Episode 229 - The Cost of EV Conversion for Commercial Fleets

When it comes to incorporating EVs into commercial diesel fleets, it is important to understand the costs and benefits—and the impact on maintenance.

As one of the longest-running and largest fleet owners in North America, Ryder implements logistics and transportation solutions for a wide variety of industries. By using extensive historical data and current market prices for EVs and charging infrastructure, Ryder recently examined the potential economic impacts of implementing an all-EV commercial fleet in the United States.

To learn more about Ryder’s analysis, we sat down with Arun Chickmenahalli, Director of Maintenance R&D at Ryder, to discuss how electrification impacts fleet maintenance, the price differences for EV conversion between states, and the ways in which Ryder is developing maintenance programs to service EV, AV and alternative fuel clients.

Meet Our Guest

ARUN CHICKMENAHALLI
Director of Maintenance R&D
Ryder System, Inc.

Arun is the Director of Maintenance R&D at Ryder. He is responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction in evaluating and assessing new technologies in the EV/AV/Advanced Vehicle space.

Arun has over 30 years of global engineering, operations and management experience in the automotive, aerospace, consumer, utility and transportation industries. He is an Air Force veteran and holds bachelors and master’s degree in mechanical engineering along with management diplomas in international trade, marketing and operations management.

Arun is a licensed Project Management Professional, holds five patents and has published various papers/articles. He is a member of SAE, ASME and SME.

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Transcript:

Grayson Brulte:

Hello, I'm your host, Grayson Brulte. Welcome to another episode of SAE Tomorrow Today, a show about emerging technology and trends and mobility with leaders and innovators to make it all happen. 

On today's episode, we're absolutely honored to be joined by Arun Chickmenahalli, Director of Maintenance R&D, Ryder System.

On today's episode, we discussed electrification, hydrogen fuel cells, and what the impacts are going to be on maintenance and how Ryder's helping their clients be prepared for maintenance of the future. We hope you enjoy this episode. Arun, welcome to the podcast. 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Thank you. Really appreciate the opportunity here.

Grayson Brulte:

It's wonderful to have you here. The transportation and logistics sector. It's changing rapidly, two of the biggest trends are autonomy and electrification. We're going to kick us off with electrification. At some point, it's going to play a very large part of Ryder's business.

Your CEO, Mr. Robert Sanchez, put out a really brilliant, I think, fantastic report on what the true economic costs are for electrification. Overall, Arun, how is Ryder approaching electrification? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Ryder is approaching electrification in a very systematic and a diligent way. Why I say this is because, we have been offering our value proposition for our customers for the last 90 plus years, and then we would like to do the same thing for our customers while we do the transition to electrification. Our mission is to make implementing and experiencing EV a simple solution for our customers. So with that in perspective, what we are trying to do is ensuring that we do know exactly what challenges the electrification is going to pose to our customers and make sure that we are ready to offer a solution to all the issues that are the challenges that come along with this implementing this technology.

Grayson Brulte:

There's a lot been reported around the challenges. Weight issues, range anxiety issues, charging anxiety issues, battery issues. It was really interesting. I was reading a report out of Athens, Greece over the weekend, where now it is a mandated by the Greek transportation ministry, where other Greek is full of the Greek isles, the Greek islands you cannot go on, take an electric vehicle, that's commercial vehicle, that's passenger vehicle. On a Greek ferry, if your charge is over 40%, and there's an individual who goes and inspects every electric vehicle that's on the ferry to make sure you're not 40%. That's a challenge. I know Ryder doesn't necessarily operate in the Greek Isles, but that is a challenge.

As a company, how do you look at these challenges? Do you buy a bunch of electric vehicles and trucks to learn them to really truly understand what those challenges are? So when your customers occur, Ryder has a solution for that. Ryder has a solution for this. Is that how you approach that? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Absolutely. You, you said it so what we do is that, we, there are almost like 120 plus companies which are having some of these solutions, effective solutions that can make the whole of the electric vehicle enterprise. So when we look at these companies offering these technologies, we look at these technologies and ensure that, we first understand this technology in all aspects, whether it is technical design, whether it is warranty and maintenance, whether it is training, whether it is field trials, all aspects, we have a full list of questions that we ask them about ensuring that They have a good handle on how they have come up with this technology.

