Report Finds Electric Trucks and Buses Both Economical and Critical to Reducing Greenhouse Gases

Image of driver charging a Volvo electric concept truck.
Image of driver charging a Volvo electric concept truck.

From garbage trucks to transit buses to “big rigs,” heavy-duty vehicles powered by diesel are a major source of air pollution. Emissions from these vehicles have been linked to adverse health impacts and are a significant contributor to global warming.

But a new report finds that trucks and buses powered by electricity can deliver a litany of benefits, including mitigating climate change. The report, by Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the California Electric Transportation Coalition, concludes that electric trucks and buses:

  1. Can deliver the largest reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution (transportation accounts for 50 percent of all GHG emissions and 80-90 percent of smog forming pollutants when fuel production emissions are included);
  2. Will be cost competitive by 2030; and
  3. Will create the greatest economic benefits when compared to other emission reduction strategies for heavy-duty trucks and buses.

Improving Air Quality

Electrifying the heavy duty vehicle market can have a huge impact on air quality. According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, despite comprising just 10 percent of vehicles on American roads, heavy-duty vehicles contribute 28 percent of global warming emissions from the nation’s on-road transportation sector. They are also responsible for 45 percent of on-road NOx emissions (oxides of nitrogen) and 57 percent of on-road, direct PM2.5 emissions (particulate matter less than 2.5 micro-meters in diameter). And on-road sources of air pollution disproportionately burden communities of color and low-income communities due to their proximity to roads and vehicular traffic. Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latinos are exposed to 34 percent, 24 percent, and 23 percent more PM2.5 pollution (respectively) from cars, trucks, and buses than the national average.

A Cost Effective Solution

On the subject of cost, the report finds that by 2030 the lifetime cost of EV ownership is expected to be lower than diesel even without purchase subsidies. Until then, subsidies may be required to be cost competitive with diesel. According to research from the California Air Resources Board and others, in nearly every vehicle case examined, including long-haul semi trucks, battery-electric trucks and buses are cheaper than diesel vehicles on a total-cost-of-ownership basis for vehicles purchased within the next 10 years.

In the meantime, according to Jimmy O’Dea of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “significant investments must be made in electric vehicles and infrastructure now to support the transition to zero emission trucks and buses.”

Driver Benefits

Driver Henrik Sundberg below describes his experience of making deliveries over 80 days with a fully electric vehicle from Volvo Trucks.


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