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Medium-, heavy-duty trucks will hit diesel cost parity by 2035

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According to a new study by the U.S. Department of Energy, electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks will reach a cost parity with their diesel equivalents by 2035.

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The study says that with continued improvements in vehicle and fuel technologies (in line with U.S. Department of Energy targets and vetted with industry), zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) can reach total-cost-of-driving parity with conventional diesel vehicles by 2035 for all medium- and heavy-duty (MD/HD) vehicle classes without incentives.

Assuming economics drive adoption, the study continues, ZEV sales could reach 42% of all MD/HD trucks by 2030, reflecting lower combined vehicle purchase and operating costs (using real-world payback periods). In this scenario, ZEV sales reach greater than 99% by 2045, and 80% of the MD/HD stock transitions to ZEVs by 2050, reducing CO2 emissions by 69% from 2019.

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Two technological solutions—battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)—are viable in multiple market segments, offering alternative pathways for decarbonization. BEVs tend to become cost-competitive for smaller trucks before 2030 and for short-haul (less than 500-mile) heavy trucks before 2035. Hydrogen FCEVs tend to become cost-competitive for long-haul (greater than 500-mile) heavy trucks by 2035, the study says.

This study looks at three different vehicle classes and eight different use cases/driving distances. ZEVadoption is more rapid in lighter and shorter-distance vehicles, which also tend to be centrally fueled, reducing infrastructure risk. Based on external studies, buses are assumed to fully transition to ZEV by 2030 (100% sales), the study says.

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Since economics are more likely to drive adoption in business applications, especially in larger companies, it is possible that demand for ZEVs could rise rapidly in MD/HD trucks once cost parity is reached, the study says. Manufacturing capacity and charging/refueling infrastructure will need to increase commensurately to support vehicle adoption.

Operating cost savings are a critical factor, especially for heavy long-haul trucks, so results are highly sensitive to assumed fuel prices (both for new technologies and for existing diesel fuels). Energy management techniques, proactive utility and clean fuel investment planning, and associated policies are needed to lower final energy costs, the study says.

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Results are also very sensitive to technology improvement trajectories, adoption decision-making, and uncertain assumptions about future freight demand, logistics, and vehicle use.

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