Have they proven that in the technology in the field? And what is their data coming to so that, we can really look at it. If they really, if that sounds reasonable, then what we do is that we do a field demo within Ryder itself, taking that vehicle demo vehicle and putting it into where rubber meets the road with a real load and a real application where we can see the key performance indicators and see what they told versus what it really performed and ensure that, there is, some good cadence to the theoretical and the marketing function versus the reality function and then ensure that if that passes, then, we qualify that vehicle to be available for our sales organization to go and sell it to our customers.

So we maintain a very stringent process, which really looks at all the things that are detrimental to the whole process. Otherwise, you're right. There are so many technologies that are available. And there are some companies which may not be in the business in the future, without any of the protocols defined clearly.

Grayson Brulte:

Where does, you're right about companies potentially won't be here. We've all seen it. We don't have to go down. It's called electrification graveyard row. We've all seen it. Warranties. Where does warranties come into the factor? If you had a vehicle, let's call it Acme electrification truck, and all suddenly they go out of business, where does the warranty come in?

Is there a runoff period? Do you have to train your technicians to learn how to work on the vehicle? Potentially, if they get bought out of bankruptcy, does that violate that warranty? Where do warranties come into this whole picture?

Arun Chickmenahalli:

So that's a very good point. When we really look at the whole company as a whole, we look at their financial viability and also make sure that there are legal agreements in place if we were to decide to go with that product and ensure that, we have a good leeway.

If we, if that. Company goes out of business or if there is any of those type of warranty issues that come into play, how does that transfer into a new company which is bought? Or if it completely goes into bankruptcy, then what are the protocols that we need to follow? So our legal team gets involved if we were to buy those type of new companies that we are going to get involved and we have a very good process to make sure that, we are risk averse.

Grayson Brulte:

Risk averse is the way to be. The Ryder fleet is diversified. You have tractors, you have trucks, you have electric vans, you have diesel vans, you have gas vans from a variety of OEM, some household names, some smaller, but it's called I'll call it a diversified hybrid fleet that Ryder's currently operating.

How do you train your technicians for these different types of maintenance if you're working on a Internal combustion engine vehicle versus an electric vehicle is different, but then even some of the architecture on the electric trucks versus the vans are different. How do you train your technicians to learn all these different skills that they need to work on these trucks and vehicles?

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Beautiful question. I led a workforce development methodology at task force in a CT expo. This is a very intriguing question as we tailor it to the whole space in the industry for the next 15 to 20 years on the alternate fuels and everything. So from a Ryder's perspective, what we do is that 60 to 70% of your electric vehicle is very much comparable to your ICE vehicle because the reveals are the same, the tires are the same, the body is very similar.

The nuts and bolts are going to some of the parts are very similar. The 25 to 30 percent are highly specialized parts, which is, which comprises of all your electric drive train or any of the new technology drive train system. So that we have. selected a few of the technicians who are definitely very good with their knowledge on the electrical systems and make sure that, they have a good cadence.

And also what we do is the train the trainer methodology. So we have a good training group, which gets trained. For example, all of my, including me and my whole team members are all EV high voltage qualified. So we know exactly how to really, if we were to talk to a technician, how we need to, and what language we need to do.

And we need to be able to train that technician on the basic, high voltage and the electrical portion of it, but there will definitely be a specific portion with regards to a specific vehicle. For example, Freightliner or a Daimler vehicle will have a very specific training that needs to be done, but the majority of the training is very similar to the others also because it's the same high voltage system.

So we are trying to learn and we are trying to collaborate with the OEMs. to make sure that, this is all very streamlined, and we have developed even standard technician training, standard technician tools and protection equipment and everything. So it is seamless, whether it is a yard tractor or a light duty vehicle or a heavy duty vehicle. So that technician is capable of doing the required work. 

