While long-haul vehicle electrification continues to face infrastructure and battery technology challenges, adopting electric yard vehicles is much simpler.
Alpharetta, Georgia-based yard management services provider Lazer Spot is dipping its toes deeper into the pool of vehicle electrification with the acquisition of Firefly Transportation Services, an electric spotter truck provider.
“We’re excited that, with Lazer’s size and scale, they can take what our thoughts were for fleet electrification and supercharge it and take it to the next level,” Josh Mehl, former chief operating officer at Firefly, said in an interview with FreightWaves. Mehl now works as a principal partner at Compass Supply Chain Solutions, where employees plan to continue to support Lazer Spot and its goals for yard vehicle electrification.
Firefly was founded in 2017 and provided electric truck spotting and short shuttle services. Because of the acquisition, Lazer Spot’s electric terminal tractor count jumped from four out of roughly 1,700 yard vehicles to 23, making it one of the largest electric spotter truck operators in the U.S., Adam Newsome, CEO at Lazer Spot, said in an interview with FreightWaves.
Newsome said the company has a short-term goal to operate 50 electric spotters in its fleet by the end of this year, with more electric adoption to follow.
Newsome has been “very pleased” with the performance of Lazer Spot’s electric spotter trucks. Driver satisfaction and sustainability have improved with no productivity drop-off, he said.
Electric terminal tractors do not have to make it a long distance before reaching a charging station, as they are both located in the yard every day. This makes yard operations the “perfect application” for electric vehicles, Mehl said. They also produce zero tailpipe emissions, significantly reducing overall CO2 and NOx emissions. Firefly used a Department of Energy tool to find that each electric spotter saves the CO2 emissions equivalent of burning 14,000 gallons of gasoline.
“It’s better for employees, it’s better for the community and it’s better for the air that we’re all breathing,” Mehl said.
Lazer Spot installed telematics on its diesel trucks to monitor and reduce idle time and emissions in 2016. The lower idle times have saved 27 million pounds of CO2 emissions and more than $3 million in fuel so far, according to the website. Newsome pointed out that these emissions saved are important, but they are nothing compared to the emissions saved by switching to electric trucks.
What’s the downside?
“The major barrier is the upfront capital cost, and that’s why we need government subsidies or other programs,” Newsome said.
While they cost more upfront, electric spotter trucks have much lower maintenance costs than diesel trucks, Mehl said. However, he added that many companies have a set payback period that service providers must meet, which can be hard without government help.
Newsome said that it is “truly a partnership,” and he is excited to have access to Firefly’s expertise when it comes to navigating electric vehicle subsidies, incentives and rules.
“At the end of the day, everybody wants to be green, but cost still matters for all businesses,” Mehl said.