What you need to know about the unstoppable rise of electric truck fleets

Sam Becker

Commercial U.S. fleets are going big on electric trucks, according to a recent EDF analysis of medium- and heavy-duty fleet announcements, which finds a nearly 8,500% increase in zero-emission fleet deployments and commitments since 2017.

To arrive at this eye-popping stat, EDF tracked public announcements of leading fleet commitments to deploy zero-emission trucks, as well as actual deployments — trucks on roads.

The recent influx of these vehicles, most of which are electric, is an important step toward reducing the health-harming, climate change pollution from diesel trucks and a key indicator of a flourishing market.

But more ambition from policymakers is needed if we are going to achieve 100% zero-emission truck sales by 2035 — a critical date to ensure a near-zero-emission transportation sector by 2050.

What’s behind the growth in clean trucks?

Thanks to the declining upfront cost of zero-emission trucks and their associated fueling infrastructure, increased model availability, improved range, and robust government and utility incentives, commercial and municipal fleets of all sizes and duty cycles are deploying and making commitments to deploy zero-emission trucks.

All of this progress is moving zero-emission trucks from the showroom floor to highways and local streets across the United States.

EDF’s analysis finds that at least 230 fleets have made commitments to deploy or have deployed zero-emission trucks — a twelvefold increase since 2017.

While much of the demand is currently coming from large private entities, such as Amazon, FedEx and Walmart, fleets of all sizes are beginning to make the transition from diesel to zero-emission trucks.

While the shift from gas- to diesel-powered trucks took over 40 years to reach 90% sales, the transition from diesel to zero-emission trucks has the potential to happen much quicker based on the technological readiness of and rapid increase in zero-emission trucks.

The rate of transition, however, is far behind what’s necessary to mitigate the harmful climate and health impacts of diesel trucks.

According to a BloombergNEF analysis of electrification rates prior to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, only 29% of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles will be zero-emission by 2050.

How diesel trucks are devastating communities

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for just 5% of vehicles on U.S. roads, but are responsible for nearly a quarter of all climate pollution and nearly half the deaths from air pollution linked to transportation.

People of color and those with lower incomes bear this burden disproportionately, because they’re more likely to live near high-traffic areas. According to the American Lung Association, people of color are more than 3 1/2 times more likely to breathe the most polluted air when compared with white people.

Long-term exposure to dirty truck pollution can have devastating health impacts on the most vulnerable members of our communities.

For example, an EDF analysis of recent air quality research estimates that on average 1 in 5 cases of new childhood asthma are attributable to pollution in Boston — but in the neighborhoods with the most traffic-related pollution, it can be up to 1 in 3.

New climate law points to a clean truck future

The Inflation Reduction Act will have as big an impact on the electrification of truck fleets in the U.S. as it will on clean energy or any other industry the historic package touches.

In fact, a recent analysis found that the law will pull ahead price parity for zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by five to 12 years — meaning the upfront cost will be comparable to gas-powered vehicles. That will result, on average, in these clean vehicles composing 29% of all zero-emission vehicle sales by 2029.

Among the key provisions of the law driving this impact are:

  • Up to $40,000 in tax credits for each commercial clean vehicle.
  • A heavy-duty charging infrastructure tax credit for private fleet depots.
  • $3 billion in grants for zero-emission equipment and tech at ports.
  • $60 million to reduce diesel emissions resulting from goods movement facilities, such as ports and rail yards, and vehicles that service them in low-income and disadvantaged communities, to address the health impacts of such emissions.
  • $2 billion for domestic manufacturing conversion grants to retool existing auto manufacturing facilities to manufacture clean vehicles.
  • Up to $20 billion in loans to build new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities across the country — including $3 billion for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.

The investments from the climate law are fundamentally changing what's possible. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that, in 2023, it will propose and finalize more protective emission standards for heavy-duty trucks covering model years 2027 through 2030 and beyond, considering the substantial impacts the Inflation Reduction Act will have in accelerating zero-emitting trucks.

Protective standards are critical to ensure that zero-emission trucks deliver on their massive potential for reducing pollution while growing jobs and saving truckers and fleets money.

This historic climate law paired with the forthcoming action by the EPA adds up to an unmistakable message for companies: It’s time to double down on making the transition to a zero-emission fleet. And that’s good news for all of us.

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