Attractive Payback Period for the 11MPG Truck

April 29, 2015
With strong, long-term fuel efficiency standards in place, tractor-trailer trucks can cut fuel consumption in half in the 2025-2030 timeframe, using technologies that offer payback in less than 18 months.  

With strong, long-term fuel efficiency standards in place, tractor-trailer trucks can cut fuel consumption in half in the 2025-2030 timeframe, using technologies that offer payback in less than 18 months.   This was the key finding of a pair of papers released last week.

The International Council on Clean Transportation – a leading organization that provides first-rate, unbiased research and technical and scientific analysis – authored these papers.  One paper reviewed the potential of current and emerging efficiency technology. The other examined the cost effectiveness of these technologies. 

Among the groups findings are:

  • Already available tractor-trailer technologies can achieve 9 mpg, deliver payback periods of less than a year, and be widely deployed in the 2020–2025 timeframe.
  • Advanced-efficiency technologies, now emerging in the marketplace, can double fuel economy to 11-12 mpg, with payback periods of 18 months or less in the 2025–2030 timeframe.
  • Diverse technology approaches – i.e., 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% — the most advanced technology packages have payback periods of only 1.4–2.2 years.
  • Typical first owners of tractor-trailers with efficiency technology packages up to 9 mpg would see fuel savings 3–9 times greater than the upfront technology cost over the period of ownership.

There are significant savings to be had by making more efficient tractor-trailers trucks. Efficiency improvements of the order that ICCT projects would save tens-of-thousands of dollars annually per truck.  For these savings to materialize, though, a new generation of stringent, long-term fuel efficiency standards is necessary.

Well-designed federal standards can foster the innovation necessary to bring more efficient and lower-emission trucks to market. Such standards provide manufacturers with additional confidence in the market dynamics for efficiency solutions. This enables them to further invest in the development and production of improved solutions. Scaled production drives down costs, further enhancing the payback truck fleets will experience through lower fuel bills.

We’re seeing this virtuous cycle play out through the current generation of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards that went into effect in 2014. New trucks are delivering lower lifecycle costs and improved environmental performance. Let’s add further momentum to this cycle through a new generation of fuel saving standards that deliver reduced lifecycle costs.

About the Author

Jason Mathers | Sr. Manager, Supply Chain Logistics

Jason Mathers leads the Green Freight initiative for Environmental Defense Fund.  Under Jason’s guidance, EDF has worked with several of the nation’s largest shippers to identify and implement strategies that increase carbon efficiency in freight transportation. He is also a leading advocate for increasing fuel-efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from large trucks.

Jason is the author of Smart Moves: Creative Supply Chain Strategies Are Cutting Transport Costs and Emissions, and has given presentations at numerous conferences, including the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, the Work Truck Show, and Society for Automotive Engineers.

Jason has a graduate degree in economics from Suffolk University and a B.S. in environmental science from the University of Massachusetts. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

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