A Comparison of Zero-Emission Highway Trucking Technologies

Research Team: Lew Fulton (lead), Joan Ogden, Miguel Jaller, and Hengbing Zhao

UC Campus(es): UC Davis

Problem Statement: Achieving zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) long-haul trucking will likely play a critical role for California to achieve its greenhouse gas (GHG) and NOx emissions targets. Significant investments have been made by California as well as regional and local agencies to support research, development, and deployment of ZEV truck technologies, such as the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s truck electrification project at the Port of Long Beach. Yet the choice among potential energy/infrastructure systems is challenging as the major options have serious issues related to cost and/or driving range. No recent study has compared the associated costs, technical challenges, and environmental benefits for the three major options for achieving long haul ZEV operations: hydrogen/fuel cell, catenary electric trucks, and dynamic inductive charge electric trucks.

Project Description: This study reviews three zero-emission truck technologies – hydrogen fuel-cell electric, catenary electric and dynamic inductive charging – in detail and vehicle and infrastructure challenges and costs for each of the technologies assessed. In the near- to mid-term, electrifying the entire California state highway system or deploying large hydrogen stations at many statewide truck stops would require very large capital costs, on the order of billions of dollars, even though, at least initially, there will likely be relatively few zero-emission long-haul trucks in use. Considering technology readiness, energy efficiency, and capital cost, the most feasible approach for the zero-emission technologies for long-haul trucks may be to deploy local or regional catenary systems. Dynamic inductive charge systems could be introduced, though with perhaps more disruption as roadways are prepared for this service. Hydrogen fuel cell trucks will benefit from some scalability but will require large hydrogen refueling stations along highways. The initial “up-front” investment in infrastructure for hydrogen trucks appears somewhat lower than for the other two options but the cost of providing hydrogen to vehicles will be high, especially if provided using electrolysis. In the longer-term, all three of the technologies could become economically competitive with diesel trucking, though this depends on many factors and uncertainties.

Status: Completed

Budget: $80,000

Project Partner(s): Caltrans, California Air Resources Board, California Trucking Association, Volvo, Calstart

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