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Making the Case for Hybrid and Electric Trucks and Buses

Why are these technologies important?
The new wave of hybrid and electric passenger cars have captured the public spotlight. However, the replacement of conventionally-powered trucks with hybrid or battery-electric vehicles may offer an even bigger immediate payoff in terms of significant fuel savings and public co-benefits. One efficient truck can cut 24 times the fuel use and carbon emissions that a passenger car can.

Other benefits include:
  • Improved energy security and the reduction of imported oil.
  • American leadership, jobs, and economic growth
    One recent study found that the strong expansion of high-efficiency trucks can generate $24 billion in net economic benefits and grow 124,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2030.
  • Reductions in criteria air pollution and related healthcare costs.
  • Reductions in global warming pollution.
    Nationwide, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for 18 percent of all global warming emissions from the transportation sector.
  • Reduced noise pollution.
  • Greater freight efficiency and reduced long-term operating costs.
Zero-emission trucks use NO petroleum; have no tailpipe emissions, and studies show significantly reduced emissions (even including power plant emissions needed for recharging). In many cases, using electricity as a fuel can be much cheaper than using oil, depending on the electricity rate.

From a policy perspective, there is a large push to develop technology that improves fuel efficiency and reduces carbon emissions from the transportation sector. New national air quality (ozone) rules will double the number of regions not meeting health standards, potentially resulting in more restrictions for trucks and goods movement.

The business case for advanced trucks
Advanced truck production volumes are still too low in the early market to realize price reductions, and the current payback period is long even with large fuel and maintenance savings. However, modest volume increases can help move prices to levels easily justifying purchase. HVIP facilitates this market increase by providing incentives to bridge the gap between today’s price and the lower prices expected in the future at higher volumes.

As hybrid and battery-electric truck offerings expand in body/chassis combinations and truck maker production, most work truck applications can benefit from a hybrid. Placed in the right application, hybrids and battery-electric vehicles can result in substantial fuel savings over vehicle life. Today’s hybrid trucks are already delivering these results. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that United Parcel Service (UPS) hybrid-electric delivery vans have achieved fuel economy gains of 29 to 37 percent. In addition, utilities using hybrid-electric bucket trucks have documented fuel use reductions of 14 to 58 percent and reduced brake wear in CALSTART testing performed for the Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) program and other projects.

The table below illustrates how hybrid trucks can more than pay for themselves through annual fuel cost savings multiplied over a typical ownership period, particularly using the HVIP voucher.

Example Fleet Cost Savings from Hybrid Truck Purchase
 Incremental Hybrid CostHVIP VoucherNet Hybrid Cost After VoucherAnnual Fuel Cost Savings
Package Delivery Truck$35,000$15,000$20,000$2,800
Beverage Tractor$45,000$25,000$20,000$3,500
Assumes diesel price of $3.50 per gallon.

How HVIP helps
HVIP was designed to help fleets buy cleaner trucks faster and help manufacturers sell advanced trucks that are still in low production. High incremental cost is the primary barrier to widespread adoption of efficient truck technologies. HVIP offsets about half of the incremental cost of eligible hybrid medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and a large portion of the cost of battery-electric trucks and buses, using a simplified purchase voucher. HVIP is designed to assist fleets by reducing this cost right at the time of purchase. In this way, HVIP reduces capital costs for fleets at the point of purchase with minimal delay, uncertainty, or administrative burden.


What is a Hybrid Truck?
In plain terms, a hybrid truck differs from a conventional truck in that it uses two or more distinct power sources, rather than one, to move the vehicle. There are several different types of hybrids, including hybrid-electric and hybrid-hydraulic systems. They work in similar ways. As an example, the most common type in the market today is the hybrid-electric variety which combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) propulsion system with an electric propulsion system. The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve better fuel economy than a conventional diesel-powered truck. The two systems can work independently or in conjunction with each other, merging seamlessly as one, and provide very good results in driving cycles with stop-and-go delivery and high idling times by capturing and re-using energy usually lost while braking, and by shutting down the ICE at idle and restarting it when needed.

What is a Zero-Emission Truck?
A zero-emission truck is, very simply, a truck powered without the use of fossil fuels. It can use an electric motor, fuel cell, or someother technology that does not emit pollutants while in use instead of an internal combustion engine for propulsion. Zero-emimssion trucks are well-suited for urban fixed-route, return-to-base delivery fleets since they generally travel relatively short distances and would ideally have access to charging stations. When compared to hybrid trucks, zero-emissions are more efficient and cleaner (with zero tailpipe emissions), but are also more expensive and have a shorter range.

How real are these technologies?
Hybrid trucks are now in real, low-volume production and America is the world leader in developing and producing these vehicles. Every major U.S. truck maker has a hybrid truck in production or near production. Vehicles are available in multiple body and chassis sizes for a range of applications, from Class 4 parcel vans through Class 8 delivery tractors. Those now in production with multiple products include Navistar, Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt and Azure Dynamics.

Electric trucks are just entering early production and include products from multiple companies, including Navistar, Freightliner, Smith, and EVI.

See the current list of HVIP eligible vehicles.