Grayson Brulte:

I'm going to have fun here. Cause we're going to go down maintenance geek out road. That's the electrical side of the vehicles or the trucks. Then there's this whole other component, the software side. That's a whole different skill set. How do you train those individuals for the software? Cause again, the software is different. Some of it's proprietary, some of it's open source. Some of it runs on Linux. It's just, how do you train for that? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Yeah, there are challenges. I would say that the current technicians who are tuned on the ICE vehicles. That is the internal combustion vehicles on the diesel vehicles.

They're all very well-tuned with the diagnostic software that comes in because the latest technology on the diesel engines also calls in for a lot of diagnostics and a lot of hands-on training, and you have it on the phone through apps and all those things. Now it's an extension of that. So this is an extension of that, and we typically make sure that the technicians are trained in such a manner that, they are very much capable and they understand everything through the OEM partnership. So we train them first through the OEM interaction. And also in the same training, we make sure that our train, the trainer also attends it so that, we have in house capabilities so that at any given point of time, if a new technician has to be trained our trainer is ready and he can do it very quickly. 

Grayson Brulte:

Wow. So you have the ability to, I'm going to go back. I will use a technical on an elastic compute on AWS. You can scale up, scale down as demands there. So you scale down, you have a light duty. You go to the middle and say you're having a, you have an okay traffic day, you're going to go to a medium duty. Oh man, we got a lot of traffic. You're going to go to a heavy duty. Do the technicians get trained across the different vehicle classes from a class four to a class eight? Is it same training or do you specialize your technicians and certain classes of vehicles?

Arun Chickmenahalli:

So as we speak today, as the volumes are low, the technicians are trained on all the majority of these vehicles, because, the volumes can be, there could be 10 light duty vehicles. There could be a couple of heavy-duty vehicles. There are a couple of medium duty. So it's easy to train, but as we scale to your point, We will have to really get up to making sure that there are very specific people for light duty, very specific people for heavy duty vehicles in the future.

Grayson Brulte:

I recently visited one of your customers. They're very kind and this customer of yours, you have Ryder maintenance on staff that are contracted to work on these autonomous trucks. Do those individuals go through a specialized training course because operating or sorry, maintaining a class eight autonomous truck is a lot different than maintaining just your classic freightliner, for example. 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Yes, they did on the autonomous portion of it. Yes, it is different, but the autonomous, hardware and the software is all mounted on a class eight internal combustion engine chassis. So all those components are the same. So if he has to work on a brake system or a tire system or a pneumatic system, it is going to be the same, but If he has to work on the autonomous system, it is completely different.

So we went through with the autonomous supplier of looking at all the maintenance tasks and working with them and seeing, how they have really framed up. And with our experience and with the collaboration, we were able to deduce a lot of these redundant mechanisms where the technicians, how they really interact with some repairs and tasks and make sure that, we gave them a lot of feedback and collaboratively, we developed some of these maintenance protocols, which our technicians were very comfortable, and they got trained on. And that's how we were able to achieve that. Autonomous capability for those technicians for as task oriented.

Basically, it is a task which is clearly with visuals and everything because it's so new in the market so that, it is clearly defined. My maintenance manager really took a lot of efforts to work with these autonomous suppliers and ensuring that, all things were defined in a very clear manner.

Grayson Brulte:

You have more than one autonomous client. You're very public on that. Can you take the learnings from one autonomous client and apply it to the other from a maintenance perspective? Or is it a learning process every time you put a new maintenance individual at one of these companies? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

It is both right now. As we speak, the autonomous architecture from a software perspective is very different from a hardware perspective. It is slightly similar. Whether it's a LIDAR or a radar or anything else, we have been working on radars on some of the other, vehicles already. The Autonomous comes with a high-resolution radar and a high resolution cameras and then LIDARs and other things.

So the technology is Slightly similar, but there are variations to it depending on the type of software that autonomous companies are adopting. So the hardware goes along with the software. So it's likely they want to keep the edge on some of those type of things, which is very nice for our technicians.

