More than 1,200 medium- and heavy-duty zero emission trucks (ZETs) have been deployed in the U.S. as of December, according to a Calstart report released Thursday. This represents just 0.005% of the more than 24 million conventional trucks on the road in the U.S.
“The actual number of deployed vehicles is still quite low, and we do expect to see shifts in delivery dates and actual delivery of those on order as the market players continue to evolve,” Kevin Walkowicz, senior director of truck programs at Calstart, a transportation technology nonprofit, said in a release.
More than 146,000 additional commercial ZETs have been ordered and are expected to be delivered between one and 10 years from now, depending on production capacity and order sizes.
Some of the largest ZET orders:
- Amazon ordered 100,000 delivery vans from Rivian, of which 10,000 are expected to be delivered in 2022. The following 90,000 are predicted to be delivered by 2030.
- The United Parcel Service ordered 10,000 delivery vans from Arrival, which are expected to be delivered between 2020 and 2024.
- Pride Group Enterprises ordered more than 6,300 C-Series electric delivery trucks from Workhorse. They are expected to be delivered between 2021 and 2026.
The number of ZET model offerings increased from 20 in 2019 to 145 in 2021, a 625% increase. The number of models is predicted to increase to 165 by 2023.
“There’s reason to believe we are experiencing the calm before the storm. Between the explosion of available models, strong order books and announced investments in EV and alternative fuel corridors, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the rapid adoption of clean trucks,” said Tyler Cole, director of carbon intelligence at FreightWaves.
Calstart defines ZETs as vehicles that don’t “emit exhaust gas or other pollutants from their onboard power source.” This includes battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles but excludes low-emission vehicles that run on renewable natural gas or biodiesel.
The report included Class 2 through Class 8 trucks, refuse trucks, delivery vans and yard trucks. Though there are some hydrogen fuel cell trucks under development and testing in the U.S., the report said they make up a very small percentage of the ZET population.
“A complete transition to ZET technology would not only help mitigate the impacts of climate change and poor air quality but could eventually lower total cost of ownership for fleets and create job growth in the U.S.,” the report said.
Medium- and heavy-duty trucks make up only 9% of on-road vehicles, but they are responsible for about 32% of greenhouse gas emissions, 63% of nitrogen oxide emissions and 68% of particulate matter on roads today, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Types of ZETs deployed
Medium-duty trucks, cargo vans and step vans accounted for 75% of all ZET deployments in 2021. The reasons these trucks are most targeted for zero-emission technology include:
- Daily routes and ranges coincide with battery technology’s current limitations.
- Return-to-base operations allow for overnight charging.
- Operating below maximum weight requirements makes heavier battery weight a nonissue.
- Smaller battery sizes make medium-duty ZETs more affordable than heavy-duty ZETs. This also leads to a faster payback period.
Heavy-duty ZETs only made up 4% of 2021 deployments. “This number is expected to grow due to increasing heavy-duty truck model availability and an abundance of heavy-duty truck orders,” the report said. Refuse trucks made up an even smaller piece of the pie than heavy-duty trucks at 2% of ZET deployment in 2021.
Yard tractors accounted for 20% of all ZET deployments in 2021 due to their lower operating cost models and lack of range anxiety issues. EV yard tractor provider Orange EV is the manufacturer with the most operational ZETs in the U.S.
“The numbers demonstrate that there is demand that will support significant growth in the industry. Calstart will continue to track and monitor these developments so the industry and decision-makers have access to the trending numbers,” Walkowicz said.
California continues to lead the way
Several U.S. states as well as foreign nations have their own low-carbon fuel standards or provide incentives and tax credits for purchasing ZETs. Carbon pricing, regulations and emissions reporting requirements will likely also play increasing roles in advancing the adoption of ZETs, the report said.
California is responsible for 61% of all ZET deployments to date. This is due to the “robust suite of ZET policies and incentives” across the state. California was followed by New York at 9% of ZET deployments to date, with Texas, Illinois, Oregon and New Jersey behind.
“Because of the current high incremental cost of ZETs over their diesel counterparts, short-term deployment is highly dependent on state incentives, which can close the cost gap for customers and accelerate manufacturers towards larger production volumes and ultimately lower production costs,” the report said.
Several states plan to significantly ramp up their ZET incentive funding in 2022, which should increase adoption rates, according to the report. California alone plans to allocate an additional $873 million in incentives for infrastructure and commercial vehicles.
“Rapidly falling battery prices, complemented by increased state ZET incentives, will make the economic prospect of ZET adoption increasingly attractive for fleets,” the report said.