Warehouse Developers See Spark of Demand for Electric-Vehicle Chargers


Companies planning to electrify their shipping operations are looking to turn their warehouses into hubs for charging their growing fleets of electric trucks and cargo vans.

Industrial real-estate developers say they have been receiving more requests to install charging stations at distribution centers, a sign that logistics companies are preparing for a shift in the power behind transport amid elevated fuel prices and a drive to rein in carbon emissions.

Attention to charging infrastructure is growing as truck and automobile makers turn more of their manufacturing efforts over to developing electric vehicles. Additionally, battery makers are extending their research as they try to make lighter power sources that can allow vehicles to travel longer distances before they need to be recharged. Still, much of the investment in charging infrastructure so far has focused on passenger cars rather than commercial trucks.

The high stakes involved in shipping operations, where unexpected or lengthy downtimes for charging can disrupt supply chains, are leading more companies to seek their own solutions.

“In almost all our deals,” tenants are looking at “how many EV charging stations can they get in the building,” said Aaron Malitzky, executive vice president of DH Property Holdings LLC. The New York-based industrial real-estate developer’s customers include e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc.

and TJX Cos., the parent company of discount retail chains TJ Maxx, HomeGoods and Marshalls.

Darren Epps, senior director of advanced vehicle technology at Ryder System Inc.,

which manages trucking fleets and logistics for companies, said his team has gotten more questions this year stations about electric vehicles and charging. He said he believes higher diesel prices have led more customers to look at making the switch to electric.

“We have some real savvy customers who say, ‘Electricity prices are pretty stable, and diesel prices are not.’ There’s a little bit more peace of mind,” Mr. Epps said.

Parcel-delivery vans so far have made up most of the growth in the commercial electric-vehicle fleet. However, manufacturers of big rigs are developing the technology for heavy-duty trucks, adding pressure for charging infrastructure.

GE Appliances, a subsidiary of home appliances company Haier, has installed EV chargers at its distribution sites as part of a plan to use electric freight vehicles made by Sweden’s autonomous-truck startup Einride AB to transport items such as refrigerators and cooking products between its manufacturing facilities and warehouses in Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The trucks, which have a range of 200 miles per charge, will run local routes rather than long-haul trips, said Harry Chase, senior director for central materials at GE Appliances.

“So we’ve always got the charger that we’ve installed nearby,” Mr. Chase said.

Installing chargers at warehouses carries new costs and complications for distribution operations, however.

Warehouses typically don’t have fueling stations on site since truckers generally can fill up on diesel at the wide network of trucktops and gas stations across the country. Adding charging capabilities means ensuring there is enough power and space available for trucks and vans to charge up without impeding freight-handling operations.

Michael Bennett, vice president and head of development at DH Property, said surface space needs to be set aside on lots, permits must be secured and a building’s electricity must be upgraded to meet the charging demands.

“That means some upfront decisions [are] hopefully made while the building’s under construction, because otherwise it then gets really tricky,” Mr. Bennett said.

GE Appliances is trying to get around some of the charging complications by ordering so-called fast chargers, which can power up a battery for a delivery van in under an hour and a tractor in two to three hours, ensuring vehicles can be back in motion relatively quickly, compared with typical chargers that require at least six hours to reload a van’s battery.

Even that capability comes with supply-chain challenges, however. “We ordered some of the chargers, I want to say, nine months ago. We finally got them in a week ago,” Mr. Chase said.

Write to Liz Young at liz.young@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.