieu Vineyard, Beringer Vineyard, Stags' Leap Winery and Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley, Acacia Vineyard in Carneros, and Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma Valley. The company's corporate responsibility program includes pledging support to the Porto Protocol to fight climate change impact and reducing carbon emissions, reported in its 2019 sustainability report to be down 11.9% overall.
That program has led Treasury to look for long-term sustainability value by investing in technology such as electric vehicle fleets, according to Elton Ferreira, director of packaging operations and logistics for the Americas group of the company.
'Partnering with Biagi Bros. has allowed TWE the opportunity to trial an electric truck that currently runs between our Sonoma Bottling Center and Biagi Warehouses in Napa,' Ferreira wrote in an email.
ELECTRIC IS HEAVIER
One of the issues Biagi has had to work out in the rampup of the validation route between Treasury's Eighth Street East bottling center and Napa is weight of the rig, Stumbaugh said.
'The more batteries, the more the truck weighs, and we're very weight-conscious,' he said.
Biagi's customers look for the carrier to be able to haul as close to 50,000 pounds of cargo as possible. Conventional class 8 diesel truck tractors currently weigh 16,000–16,500 pounds in operation, but the Peterbilt-TransPower truck Biagi is validating is 19,500 pounds. California's current gross combined vehicle weight limit for class 8 trucks and loaded trailers on the road is 80,000 pounds, but legislation is pending in Sacramento to up that for electric trucks to 82,000 pounds.
'So depending on what you're hauling, it could mean that you have to take a couple of pallets (of wine) off,' Stumbaugh said. 'Not a lot of customers are going to want to pay more.'
The truck has a range of 110 miles with the grade and hauling conditions between Sonoma and Napa, so Biagi can get about four round trips each day before the rig needs a recharge. That range could be extended by adding back two battery packs to the six currently in use, but that would further reduce the payload the truck could carry, Stumbaugh said. Each battery is the size of what goes into a Nissan Leaf electric sedan.
'In my opinion, the real game-changer for true 100% electric trucks is going to be the battery technology,' he said.
SMASHING THROUGH THE BATTERY BOUNDARY
The batteries plus inverter, electric motors and transmission make TransPower-fitted rigs 4,000–6,000 pounds heavier than traditional class 8 trucks and 1,000–2,000 pounds heavier than class 6 medium-duty trucks, depending on whether the 110-, 130- or 150-mile range configurations of energy storage are selected, according to Joshua Goldman, vice president for sales and marketing.
The company is working on next-generation technology that will offer 250-mile battery range and one-hour charging.
TransPower got its start repowering six box trucks. More recently, the company has produced three electric kits for Peterbilt model 520 medium-duty garbage trucks and is making 15 more kits for model 579 heavy trucks for next year. The first 10 are like Biagi's test truck and the rest will be what's said to be the nation's first three-axle electric trucks.