Electric trucks: The next frontier for energy and emissions savings

(ACEEE blog, 14 Jan 2020) A promising array of new electric trucks, buses, and delivery vans is slated to soon enter the US market, and to address climate change, California and a few other states are beginning to push for their wider use.

As a new ACEEE paper explains, electrification of trucks and buses can bring many benefits, including lower energy use and emissions—even when the impacts of power generation are included—as well as reduced operating costs, including fuel and maintenance. Other benefits include higher torque (useful for starts and going up a slope) and quieter operation.

Currently, however, these vehicles cost more up front, generally have reduced range compared to conventional trucks, and must depend on limited charging infrastructure. Efforts to address these limitations are underway, and leading experts expect electric trucks to be widespread by 2040. The speed of the transition between now and then is an open question. 

Electrification of trucks is important because trucks account for a substantial share of vehicle energy use and emissions. While trucks and buses are only 5% of the vehicles on US roads, they account for 27% of vehicle energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Trucks also emit nitrogen oxides (NOx), black carbon, and fine particles, harming human health and contributing to global warming. Heavy-duty on-road vehicles account for 16% of total US NOx emissions, 15% of black carbon emissions, and 9% of fine particle emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest National Emissions Inventory.

Emerging market for electric buses, delivery vans, and tractor-trailers

Dozens of electric truck and bus models are now on the market, and many more are slated to enter it in the next few years. Leading states and cities have begun to transition their bus purchases to electric models, putting buses at the forefront of heavy-duty electrification.

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ACEEE blog, 14 Jan 2020: Electric trucks: The next frontier for energy and emissions savings