Better Fuel Efficiency for Heavy Duty Trucks — A Target Worth Setting

"Kenworth truck" by Lisa M. Macias, U.S. Air Force via Wikipedia

"Kenworth truck" by Lisa M. Macias, U.S. Air Force via Wikipedia

A pair of critical analyses were just released that, together, make clear the need for a strong second generation heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standard.

The first piece is the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) preliminary Annual Energy Outlook for 2015. I went right to the projection of fuel efficiency for new heavy trucks in 2020, which is 7.0 miles per gallon, and compared that to the projection for 2030, which is 7.2 miles per gallon. A three percent increase in efficiency for a decade is not too impressive.

As a result of this lack of projected progress on fuel efficiency and other factors, EIA expects that greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks will increase more than any other single end-use source by 2040 – an additional 120 million metric tons a year.

The other recent analysis is from The International Council on Clean Transportation, which released two papers on heavy truck fuel efficiency: one reviewing the potential of current and emerging efficiency technology, and the other examining the cost-effectiveness of these technologies.

Among the group’s findings are:

  • Already available tractor-trailer technologies can achieve 9 miles per gallon, deliver payback periods of less than a year, and be widely deployed in the 2020 to 2025 time frame.
  • Advanced efficiency technologies, now emerging in the marketplace, can double fuel economy to 11 to 12 miles per gallon, with payback periods of 18 months or less in the 2025 to 2030 time frame.
  • Diverse technology approaches – meaning technology packages with differing contributions from aerodynamic, engine, and other technologies – can achieve similar efficiency results.
  • Even under very conservative assumptions — fuel prices remaining as low as $3.10 per gallon diesel, higher technology costs, and a high discount rate of 10 percent — the most advanced technology packages have payback periods of only 1.4 to 2.2 years.
  • Typical first owners of tractor-trailers with efficiency technology packages up to 9 miles per gallon would see fuel savings 3 to 9 times greater than the upfront technology cost over the period of ownership.

ICCT’s findings demonstrate that we have the technology to cost-effectively cut truck fuel consumption in half compared to 2010 levels. EIA’s projections demonstrate that, without well designed performance-based standards, truck manufacturers are unlikely to deploy these highly cost-effective solutions.

There is good news in EIA’s report, too. The 7.0 miles per gallon in 2020 is up from 6.0 miles per gallon in 2012. The increase can be attributed to the first round of Heavy Truck Fuel Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Standards set by President Obama in 2011.

We know that well-designed fuel efficiency standards work because we are seeing it in the market today. For the second-generation standards that will be announced this spring, we urge the administration to incentivize the full-scale deployment of the advanced technologies highlighted in the ICCT analysis.

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