ATRI Tallies Environmental Impact of Zero-Emission Trucks

The overall life cycle of Class 8 zero-emission trucks would result in a net decrease in carbon dioxide emissions of just 30% compared with internal combustion engines despite the trucks having no direct tailpipe emissions, according to a just-released study by the American Transportation Research Institute.

According to Transport Topics, the report, titled “Understanding the CO2 Impacts of Zero-Emission Trucks,” determined that CO2 emissions generated during the production of electricity and hydrogen — both of which are used to power zero-emission trucks — along with production and disposal of the electric storage equipment, lithium-ion batteries and the vehicles themselves all contribute to their overall emissions impact. The report’s key finding is that zero-emission trucks still generate significant overall life cycle CO2 emissions, and will continue to produce CO2 emissions in the coming decades.

“The core motivations for a shift to ZETs remain environmental, and it may be possible to decrease the trucking industry’s emissions through their deployment — although the scale of environmental benefit is unclear,” the report stated. “This research provides industry, government and other stakeholders with a technical environmental impact assessment of switching to ZETs, as well as a glimpse at the advancements that may be needed to further decrease industry emissions.”

The report lands as “a movement toward zero-emission vehicles has strengthened in recent years, particularly through state-level environmental goals and regulations,” ATRI noted.

The report, released May 3, studied the life cycle CO2 emissions of three Class 8 sleeper cab trucks; one battery-electric, one hydrogen fuel cell electric and one a traditional diesel. ATRI drew on outputs from the Argonne National Lab’s GREET Model’s life cycle data.

According to the detailed 43-page study, the environmental benefits of electric trucks are offset due, in large part, to lithium-ion battery production.

ATRI concluded hydrogen fuel cell trucks are “ultimately the most environmentally friendly truck type, although the technology is not presently feasible for longhaul operations.”

“The U.S. trucking industry is strongly committed to carbon-reduction efforts, and electric motors and drivetrains offer many additional performance and maintenance benefits,” Hugh Ekberg, CEO of CRST, said in the release announcing the study. “But ATRI’s research highlights that several of the leading zero-emission approaches being advocated today still need additional research to fully understand how the different technologies can be best developed and utilized to maximize carbon reduction.”

The report is available at

For the full TT story, click here.

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