Grayson Brulte:

A common denominator across all of your autonomous trucking clients, they all use LIDAR. Are Ryder technicians qualified to collaborate the LIDARs for that is that or if a LIDAR breaks, it gets hit with a rock, for instance, or it just malfunctions and breaks, can a LIDAR technician replace that LIDAR?

Arun Chickmenahalli:

So what we have done is we have really clearly marked our boundaries of, what we can do and what we should engage our autonomous providers. So in the initial phase. to diagnose something which is crucial for autonomous operation is something that the autonomous company would recognize.

And in the, in, in the task orientation, Ryder is coming, going to come in because the expertise is there. We will do all the things that are required for the leader for, let's say, for example, taking it out and putting it back and making sure that everything is safe rightly done. And then the final certification will have to go through the autonomous company because, they know the broader perspective of ensuring that, that is autonomous capable.

So for your question, we do some of the things which are in between and ensure that, that is being we are in integration with the autonomous suppliers as we speak today. But in the future, I'm sure that, these things will become very common and to scale. And we will be doing majority of the things in the future, but that is yet to be decided.

Grayson Brulte:

You become the automotive great shield. Ryder has 90 plus years of real world experience. Correct. The startups understand software. They don't understand the real world complexities of running on roads and operating on roads and dealing with all the things. I can just imagine the edge cases for running plus years of edge cases that Ryder has seen.

That becomes to me, it seems that's a big benefit for Ryder because you have your technicians have this experience that they have the training to ensure that the bolts are right. Perhaps it needs a different type of thread because this one on a bumpier road holds better as your maintenance going down to that level for the operation where they're operating and perhaps we unfortunately saw all the winds recently in Texas Unfortunately with the class 8s that tipped over perhaps because it's a windy environment You might have to use a different bolt or a different way to screw it Is that something that you provide to your clients as well just knowing the environments of where you're operating from 90 plus years of experience? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Absolutely. Even for example, the wire ties. For example, one of my maintenance managers, he recognized that, the wire ties that have been put on some of those critical wiring hardnesses could actually cut into those and it could become a big problem. So we definitely said that there are some other ways of non-abrasion methods that you can do. So we have been really working like that with some of these OEMs to make sure that we impart what we know so that, it's a collaborative effort and a team effort to make sure that the industry as a requirements are met.

Grayson Brulte:

If your technicians learned anything from working in the autonomous trucks that can be applied across the entire maintenance organization, perhaps they learned a new skill or a new way of doing something. 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Actually, yes, I would say that it is about handling some of these heavy and complex and costly items, right? So the autonomous hardware is so expensive and They have taken on themselves to be more responsible and, more accountability, I would say, to handle it with care and also handle with precision and to speak up as soon as they see something that you know, hey, something is wrong. I do not know this, so can you please help? So I think I'm seeing all of that as good traits for a sustainable future in the technician world of things. 

Grayson Brulte:

That's really a positive. You're technicians for the autonomous truck company. You're embedded. As I said, I've been your customer site I've met them. On the electrification side of the house, will you embed technicians as well? Obviously, some of the electric fleets are a lot larger than the autonomous trucking fleets, but will you embed technicians with your customers that are running electric vehicles or trucks in their fleets? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Yeah. That will be the, that will be the business model that we will have, because the way that we have already done this in the past is very similar. So if a customer has their own operation and they need onsite management. technicians. So we have done that in the past here. Also, we will maintain the same protocol off doing a very similar value proposition for our customers. Absolutely. 

Grayson Brulte:

And how do you see those customers deploying electric trucks? There's been reports out from multiple individuals. And I said, Mr. Sanchez, the CEO of Ryder, put out a brilliant report on the cost to operate it. Inflationary impacts. How do you see your customers deploying electric trucks? And when I say trucks, let's just talk vans. And then on the backside, how do you see them deploying the electric class eight trucks, the class six, because there's different ranges, different use cases on them. So two different questions on that one for you. 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Yeah, absolutely. So the customers really look for us to come with answers to their current scenario, where, what makes sense. So when we sit. with them about going through everything, looking at their composition, whether it's light duty, medium duty, heavy duty, yard tractors, and trailers.

