When all of the numbers associated with building electric-powered trucks are added up, it turns out to be not such a “clean” energy alternative after all, according to an analysis of alternative fuel trucks performed by the American Transportation Research Institute.
The analysis utilized federal and industry-sourced data to identify and compare full life-cycle CO2 emissions for a range of truck types, including a baseline diesel truck, battery electric trucks and hydrogen fuel cell trucks.
The study found that while electric trucks have no direct tailpipe emissions, CO2 emissions associated with vehicle, battery and electricity production would only result in a 30% decrease in CO2 when compared to a standard diesel truck.
The marginal environmental benefits of electric trucks are due, in large part, to lithium-ion battery production – which generates more than six times the carbon of diesel truck production, ATRI found.
The research also incorporates CO2 emissions that are generated by the U.S. electrical grid – which still relies primarily on fossil fuels.
In the end, ATRI says that hydrogen fuel cell trucks are ultimately the most environmentally friendly truck type, although the technology is not presently feasible for use in long-haul operations.
The report concludes by identifying several additional strategies that can reduce CO2 truck emissions for all three energy sources – diesel, electricity and hydrogen.
For example, renewable diesel could decrease CO2 emissions to only 32.7% of a standard diesel engine without requiring new infrastructure or truck equipment. Finally, hydrogen sourced from solar-power electricity could enable hydrogen fuel cell trucks to emit only 8.8% of the baseline diesel CO2.