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Examining the Practicality of the EV Truck Mandate

By April 25, 2024No Comments

On March 29th, it was announced that manufacturers of heavy-duty vehicles must reduce their overall emissions by mandated percentages, starting with their 2028 models and extending through 2032.

When the rules were released, we heard the usual responses from the usual cast of characters. Environmental advocacy groups love it, trucking industry associations say it is ridiculous, and manufacturers have stayed pretty quiet. But will it work?

Playing By a New Set of Rules

Transportation currently represents about 27 percent of emissions, and around a quarter of that is directly associated with heavy-duty trucks, according to the EPA. Scope 3 emissions are an important focus area for most companies and industries, so reducing the emissions of the supply chain is an important step.

The rule is focused on manufacturers, like Freightliner or Volvo, and it increasingly limits the emissions allowed from a manufacturer’s product line over time. 

It will be up to each manufacturer how they choose to comply with the rules. The EPA touts the fact that the rule is technology-neutral. This means vehicle manufacturers can meet the new standards in different ways, including the percentage of hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electrics, battery electric vehicles, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles included in each model year.

The actual text of the final rule is 1,155 pages long. Fortunately, the EPA also released a fact sheet that is a little more accessible. In it, we read that this rule is not about requiring manufacturers to make a certain number of EV trucks or stop making diesel ones. The focus is on reducing the total emissions over time. 

The requirements vary by vehicle category, so here is an example. Let’s compare day cabs and sleeper cabs. Day cabs will have to have 8 percent less emissions by the 2028 model year, while sleeper cabs have through 2030 to come down by just 6 percent.

If the rule stays as it currently reads, EV trucks will have to be 60 percent of new urban delivery trucks and 25 percent of long haul semi trucks by 2032. According to the Associated Press, 30 percent of heavy-duty trucks “would need to be zero-emission by 2032 … while 40% of short-haul “day cabs” would need to be zero emission vehicles.”

According to the EPA, “The standards will avoid 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and provide $13 billion in annualized net benefits to society related to public health, the climate, and savings for truck owners and operators.”

Responding to the Emissions Requirements

The response about the practicality of driving this change – especially through a Federal government mandate – falls into the usual categories: the range of the trucks is too limited, buying the trucks will be too expensive, and the grid and charging infrastructure are woefully lacking.

Naysayers, yes, but these are the operational challenges that have to be overcome before this mandate can drive the intended changes. 

Challenge #1: The range of EV trucks is too limited

According to the Wall Street Journal editorial board, most electric trucks can’t go more than 170 miles on a charge, and it takes about 90 minutes to recharge. Compare this to a diesel truck that can go 1,000-1,200 miles after taking 15 minutes to refuel.

In addition, EV trucks have to carry lighter loads to compensate for their heavier batteries. Assuming the same volume of goods needs to be moved, less goods per truck means more congestion, because there will be more trucks on the road.

Challenge #2: EV trucks are too expensive

The New York Times reports that today’s electric trucks can cost two or three times what it costs to buy a diesel truck. The Clean Freight Coalition agrees, offering that while a diesel Class 8 truck (tractor-trailer) costs roughly $180,000, a comparable battery-electric truck costs over $400,000.

Challenge #3: Charging Infrastructure Is Not Prepared 

EV trucks currently represent less than 1% of all heavy duty truck sales. Those sales are disproportionately concentrated in California, because they have had mandates and subsidies in place longer. 

The WSJ Editorial board estimates that 1.4 million new chargers to be built, an average of 15,000 per month. The New York Times reported third party concerns as well.

According to the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, there are only 5,000 charging stations in the U.S. capable of serving heavy trucks. The Truck Makers Association estimates that a million chargers will be needed if the number of EV tractor-trailers increases as projected – short of the 400K estimate from the WSJ.

A study done by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) makes another interesting point about infrastructure. It isn’t just about chargers and grid upgrades, it is about space – room for parking while charging.

There is no question that everyone wants to reduce the emissions contribution of the supply chain. The question is about the best way to do it. 

John Mies, a spokesman for Volvo Group North America, told the New York Times that the final regulation was “more realistic than what was originally proposed.” That is the perfect deferred response – not good, not bad, just better. Hopefully that is what this rule will deliver as well.



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