We have various solutions for various, one solution does not fit all the classes. Yeah, we know that. So for light duty segment, we have a lot of data and a lot of history. tree behind it with the passenger cars. So we have introduced a program called electric plus Ryder electric plus, which is a ultimate turnkey solution for our customers, which really looks at all the pillars of the success where, you know advising them of what type of assets are required, what type of charging infrastructure is required, what type of vehicles are required. Then we look at the telematics, we look at the maintenance and every aspect of it for the light duty segment of it. For the medium duty also we have, we will provide similar kind of platform and heavy duty also.

However, we are going to be very careful Transparent with the fact that how is the maturity of these technologies? What is available and how long will it take for them to be really successful in this endeavor? Because as you and everyone knows that the charging infrastructure in the United States Is going to be for the heavy-duty segment for the DC fast charger is going to be a long lead time.

If you have not really catered already for your internal resources on the power supply. So we typically lay out a good strategy for them in all classes of vehicles. how they can be successful in the short term and also on the long term build on the long term so that you know they are really equipped with everything and the grants and intense incentives and other aspects come into play in different states to this whole aspect so the customers are really interested to know about all these aspects So that we can bring in a complete solution for their whole ecosystem so that it makes sense.

And we know their operations. We know the data currently what they are operating out of. And then we build upon that and make sure that, we suit their needs to in different segments and give them the proposals so that, that is really beneficial for them in the long run.

Grayson Brulte:

Ryder Electric Plus is fascinating. I'm gonna ask, this is out of, this is out of your reach, but I'm really curious. Chargers. I took my family in the spring; we went to go see spring training game at to the Yankees in Tampa. And I drive there, I got about 6 percent charged. Lo and behold, guess what happened?

The charger was broken. And lo and behold, there was an individual there fixing the chargers, because they were broken, I said to the gentleman. Is this common? He goes, Sir, unfortunately it is. Let me fix this one up and get you charged. I wanted to get to the game on time. I wanted to see batting practice in the first pitch.

Okay, if I'm late, not the end of the world. Your customers on the other hand. One minute late, two minutes late. It starts seeking into their P& L. And then you start the nasty phone call start. And then we start going down this trouble line because it dramatically impacts their business. How are you helping your customers overcome the broken charger syndrome that is actively out there in the market today?

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Good point. So it is as important or more important for the charger to be functional, that's what we consider at Ryder as because the vehicle, if the fuel is not there, then what is the point, right? So that's how we look at it. So when we talk to the customers, we always build in a redundancy in the system so that, if you, by any chance, if one charger is non-operational, you have to have another port which is available for you.

Potentially it could take a little bit longer to charge. But still, you should be able to really be up and running without compromising on the primary task that you have to deliver the goods or deliver anything else. Because I don't want to be drinking milk out of the ice cream that wouldn't to be delivered, so I definitely We definitely take that very seriously.

And also when we negotiate some of these contracts with some of the charger manufacturers at our customer locations, we mandate a mandate, a maintenance contract with them about the reaction time, whether it is in three hours or four hours that they need to be taking a call or within 24 hours over the weekend, or something like that. We put it in the in the agreement so that we make sure that, that is followed through from the charger manufacturer. And also if it is some small things about, the screen is not working or there is a fault code or there is a, there's no green light or something like that.

Our technicians are trained to at least look at those as the basic and common things that our technicians and our operations team will know about starting from the operations manager to operation supervisors to the technicians. Everybody knows how this charger needs to work and how it needs to be plugged in.

What are the protocols that need to happen and what are the lights that they need to look at and what does it indicate inside the dashboard of the vehicle that will constitute that you know it is really charging or not because you can plug in a charger and be thinking that you know it is going to charge.

