Advanced Clean Tech News’s latest webinar, “The Electric Future and the Messy Middle,” addressed The North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s (NACFE) recently released Guidance Report. The report dives into the future for today’s trucking fleets and the challenges that fleet operators face during the inevitable transition to zero-emission propulsion.

The trucking industry is at the start of significant expected changes in powertrains. The imperatives for reducing emissions from the transportation sector – the largest source of carbon emissions worldwide – are mounting, whether from regulatory actions or from the demands of community residents most directly impacted by trucks operating in their vicinity. Fleets can be configured with a growing array of low-carbon energy sources and propulsion technologies, including renewable natural gas and biofuels, diesel-electric hybrids, batteries, and not least, hydrogen fuel cells.

In pre-commercial trials, fuel cell trucks are showing promise as a one-to-one replacement for diesel-powered trucks – both in terms of vehicle performance and in operational characteristics.


Evaluating the Options

As electrified transportation options become more prevalent in the heavy-duty transportation industry, it’s becoming apparent that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Determining which zero-emission energy technologies are optimal for different applications is a primary consideration. Operational duty cycles, infrastructure requirements, energy costs, and range are all factors.

Fuel cells can be used in a wide range of transportation applications. More importantly, when it comes to long-haul scenarios, fuel cells may be the only viable emission-free option. Fuel cell electric trucks enable longer routes than battery-only trucks, while short refueling times (similar to CNG fueling) improve operational efficiencies by avoiding battery charging. Moreover, as fleets move from small pilot demonstrations to full-scale adoption, the power distribution requirements and charging infrastructure required by battery-electric fleets can be prohibitive.

Full Speed Ahead

A zero-emission freight world powered entirely by renewable energy sources is expected to become commonplace by 2040, and sooner in many regions. The transition period has already begun, and this time can profitably be used by fleet operators to begin to evaluate which solutions best fit their specific needs.

Both operational needs and a changing regulatory environment are driving the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). The end result will be lower costs to operate vehicles, and zero well-to-wheel emissions when renewable feed stocks are used for hydrogen production.

Consumer-level demands and needs are also a factor in increased EV adoption. The trucking industry is at the epicenter of the “sustainable goods movement,” a consumer-driven demand for the cleanest possible transportation options.

As we proceed through what may sometimes feel like a “messy middle,” it’s clear that alternative power via electrification is the key to moving the heavy-duty transportation industry forward.  At Nuvera, we understand that clean transportation is an imperative, and believe that the goods movement industry will embrace hydrogen fuel cell technologies because of the positive returns made possible as both fuel cell and green hydrogen technologies are introduced at commercial scale. The Nuvera® E-45 Fuel Cell Engine will help power the inevitable transition to zero-emission fleets – and we look forward to the road ahead for the trucking industry.