Soon, the Kitty Litter Will Come by Electric Truck

Mr. Phillippi said the biggest challenge is actually getting the eagerly anticipated electric trucks, which are just starting to trickle out of the manufacturers.

“We want something that we can purchase that makes sense and is available,” he said. “Right now we’re just starting to see the sweat on the ice cubes.” The first Arrival trucks will be delivered next year, then, he hopes, ramp up in 2022 and 2023.

The Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance, led by the Massachusetts-based corporate sustainability nonprofit Ceres, is pushing for more commitments, but the marketplace has to deliver. Sara Forni, senior manager for clean vehicles at Ceres, said: “Companies are taking serious action to make this a reality, but there is a lack of commercially available vehicles to meet their diverse needs. It’s a real gap.” It helps that Ford will field an all-electric Transit cargo van for the 2022 model year.

Meanwhile, segments generally thought immune to electric power, because of range considerations, are starting to evolve. In late 2017, UPS ordered 125 Tesla heavy-duty Class 8 electric semi-trucks, for longer-distance deliveries.

“Those will definitely be disruptive,” Mr. Phillippi said. “Covid has pushed out the delivery of these trucks, but we’re likely to see them next year.” A fleet that includes up-to-500-mile-range semis and 150-mile local delivery trucks “will do a lot of what we need,” he said.

FedEx is collaborating with Chanje, which is deploying a Chinese-made truck. In 2018, FedEx said it would add 1,000 of Chanje’s V8100 electric vehicles to its fleet, 100 of them through direct purchase and 900 leased through Ryder. The timetable to deliver the first trucks this year has been set back, but the overall plan is still intact.

Bryan Hansel, chief executive of Chanje, said: “2020 was a difficult year for everyone, but it put a spotlight on our industry. We expect to produce more than 5,000 vehicles in 2021, with our anchor customer, FedEx, getting the largest percentage of them. We think this number will start to move the needle and give our customers, who are desperately in need of supply, access to real-life units.”

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