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Steps that can be taken now to get to zero emissions

Feb. 3, 2021
With hydrogen fuel cell and battery-electric vehicles on the rise, what can fleets do to get closer to the nation’s net-zero emissions goal?

“Urgent action.” Those are the words Shell and Deloitte used to describe what it will take to get the world’s trucks and buses to produce net-zero emissions by 2050.  Their report, Decarbonizing Road Freight: Getting into Gear, offered 22 solutions that could be employed over the next decade to help address the factors — economic, technical, regulatory, and organizational — behind decarbonization.

Let’s put the problem in perspective. According to Huibert Vigeveno, Shell downstream director, road freight is currently responsible for around 9% of global CO2 emissions. And freight is expected to double by 2050 which will add to the existing problem. The 2015 Paris Agreement, which the U.S. just rejoined under President Biden's leadership, requires road freight emissions to drop 60% by 2050 from their 2018 levels. That is a significant challenge.

Fuel cell electric and battery-electric vehicles are the best option for reducing CO2 to the levels needed, according to the study. This is very much in line with NACFE’s position based on the work we have done on our Guidance Reports on electric vehicles.

At this stage in their development, battery-electric vehicles are best suited for short route vehicles, while fuel cell battery-electric vehicles make more sense for longer routes. But work continues on improving range and reducing weight and NACFE believes the long-term solution is all electric power for the future.

A variety of factors  — laid out in NACFE’s High-Potential For Electric Truck Deployments report — align with this report’s finding that there are coalitions and partnerships that make some regions more desirable for initial deployment of electric vehicles. We encourage folks in those regions that are the best candidates for electrification. NACFE has defined those as Northern California, Southern California, Texas Triangle, Cascadia (stretching from Portland, Oregon through Seattle and into Vancouver, Canada), Colorado Front Range, Northeast US, Greater Toronto Area, and Greater Montreal.

The goal of net-zero emissions from transportation is lofty, but I think doable given the number of smart, creative people who have at all levels of the trucking industry. Let’s keep working together toward this goal of a net-zero emissions future. While we’re at it, let’s work toward a zero-emissions transportation future. I believe it is possible if we start taking urgent action today.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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