But suddenly you come the next day that you know, oh, I did not even plug it in properly and it's not even charging. So we have some redundancy that is built in so that our customers are being not affected by any of these issues for the foreseeable future. However, we are learning to, and we are working very diligently with the manufacturers to ensure that the Critical spare parts that are available with them and ensure that, they have it in their stock within 24 hours or 48 hours. If it is a big part that within the United States that they should be able to ship it to our place and somebody will come and replace it. 

Grayson Brulte:

I learned that problem. I've had that problem before. I've learned that lesson. I plug it in. It goes beep connects. The lights go on. I go to bed going on a road trip the next day.

I get up no charge. And I blew a gasket. I called the emergency number. I was sorry, sir, we had a software glitch in the vehicle. That's not gonna cut it, so I had to go find a charger along the way. Commercial size we talked about earlier, your clients are depending on uptime. Is there a software layer that you've developed or that you could potentially develop where if you have an onsite technician or for your customers, and let's just say they have a fleet of a hundred light duty vehicles, they're all plugged in the image that can open an iPad and see, okay green.

Okay. Wait, Orange, we got a software issue on truck 12, send a Ryder technician over to fix it. Do you have that today? Is that something that you're going to develop potentially in the future? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

We have that today. So for example, the two main charger manufacturers that we deal with are ChargePoint and InCharge, which is public in nature. And we have dashboards that our SME from charging infrastructure guy, he looks at it every day. through their dashboard of all the charges which are available within the Ryder network and see which one is really functioning. That is a mandatory thing for him to do it on a daily basis. As we scale towards the future, we will be giving more autonomy to the customers and our fleet operations.

But right now it is centralized in one, one person really looks at it on a regular basis. And we have weekly calls to make sure that the anything that is happening or anything that we cannot resolve is being taken up with the charger manufacturers to ensure that there is a protocol defined. 

Grayson Brulte:

Is that helping to build trust with your customers as they start to switch to electrification?

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Absolutely. Because that is one of the things that, they also are looking at, where our customers are also very educated as we speak in this space. And they mandate that, how are we going to ensure that, these charges are available and are up and running. So we tell them that, we give them the login and password, but they may not have the bandwidth to always look at it, but we give them that opportunity.

We look at that and then make sure that, we are on top of that before they come to know anything. And also there are some automated systems where we have built in, where if a charger goes down for something, it automatically sends a signal to our SME through a portal and an email and a text that this has some diagnostics that needs to be done or some issue has come in so that it's already available to the respective company at their fingertips immediately once the issue has arose. 

Grayson Brulte:

I'll summarize it to you this way. You'll probably smile. Ryder's creating value for their customers which are some of the largest fleets in the country, also some of the smallest, newest, innovative fleets. What impact is electrification having on the cost to own and operate the fleet? Are you seeing any significant impact both from an operation standpoint and a maintenance standpoint? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Absolutely. So on the light duty segment, I can very well say that, we have a lot of data for the full life cycle of the product and a lot of things have been worked towards and, we know that, they do work. I would say there is a lot of cost parity between an I an internal combustion vehicle and an EV vehicle in the light duty segment as we speak today. There is definitely, there may be like 5 percent here and there. I think even Robert's speech gave out some of those, comparisons on the, when you go into the mixed fleet and, when you go into this medium duty and heavy duty, this immediately the cost differential from a total cost of transport, we call it as, it changes. Why? Because the capital cost of the product itself is high one. Second is charging infrastructure that is required is high.

Two, then the third is about the grants and incentives are only available at very few places. It's not available across the whole nation in abundance. So when you look at that and the bottom line comes to that, the cost parity is really not there between especially the medium duty and heavy duty, it really increases quite substantially. So our state, our stance is that, we really need a lot of collaboration between all government agencies. Then the regulators and subsidies and everyone to, and the OEMs to collaborate and bring the technology to a level where it can be affordable.

