Zero-Emission Trucks Are Coming and They’re Here to Stay
April 22, 2021
If you remember or learned about the ‘space race’ between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, you know how determined each was to become the first to send a person to the moon. Today, it seems as if there is a new technology race underway, this time between commercial truck OEMs.
With states such as California setting the precedent on zero-emission vehicle development, increasing awareness towards climate change, and other factors, truck manufacturers are working hard to bring to market highly productive zero-emission trucks.
It wasn’t that long ago that battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks were just a concept, or perhaps a ‘marketing ploy.’ But now, the technology needed to develop these concept trucks is becoming very real. And despite all the market and operational challenges truck manufacturers have dealt with due to COVID-19, truck OEMs have weathered the storm and have made real progress towards production.
Where We Stand
This upcoming year will be the biggest yet with zero-emission trucks making the segue from pilot stages to commercialization. Top OEMs including Freightliner, Volvo, Kenworth, Peterbilt, and Hino are on the verge of delivering trucks to customers. And electric vehicle manufacturers, Tesla and Nikola, remain in the mix. After years of delays, Tesla, the company that first caught the industry’s attention for truck electrification, plans to begin production of its on-highway semi-truck in 2021. While Tesla’s battery-electric truck is still in protype phase, the trucks’ two range options (300 and 500 miles) has created quite the buzz in the industry.
And, despite a challenging year for Nikola, the company claims it’s still on track to deliver on its hydrogen fuel cell and battery-electric trucks in coming years. As we phase into zero-emission trucks, OEMs are continuing to produce engines that help minimize the carbon footprint diesel or natural gas-powered engines leave behind.
On the Horizon
While the majority of the zero–emission trucks that will soon hit the marketplace are designed for regional applications (due to relatively short mileage range) it will still set the stage for a changing commercial transportation industry. Just remember, the first iPhone Apple, Inc., produced didn’t have near the capabilities today’s iPhones do. The same will likely be true for zero-emission trucks.
Adoption will take time. Infrastructure for commercial charging stations, and perhaps hydrogen fueling stations will need to be built. Remember when seeing a Tesla passenger vehicle charging station used to be a rare sight? Now they seem to be everywhere.
When zero-emission trucks become more commonplace in the industry, will it be hydrogen fuel cell trucks leading the over-the-road segment and battery-electric trucks leading in regional markets, or vice versa? A combination of both? We’ll learn a lot about these trucks in the coming years.
So, who will end up being the leader in the electric commercial truck market? Time will tell. But competition is good and it’s what drives innovation. The future looks bright and our planet will be grateful for it.