How to Shift Freight Electrification into High Gear

November 12, 2020

The freight sector presents a unique opportunity to realize the widespread advantages of transportation electrification and reap a host of national security, economic, emissions reduction, and public health benefits. But doing so will require a collaborative effort across manufacturers; utilities; federal, state and local policymakers; the trucking and goods delivery industries; and the electric vehicle supply chain.

Today, the Electrification Coalition (EC) published a new report, titled Electrifying Freight: Pathways to Accelerating the Transition. This new report lays out the most pressing obstacles to widespread freight electrification in the U.S. while offering early actionable solutions that stakeholders can take to overcome these barriers. By identifying major obstacles that are hampering the growth of manufacturing and sales of Class 3-8 electric trucks, industry leaders and policymakers can work together to develop best practices that can be shared broadly and accelerate the electrification of freight and goods delivery.

A new report lays out the most pressing obstacles to widespread freight electrification in the U.S.

The barriers and suggested actions shared in this report were drawn from a wide array of stakeholders in freight, corporate fleets, and transportation electrification. Over the past year, we have held more than 100 conversations with leaders at private companies, public institutions, and non-profit organizations, which has allowed us to form a complete picture of the electric truck market and the most impactful policy and program solutions to move us forward. The EC has received positive feedback from numerous stakeholders about its freight electrification efforts, including from Volvo Group North America, Arrival, Lion Electric Co., the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, ROUSH CleanTech, and Greenlots.

Freight Electrification Is a National Security Issue

The EC, along with sister organization SAFE, bases these implementation and advocacy efforts on the urgent need for the United States to reduce our dependence on oil by accelerating the widespread deployment of all classes of electric vehicles. The U.S. transportation sector is 91% reliant on petroleum fuels, and 70% of our oil consumption goes to transportation. This reliance on oil—which is traded on unfair and opaque markets by countries that do not share our values or priorities—has jeopardized our economic and national security. We have spent decades sending our dollars overseas to buy petroleum and putting our troops in harm’s way to protect that flow of oil. Electric trucks will play a key role in America’s continued push toward energy independence and improved national security.

Industry leaders and policymakers can work together to accelerate the electrification of freight and goods movement.

Transitioning freight vehicles to electric can also significantly reduce emissions in urban areas, along highways, in freight depots, and in and around ports. Medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for only 6% of the vehicles on the road but are responsible for nearly a quarter of our transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing the disproportionate emissions impact from medium- and heavy-duty trucks can help improve air quality and public health in communities around the country, especially in low-income areas and communities of color, which are often located near freight depots, ports, and highway corridors with high levels of toxic emissions from diesel-powered vehicles.

Electric trucks also have lower fuel and maintenance costs than their diesel counterparts and are expected to achieve total cost of ownership parity in the coming years. Transitioning corporate freight and goods delivery routes to electric can save companies money and help them meet their sustainability goals by powering their vehicles with American electricity drawn from diverse sources that are getting cleaner every day.

Electric trucks will play a key role in America’s continued push toward energy independence.

Identifying Key Barriers Leads to Actionable Cross-Industry Solutions

Despite these and many other benefits of electric trucks, significant barriers remain. The Electrifying Freight report serves to provide freight industry leaders invested in an electrified future with guidance on strategic policy and implementation actions that can be taken, both internally and in collaboration with other stakeholders, to accelerate production, sales, and deployment of electrified medium- and heavy-duty freight vehicles.

The report features nine major barriers that are impeding the production and sales of electrified freight vehicles. By clearly identifying what existing or potential barriers exist between the current state of the market and widespread freight electrification, the EC, in concert with freight stakeholders, was able to identify a variety of different actions that can and should be taken to surmount these barriers. The paper organizes the actions by their intended implementors, and provides rationale, methods, and examples for execution across five key action areas.

Addressing the emissions impact from trucks can improve air quality in low-income communities and communities of color.

This report is the first of a set that the EC will publish in relation to its Freight Electrification Program, which is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The program serves to inform freight electrification stakeholders on best practices for scaling efforts and influence supportive federal, state, and local policies by supporting private fleet partners with deployment efforts and documenting actions that can accelerate the industry’s transition.

Freight Electrification Visual of Overcoming Barriers