Grayson Brulte:

Are you seeing differentials in prices from state to state because of electricity costs and labor costs vary from state to state? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Absolutely. Because in California, what is available is not the same as in Georgia. So when we compared the. Incentives and some of the things that are available in California, which can really bring everything down compared to Georgia, where you may not have those many, your rates really start fluctuating with a significant difference in tens and 20%. 

Grayson Brulte:

California is expensive is most expensive state in the country to charge on your vehicle. I've had a report over the weekend, 51 cents a kilowatt. Correct. If it gets to be more expensive than operating, let's throw out the carb. We're not going to get into the politics here, but if it gets more expensive than operating a diesel truck or an unleaded truck, do your customers switch back to diesel or unleaded because of the economics, because as you're well aware, and for our audiences, if they're not aware, the margins and logistics are minimal, sometimes one, two percent, even if that, if you're lucky. So do we, can we see a potential switchback if the cost to maintain and charge vehicles gets to a point where your customers cry uncle and say, no, we just, we can't afford this anymore? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

That's a very good point, because, the customers are really evaluating their own, their stance on this too, because, they are, some of the customers are trying one, two, three vehicles, and, we have some vehicles in our rental fleet that they try to try it on before they make a decision to buy, but, Some of the customers are buying it with grants and subsidies, and they're also looking at, how this can really scale.

So they're also very much learning along with us. If really, the infrastructure is going to be the biggest key here, because the infrastructure, if it is not available, once I leave my depot, it becomes little tricky for me to operate it. Outside of my depot and then suddenly, you are handicapped with not being able to use a high capital asset for which, you have invested quite a bit of money.
So that might definitely become a bottleneck for us. Second is about. The sustainability goals, majority of the companies that we have talked to, a lot of big companies have good intentions to make the world better place, and they really want to contribute to the global emission reductions and everything.

So they are intentionally doing this for the world. a purpose of making sure that, we let's do decarbonize the entire portfolio of their fleet. In that process, they are also looking at, what would it cost for them over a period of time. And they are also watching about how the trend lines are, and are there any alternatives to this?

So there are some segments that really make sense for electric vehicles. There are some segments which are challenging, but there are some other things that are going to be applicable for that segment. We are definitely navigating that through and making sure that, we offer our expertise in those areas that, our customers are looking into.

Grayson Brulte:

Just because we're having fun, let's throw another ingredient into the pot here. When does hydrogen enter the picture? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Hydrogen in two ways I'll explain to you. Hydrogen as a fuel will be a internal combustion engine, but hydrogen fuel cell is a zero emission vehicle. So when you look at the overall scheme of CARB and other mandates that are coming in for the emission reduction, hydrogen will have some emissions because it's burning the hydrogen fuel. Still, we are working with the OEMs, which are already invested quite a bit of efforts on hydrogen and the hydrogen fuel cells. We are working with the industry. We are actually in consortiums. We are already representing the industry forums and everything on these. We are working very diligently and very closely with them to see how this transformation of hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells can could define a new portfolio for our heavy duty and long haul operations.

Again, it is not simple. It is not easy. It is challenging and definitely true that it brings in different challenges. However, from a fuel standpoint, that is one of the fuels that is termed to be more stable and more sustainable for the future. If we were to get all the things right from a supply chain standpoint and from a cost standpoint.

So a lot of companies we are working with, whether it's Daimler, Volvo, Freightliner, Cummins, a lot of these companies that we are working with, they all have vested interest and they also have invested quite a bit of money and efforts on hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen engines. So we are working towards that. And I'm sure that, we will be doing some demonstration vehicles very soon on those. And we will definitely bring about some of the value propositions that did that brings to the table. 

Grayson Brulte:

How do you prepare from a maintenance perspective? Cause I can see your customers of the future operating gas, diesel, operating autonomously, operating electric, operating hydrogen fuel cell.

There's a lot of skills that your technicians are going to have to learn there. How do they, how do you prepare from a maintenance standpoint? And then eventually to get to the point where you have specialist technicians, this gentleman or this woman is specialized in hydrogen. And specialized in electrification.

