Zero Emission MDV and HDVs? Yes, It’s Happening.

06.06.20 | Blog | By:

A few years ago there was a ton of skepticism about the ability of the medium- and heavy-duty trucking sector to electrify because of costs and other factors. That’s quickly changing. The number of available and announced models of zero-emission trucks, buses and off-road equipment in the U.S. and Canada is on track to rise nearly 78% by the end of 2020 compared to year-end 2019, according to the Zero-Emission Technology Inventory (ZETI), a product of CALSTART’s Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero program. That figure is expected to more than double by 2023. By the end of 2020, there will be 169 different zero-emission (ZE) medium- and heavy-duty vehicle models in commercial production compared to 95 models in 2019, and that figure will increase to 195 models by 2023, as the figure below shows.

Source: CALSTART ZETI Analytics, 2020

According to CALSTART, among the fastest growing vehicle segments in the U.S. and Canada are medium-duty trucks typically used for urban delivery, shown in the figure below. After transit buses, they represent the vehicles most poised for zero-emission technologies due to their urban duty cycles composed of stops and goes, known routes, and ability to charge overnight at depots. This trend bodes well for the urban e-commerce sector, according to CALSTART, now experiencing strong growth due to  COVID-19. And because the zero-emission technologies used in transit buses and urban delivery trucks can be transferred to larger trucks, investments in these early markets will lay the technology foundation for use in heavier long-distance trucks.

Source: CALSTART ZETI Analytics, 2020

Driving this North American model proliferation is a mixture of market demand, policy drivers and an increasingly attractive business case, CALSTART notes. On the demand side, corporate giants like Amazon, IKEA, FedEx, and UPS have made significant commitments and investments in manufacturers of ZE commercial vehicles such as Rivian, Arrival and Chanje in recent months. Australian vehicle technology company SEA Electric – responsible for a healthy uptick in ZE medium-duty-vehicles in North America – recently opened a new facility in Torrance, California after winning a number of West Coast EV truck orders in 2019.

The new ZETI data also shows that ZE commercial models across nearly all vehicle types currently demonstrate driving range capabilities commensurate with user needs. Most ZE buses can drive between 100 and 200 miles on a single charge. There is already a healthy number of ZE trucks in the 50 to 150 mile range, which is typically sufficient for urban deliveries, and longer ranges over 300 miles are coming in the next two to three years.

Source: CALSTART ZETI Analytics, 2020

Launched in March of 2020, ZETI is an interactive online tool that tracks the growth of the ZE commercial vehicles globally, as measured by model availability. I think this is going to be a great resource for those of us tracking this space.

CALSTART’s Drive to Zero program is also releasing an updated version of its Policies and Actions Toolkit. The Toolkit, unveiled in 2019 at the Tenth Clean Energy Ministerial and Fourth Mission Innovation Ministerial in Vancouver, is a portfolio of the key policies, incentives and investments governments and industry can take to spur faster near- and zero-emission commercial vehicle deployment. Since its inception, the Toolkit has grown by roughly 50%, adding new policies, actions and categories of drivers for ZE commercial vehicles. An example of policies and actions on controlled access and procurement from its Summary Matrix of Policies and Actions is shown in the figure below.


ZETI and the Policies and Actions Toolkit are among the first set of tools developed by CALSTART’s Drive to Zero program. Drive to Zero unites key regions of change, along with leading manufacturers and fleet users, to speed development collaboratively and adoption through policies, financial incentives, infrastructure investments and pilot projects that support early market success and create conditions for organic growth.  Its goal is to make ZE commercial vehicles commercially viable by 2025 and dominant by 2040 in specific vehicle segments and regions through a strategy, the Beachhead Strategy, designed to catalyze the ZE commercial vehicle segment.

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