Are we going to get there? And at first, is it going to be a jack of all trades? And eventually you get to a specialized technician. 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

So very good point. So intentionally, our company has put together a good maintenance team under I lead that team, which has specialists from the operations, the maintenance, the safety, then the training and also the customer pain points. So we are a good team of people who look at all these technologies from every angle. So we filter those pain points and make sure that, the, from an operational perspective and from a training perspective and from a safety perspective, what are all the things which are detrimental for a technician to really have a read across for all these technologies and build a program which he doesn't have to, the technician doesn't have to spend a lot of time on, but we develop best practices and best possible scenarios for him or her to really look at and also get trained on. So as I mentioned to you, we develop those standard practices and standard tools and other things.

They're mandatory for every shop, which will have an electric vehicle. So those are the bare minimum necessities. And then we peel off on the specialized version of it where, okay, if you have a class eight tractor, here are some of the things that are detrimental for a technician. If you have a EVR tractor, here are the some of the things. So very read across. And very easily decipherable for a technician so that we have made it very simple for the technician to look into the future. 

Grayson Brulte:

How do you keep up with the future from a technician standpoint, just doing research, trying new technology, keeping your pulse on? How are you keeping up from that, what's coming down the pipe?

Arun Chickmenahalli:

So we have something called shop readiness call with every OEM that we have vehicles with. So every monthly call will surface anything which is new that they are bringing in because they are also coming up with some of the things that they are seeing in the field, suddenly immediately releasing a fix.

And we have these conversations with Daimler or Cummins or Packard or any of these manufacturers on a, monthly basis so that we, our team really looks into all the things and then issues a centralized campaign where the technician will know about it. And also we have somebody who is administering it so that, they are well updated with it.

So we are constantly monitoring, constantly collaborating, and constantly training to the requirements that needs to be. Because as the technology is changing so fast, we can't keep quiet for six months or a year And, a lot of things will be, we'll be falling behind. 

Grayson Brulte:

Are there any new technologies on the horizon that you see that your customers want to deploy that you're actively preparing for today?

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Absolutely. So from an advanced technology perspective, whether it is wind, whether it is solar, whether it is carbon capture, whether it is any of the other alternate fuels, that are in the horizon, whether it's ethanol or octane or anything, we are really looking at very closely with the whole industry.

And we are working with the OEMs and we are trying it ourselves too, in the sense where it can make sense. For example, we tried the solar panels to really keep the trailer batteries at a very good state of charge. We were very successful and, it really resulted in a high amount of lesser road calls and high uptime and other things.

So those are all some small things that, you can really argument with some of these new technologies and alternate fuel technologies and renewable technologies that are available to us. We are really looking into all of those aspects. 

Grayson Brulte:

You're staying ahead, your customers benefit. Ryder provides a great service. That's how I would summarize it. Arun, as we look to wrap up our insightful conversation for today. What would you like our listeners to take away with them? 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Here is a time for all of us to come together to make a difference for the way we live in this world. There are challenges for all these alternate fuel technologies and everything that is in our portfolio, but we are the stakeholders in this whole process.

We have to make a difference to the world. Even if I can make a difference I would start there and Ryder is committed to making it a beneficial and also build an advanced technology business that safeguards the environment and earth. And I would like to end that with the fact that we need to really be the stakeholders of this entire world and be the stakeholders of the whole process.

Grayson Brulte:

Be a stakeholder, make a difference. Ryder's making a difference. Today is tomorrow. Tomorrow's today. The future is Ryder. Arun, thank you so much for coming on SAE Tomorrow Today. 

Arun Chickmenahalli:

Thank you so much. I appreciate the help.

Grayson Brulte:

Thank you for listening to SAE Tomorrow Today. If you've enjoyed this episode and would like to hear more, please kindly rate, review, and let us know what topics you'd like for us to explore next.

Be sure to join us next week as we learn how Intel Automotive has accelerated automotive innovation with software defined vehicles. 

SAE International makes no representations as to the accuracy of the information presented in this podcast. The information and opinions are for general information only.

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